The path of courage
What if the simplest thing made the greatest difference?
On what I believe to be a path of revolutionary proportions, I am often asked to explain how the relationship to food and exploring eating can be a transformative spiritual experience of immense insight and empowerment. In what I have seen, it brings you directly into contact with the emotions that are thwarting your thriving. It cuts deeper and faster than any other approach I know. With this in mind, I share a written exchange I recently had with one of my regular participants after the weekly “Daring and Sharing” call that I lead.
Even though you said it twice on last night’s call, I still completely missed what I sense was the most important part of the call for me. It was right after your saying that when you fight the bad feelings it solidifies them. It was something about accepting them. Something like “it’s in the moment of acceptance that we………”
If you could please clarify, thanks!
I was saying that when we accept where we are, we allow ourselves to be in the present moment. It is in the present moment where we find that all the opportunities for change present themselves. We stop fighting and distracting, and really show up for ourselves. It is the irony of the present that change is possible when we can just let go and be where we are.
So to accept where I am, I have to just sit with my unpleasant feelings, right? I think I was successfully doing that until mid October when something very, very bad happened in my life and I’ve been progressively slipping further and further since then. I no longer care what happens in the moment. I just desperately want out of it so that those feelings will end. I’m not thinking about the consequences in the future any more. I guess I have to somehow be aware enough to catch myself?
What you describe in your question is at the heart of the spiritual work when it comes to breaking away from emotional eating. Things happened in our past where we felt like we would not survive our feelings. So we chose to “go away” from them by going away from the present moment, where the feelings live. For people like you and me, the quickest way out of dodge is food. (It could be TV, alcohol, internet, sex, pornography-all are means of being other than here) Added bonus, food provides not simply distraction and numbing. Food, eating also makes us feel loved, cherished, protected, and in control of what was otherwise overwhelming. Then such eating becomes a habit because we still don’t want to feel those first feelings. Unfortunately though we also start to reject anything that looks, feels, smells like them. Years and years of this habit makes it into a “truth” we tell ourselves about ourselves that we don’t question. “I can’t feel this!” But as we look more closely we see: “I don’t know how to feel this” or “I don’t want to feel this!” Then “I shouldn’t have to feel this!” That last one is my particular self-righteous favourite where I get stuck still sometimes. It goes right back to the initial hurt and my understandable but ultimately unhelpful response to it. Feeling the feelings is the only way they will stop having power.
The dilemma is eat or feel. There are no good or bad, right or wrong answers here. Just consequences. I know when I eat when I am not hungry, I feel in control of the world and my experience in it. Awesome! But then I start to also feel lonely and empty and compulsive and fat. It becomes compulsive as then I also start to eat because I am unhappy with my body and my experience of my life. I lose sight of the initial “discomfort with my feelings” part, and see myself as an undeserving loser. Perfect example of “the voice” and how it distracts and protects.
The other option is to feel. To stay where the feelings are. To allow them. To notice them. To breathe them in. To experience them. To trust that they will pass at some time, some time we don’t know and we don’t have any control over. To say this can feel hard is an understatement. It demands great faith and trust. By this point for most of us, the grooves are worn so deeply it feels like an impossibility to be with them. “I will die if I feel these feelings.” Or “I would rather die than feel these feelings!” And honestly, that is exactly how bad it felt back then when the initial hurt happened. That is precisely why we chose not to feel in the first place. Except now, in the present, we feel so much disappointment, powerlessness and self-loathing that we run to food. Perfect vicious circle. This sounds like where you are.
It takes great courage to even entertain the prospect of staying with the feelings. “The voice” will tell you either that it is impossible or it is not worth it. Consider though it is like the conventional wisdom we hear as kids that we should stay still when the bee is buzzing around and let it go away on its own. We see the truth in that approach. But as adults we often think “No way am I sitting still with a bee buzzing around me!” Or “No way am I hanging around waiting to be stung!” Yet this is the first step on the road out. Feelings are like the bee. Let them do their thing.
In the mean time, be pleased with yourself that could see through all the stuff your mind puts out there to distract you and convince you not to feel. Be loving and patient with yourself as you find your way in this new and initially scary world. You may not like everything it gives you to feel. But the benefits are worth it. It is the only place you will feel alive, connected to yourself and even once in a while, truly happy.
Do you have a hard time with your feelings? Do you feel like your relationship to food and eating is impossible? There is hope. Turn your greatest obstacle into the pathway to your fulfilled life. Reach out. I would love to hear from you. Email firstname.lastname@example.org, call 780.716.6066 or leave a comment here.