“restricting the rules”  — that’s actually how I described what I’ve been doing, in conversation with a friend.

my personal tendency is always towards the restriction side of the addiction spectrum.  some people overdo it with substances, I always restrict them or remove them entirely.  examples:  food groups, alcohol, drugs, over-the-counter medications, prescription meds, and so on.

I’ve been vegan, I’ve been anorexic, raw foodist, ‘ethical’ vegetarian, non-drinker, non-drug user…I’ve refused cold medicine, refused prescription medicine.

things I’ve never been:  overeater, binger, alcoholic, drug-abuser, smoker, etc.  I don’t even know if I could become any of those things-  my personality is so oriented towards control.  (when I was a teenager I smoked cigarettes freely…and never could get addicted.) Something as concrete as a substance is really easy to control (people, work, relationships, all much more difficult).

(doesn’t apply to coffee. :)

Not sure how it happened, but I had a realization that these substances I’ve been trying to control were symbolic, not practical.

So, my idea was to try relaxing the restrictions.  or restricting the rules.    I’ve got enough structure in my life.

(see the subconscious irony in the title phrase now?)

I had a bad cough last week-  and when the homeopathic remedies weren’t working, I took nyquil.  which was effective immediately and allowed me to sleep.

When bread and cheese and eggs sounded appetizing (even a little)  I ate some.  Even if primarily for the experience-  to feel like I could participate in this normal communal thing that other people do all the time.

(doesn’t apply to meat or fish for me, which has been unappealing since I was a child).

I had some wine.  a glass, on a few different nights.  first time in nine years.  and again, it was for the experience of connecting with friends, no longer holding myself apart as ‘not’ doing that.  and it was nice.  my original reasons for not drinking had become meaningless. i had once had this abstract idea about alcohol preventing one from being able to have spiritual insights…but the emotional/ mental/ psychological place in life I’m at had to be dealt with first-  and connection with fellow humans seemed like a precursor to any sort of spiritual awakening.

my early reasoning for not drinking had become dogma.

I also know this:  whichever ‘group’ of people you identify with will attract more of that type into your life.  Who doesn’t drink?  for the vast majority, it’s former alcoholics or control freaks like me.

I had this memory of a time in college:  it was a class on performance art taught by Shannon Rose Riley.  She was one of my most inspiring teachers during the college experience.  And the project was to develop a persona.  Develop this fully dimensional personality that you could wear for a day or a week-  someone with a name and habits and clothing.  Typically, what would emerge would be an aspect of yourself that was underpowered, held back, subconscious.

I worked with this personality I called Isadora.  She was a sensual woman, who enjoyed things in life that I didn’t at the time, like luxury, croissants, sex, being feminine, being relaxed.  She could be late for meetings and she could be messy.  Then I was 22 years old, hyper controlled, vigilant about food, didn’t date because I couldn’t handle intimacy, and couldn’t stand any type of disarray.

(There’s a character on the tv show Glee, named  Emma, who reminds me of myself at that time.  Minus the cute skirts and twinsets.)


click for more images from the original persona project

I think that persona project from Shannon’s performance art class helped me to safely integrate more of the adult woman potential into my life.  A few months later I began dating again, began to outgrow the eating disorder (though that took many years), and otherwise permitted more fun and relaxation into my life.

the persona project was a great example of using one’s creative process and power to heal.  imagine the desired outcome, then create it.


I’ve been doing a yoga therapy series for the past six months with a wonderful practitioner in portland, Susan Gallo.  The yoga therapy addresses, on a physical level, all the restriction/ control/ fear-based stuff.

And I started thinking about the persona thing again.  Describing on paper and through imagery who I would be if I had more emotional/ mental freedom in my life.  hence many of the practical changes described above.

Posted by:Brook DeLorme

9 replies on “restricting the rules

  1. Brooke, I’m fascinated by your “persona project.” I never participated in anything like that, but I know I had a similar experience with learning Portuguese. Even though I’d studied other languages formally (Spanish, French, Latin and Greek), I never got beyond the grammar. Portuguese “took” and I became fluent (well, not at a professional level) in a matter of weeks. Then I experienced the strangest thing as I increased my usage of the language – I literally became a different person when speaking Portuguese (more “solta” – the Portuguese word for “free, unattached, untied, loose”). It was as if learning that language – to a point where I found myself dreaming in it – gave me access to the sensual part of myself that I’d repressed, who knows how long, probably since childhood. It’s not that I had no experience of it – certainly alcohol made me more “solta” … but whereas the results of alcohol scared me, and reinforced my “restrictive” tendencies, the experience of speaking Portuguese was very different, and helped me with the whole process of healing that vertical split. So one day, when you tire of German, you might try learning a more sensual language and see what happens?

    I don’t know if you read poetry, but if you do, you might find Rosanna Warren’s work of interest in light of your “persona project.” (Rosanna is the daughter of Robert Penn Warren – a brillian poet and a rather fascinating individual.) Something Rosanna has been doing in her recent poetry is “translating” an imaginary French poet she calls Anne Verveine. The poems in “From the Notebooks of Anne Verveine” are “translations” but of course they are not really translations because they’re Rosanna’s original compositions … but what she’s done is invent a voice very different from her own. She’s created a persona through which to write – and this frees her, I imagine, to explore paths untaken in her own life. (Though, oddly, nothing about Verveine appeals – according to Warren, “she lived obscurely in Paris, avoiding literary society and working as a typographer.” Later she disappears while hitchiking in Uzbekistan …) I don’t get the character of Verveine, but reflecting on Rosanna’s work in light of your own project, leads me to see that these “personas” are not necessarily the people we want to be, but are maybe more extreme versions of what we’re not, but from whom we can still benefit by integrating back into our personality.

    1. hey Elizabeth…the language observation is so cool! I’ve heard of something similar, the inverse really- that to fluently speak a language one must integrate the culture- so it’s really interesting to hear your experience where fluency brings out a more hidden aspect of yourself. Yeah, German is probably not the softest, most ‘solta’ language I could have picked ;) ha. next time. my language energy has languished of late.

      Rosanna Warren’s work sounds so interesting- I’ll look it up. The idea of ‘inventing people’ through art/ writing/ etc has always been an interest of mine.

      thank you!

  2. Hey there,

    I was just wondering if you could elaborate on “I also know this: whichever ‘group’ of people you identify with will attract more of that type into your life. Who doesn’t drink? for the vast majority, it’s former alcoholics or control freaks like me.” Is this something you’re moving away from, or something your modifying?

    I liked what you said about old ideas or traits becoming dogma and losing meaning and heart.

    1. hey xopher… I’m trying to move away from identifying with selective groups- whether it’s non-drinkers or raw foodists or whatever’s next.

      This is based on my experiences- many people have sought me out or felt a connection to me because I didn’t drink. especially in romantic/ dating situations, I’ve felt at times like this attribute was highly overvalued (he says about me: “I like you because you’re smart, nice, attractive, you don’t drink” – whereas the ‘not-drinking’ attribute has much less relative importance to me…)

      The other part of the personal experience: I haven’t met people who are non-drinkers who have a healthy relationship to substances or to control. I’d like to meet more people who have a healthy relationship to both….
      does that answer it?
      thanks for writing…


      1. hi brook, yup that explains it better. Interesting observance about the dating aspect. I wonder what that’s all about? Perhaps addictive and/or control traits are seen as a solid foundation for the overall persona? Hmmm, your suitors sound like a retentive lot. Have you ever seen the movie “A Room with a View”?
        I liked this:
        ” Excess on occasion is exhilarating. It prevents moderation from acquiring the deadening effect of a habit.”
        W. Somerset Maugham

      2. good quote :)

        haven’t seen Room with a View but just added it to the Queue.

        haha. ‘addictive and/or control traits are seen as a solid foundation for the overall persona?’ <– love it.

  3. I really think it’s interesting to hear it from the person who has ultimate control over the things that they can control (specifically food). My angle from all of that was that I couldn’t control the things that I wanted to control for the most part, so I had eliminate all of the temptations and get myself into a really strict way of living. The strictness wasn’t bad, because it did help me to become healthier, but at the same time I think the more unhealthy options for anything is extending out towards extremism. For me, the hardest thing to moderate is the ‘in between’… being able to let yourself do things in moderation, and being in control of that moderation. It’s so strange because moderation should be our biological norm, but here we are as a society fighting with a lot of extremes.

    Anyway, this was a great post! It stirred some good thoughts for me..

    1. hey Jennifer- thanks for writing :) yeah, I know what you mean! it seems like it’s not actually moderation if we need to force ourselves into following it.

      and it’s not just with substances…I’m currently dealing with an interpersonal situation that I need to be ‘moderate’ about- and it’s like this crazy balancing act with nothing to hold onto!

      gray areas….

  4. Love you Brook! <3 <3 <3 And I have always admired the range of your work and your sensibility… that is why I own so many pieces of your clothing! Thanks for your thoughts on the persona project and its effects.

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