Chaos-Rigidity Continuum

By Elise Ringenberg, MA, PLPC, R-DMT 

Jane is a lawyer. Her job is very demanding and she is held to high standards. In addition, she sets high expectations for herself: one of which is to maintain a strict diet, restricting her food intake throughout the day. Those of us who know Jane, may have the perception that she exercises this sense of control over every aspect of her life. However, outside of this daily routine and during the evening hours, Jane lets go of this rigidity and lives in what feels like chaos, as she binges on food and drink. Through bingeing, Jane experiences a release of energy and a freeing sensation to offset the extreme discipline and management of her daily life. Jane struggles with restricting and bingeing. She ping pongs from enforcing strict boundaries and restrictions on her daily routine to unleashing chaos through bingeing at night. 

The spectrum of chaos to rigidity is a continuum that many of us experience. Along this continuum, some of us are affixed to one spot; some of us fluctuate across and between; some of us strive to land in a seemingly unattainable spot; and some of us ping pong from one end to the other. Whether you struggle with a cycle of restricting and bingeing, bingeing and purging, over-exercising and bingeing, or other polarizing behaviors, this chaos-rigidity continuum is ever-present. I have found that many people who struggle with eating disorders often identify with the sense of moving between the extremes on the spectrum. The eating disorder often serves as a tool to help cope with the chaos or rigidity that impacts many areas of their life. 

If we return to our example, Jane may benefit from finding a healthier way of reaching balance that does not cause her to jump from one end of the continuum to the other. So how can she do this? From a dance/movement therapy approach, we can work towards aligning body and mind and developing increased awareness of when the body is experiencing chaos versus rigidity. By learning how she experiences chaos and rigidity, Jane will inherently gain and a greater sense of control over her experiences and a better understanding of her feelings, which will lead to an increased ability to instill change within the self. We may also explore what is holding her back from achieving and maintaining a more balanced place on the continuum. My goal for Jane is that she may eventually bring this knowledge into her everyday life to create a healthier, more balanced self. 

The experience of chaos and the experience of rigidity may look different for you. I encourage you to reflect on how chaos and rigidity show up in your life when you’re at home, at work, with friends, with family, under stress and feeling relaxed. How do chaos and rigidity show up in the way you move through life? 

This website is for general information and guidance, this website in no way substitutes therapy services.