The story “The Fat Woman and the Thin Woman” was developed while working with anorexic patients, and takes as its starting point the idea that even patients suffering from anorexia have a part of their personality which knows that they are underweight and which can engage in a conversation with the other part of their personality. The story is also based on the idea that the therapist should avoid representing the viewpoint “you are too thin”, and should instead represent the ambivalence between the outer world, which assumes that the patient is “too thin”, and the client’s inner world, which assumes that she is “too fat”. The task pursued in therapy is to initiate an inner dialogue between both viewpoints and parts of the personality, with the ultimate aim of negotiating a middle road and a “third way”.
There is not just one world, but two different worlds. This must be the case, because we are not talking about the same world. We are talking about different worlds.
The fat woman lives in the inner world. The fat woman is not very popular. Everyone in the inner world despises her, and everyone in the outer world refuses to believe that she exists. The thin woman lives in the outer world. The thin woman is also not very popular, because everyone in the outer world worries about her, and no one in the inner world believes in her. The fat woman from the inner world does not believe in the thin woman from the outer world. She can’t work out why the people she meets claim to meet the thin woman every day. The thin woman from the outer world does not believe in the fat woman from the inner world either, and she can’t work out why the person most affected by all of this claims to see the fat woman every day. Who is right? Those who believe in the fat woman, or those who believe in the thin woman?
Both the thin woman and the fat woman live in people’s
heads – but in different worlds. They live on different planets. Now that we
have entered the age of technology, visiting other planets is simply a question
of deciding on a means of transport. I can imagine boarding a special capsule
which would take me out of the inner world and over to the outer world for a
limited period of time. That might be quite pleasant, since I’d get rid of the
fat woman on the way there, and I’ve needed a break from her for a long time.
The price I’d have to pay when visiting the outer world is that I might meet
the thin woman, even though I don’t believe in her and perhaps don’t want to
believe in her. And apparently she doesn’t look too great, but who knows. I can
also imagine that at the same time as me, in exchange so to speak, a second spaceship
would launch off from the outer world and fly to the inner world for a holiday
in the fat women’s world. Then they’d know what it was like living with her day
after day, and would no longer deny her existence.
I wouldn’t go on this
journey very often – why bother? Later I will send the fat woman herself on a
journey to the thin woman, so that they can exchange experiences and learn from
each other. I want the fat woman to learn from the thin woman, and the others
want the thin woman to learn from the fat woman. I’ll stay at home and take a break
from the fat woman.