Finding your querencia, or taking a lesson from bullfighting

Bullfighting is a very unfair sport. Despite the fact that you have a very large animal with very big horns that can give you a very large injury, the matadors (literally Spanish for "killer") have swords and a hell of a lot more intelligence than the bull. And if I was stuck in a ring and could be the bull or the matador, I'd be the bullfighter, let's put it that way.

But a strange thing can happen in a bullfight: the bull can stake out a place of strength within the ring, a place where he feels safe. And with this safety comes his greatest power. In Spanish, this place is known as querencia, from the Spanish quere, to want or to desire. The wanting place- querencia.

I thought that the eating disorder gave me this safety, this querencia. I felt strong and invincible when I was overexercising and starving and losing weight. Except these behaviors weren't a positive kind of safe place. Instead, they boxed me in and left me with almost no room to maneuver. And if I was the bull, Ed was the matador. Ed had subverted the system, had boxed me into a corner so tightly that I couldn't leave without feeling unsafe. Then, he pounced in for the kill.

I have (I hope) a little better understanding of querencia now, as I try and find a safe place from which to draw my own power. An alternate definition of querencia is "a place to call home," and I struggle with that. I've moved a lot in the past decade, and so I've lost my moorings a bit. I'm trying to find a place from which I am unassailable, and I don't know that I've found it yet. But I know that wherever I find will have my laptop (so I can write), and my kitty. Nothing is complete without these things.

Some people connect their strength with nature; others connect it with friends and family. Some of us connect it with doing: I write, others might swim or run or sing. It really doesn't matter. And to some extent, you don't even need to physically do whatever it is that you do. In a pinch, just imagining it can be good enough.

It's tempting, though, to try and hide in a querencia. Since this place is so safe, why not stay there? Because it's not the point. A bull finds the querencia not as a permanent place of residence but as a way to fight off the matador. Staying in your querencia as an ostensible way to fight off your demons will backfire, in the same way mine did with Ed.

We all seek our strength from somewhere, and it's important to be able to return to that place whenever we need to regroup. Have you found your querencia?

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Gaining Back My Life said...

I'm finding it the more I let go of my tight vise grip on my ed. And I know until I get out of that place, I will never flourish with the gifts I do have.

Loved the analogy, btw.

alice said...

i sort help last year at the maudsley in south london. i dont understand ed, its beyond understanding. im just so glad i went. im still looking for a real safe place.

Carrie Arnold said...


I'm still working on finding a safe place, too. It's hard!

alice said...

carrie, i think i have created an artificial safe place, and thats the problem. its not real. yet in my head it is. i need to crack this.

A said...

I have tried to make university and academics that place. . .

But there is a problem with relying on one place for safety/putting all your eggs in one basket so to speak.

What happens if this place or your faith in this place is threatened and there is nowhere to "go" -- going back to the ED is just too tempting. . .

The fight is tricky. . .



Ai Lu said...

I find my querencia (love your use of this word! do you speak Spanish too?) in knitting, in cooking, and in biking -- also in writing my blog these days. These are the activities that ground me, in a healthy way, and have taken the place of my ED obsessions.

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I'm a science writer, a jewelry design artist, a bookworm, a complete geek, and mom to a wonderful kitty. I am also recovering from a decade-plus battle with anorexia nervosa. I believe that complete recovery is possible, and that the first step along that path is full nutrition.

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nour·ish: (v); to sustain with food or nutriment; supply with what is necessary for life, health, and growth; to cherish, foster, keep alive; to strengthen, build up, or promote


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