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Archive for March, 2008

What’s the story?

Hello All!

I received this great follow up sharing and question in response to my answer to K’s question about meeting our needs for connection. I am sure you can relate.

Read on to see what I had to say.

Michelle, what you’ve said makes sense, and I am aware that I use food as a coping strategy to deal with painful emotions. However, one of my painful emotions is the sense that I’m all alone, and that I can’t cope (feeling overwhelmed and panicky). I usually don’t have difficulty knowing what I am feeling, but to know what the need is, and then to meet the need…that part I don’t seem able to do. E.g. The feeling of being alone, the need to be connected with others emotionally/share life with friends = I don’t take steps to meet that need. I don’t reach out and build relationships, even though I definitely have the skills to do that. Why? That’s the part I’m stuck on.”

Hey K, before I can answer your question I need to ask another one – when you say “I’m all alone and I can’t cope” – what do you mean exactly – can’t cope with what?

“It’s the feeling deep inside that I can’t cope with all the pain inside. It feels like there is a ROARING amount of pain inside me that is ready to wash over me at any moment; that I will be flooded by it. That I can’t bear to be conscious b/c I will be overcome by pain. If I try not to use food to cope, I feel ABSOLUTELY overwhelmed and panicky. Panicky, I think, b/c the pain starts coming up and is unbearable (times I’ve tried to ‘sit with’ it have resulted in suicide attempts, sleeping pill abuse, cutting, etc; which is not good b/c I’ve now probably “proven” to my internal self that I really can’t cope with it), as is the feeling alone. It just overwhelms me.

Re: the feeling all alone. It’s both the physical fact of being alone (no friends/supportive family). But it is more a feeling of abandonment/aloneness in the world. Being alone feels awful for that reason, yet being with people often feels just as bad (feel unheard/uncared for/used).Basically, nothing feels good emotionally for me. Using food to cope feels bad (loss of control, physical effects, loss of self-esteem), but not using food to cope feels unbearable (awareness of emotional pain/aloneness). Being alone feels awful, but being with people feels too painful. 

I’ve got myself painted into a corner.”K

 

Thank you K. I am grateful to you for being willing to allow me to share this question and my response with others.

Your response to my question reminds me of me in the early stages of my healing journey. It was hard for me to imagine that the answer was as simple as it was and I kept trying to make each and every situation unique and therefore, requiring a different approach. This only served to make me feel anxious, overwhelmed, stuck and frustrated. Once I began to realize that the solution truly is much simpler than I had been imagining, and allowed myself to let go of needing it to be difficult, things began to flow quite smoothly – except when I forgot the solution and tried to make a situation difficult or unique yet again.

Food Coping and Being Alone With Unbearable Pain

Your question above can be broken down into the following statements.

  • I’m all alone.
  • I can’t cope with all the pain inside.
  • I don’t know what the need is.
  • I don’t know how to meet my need(s).
  • I don’t know why I don’t reach out and build relationships.
  • It feels like there is a ROARING amount of pain inside me that is ready to wash over me at any moment.I will be flooded by it.
  • I can’t bear to be conscious b/c I will be overcome by pain.
  • If I try not to use food to cope, I feel ABSOLUTELY overwhelmed and panicky.
  • The feeling of being alone overwhelms me.
  • I am alone in the world.
  • When I’m with others I am unheard/uncared for/used.
  • Nothing feels good emotionally for me.
  • Using food to cope means I have no control.
  • Not using food to cope is unbearable.
  • I can’t tolerate the awareness of my emotional pain/aloneness.
  • Being alone feels awful, but being with people feels too painful.
  • I’ve got myself painted into a corner.

Each of the key statements above is a story. There are parts in which it is clear you know it’s your story in that you use quotation marks around certain words to indicate that it’s an exaggerated statement or perhaps not true and yet you’re mind is attached to that story and can’t let go. This is a step in the right direction – to be able to identify the flaw in your thinking – even if you don’t know yet how to change it.

So, for each of the stories above ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Is there any all or nothing thinking in that story?
  2. What are some other possibilities? (come up with at least 3)
  3. Do any of those alternative possibilities seem equally or more likely than the first, all or nothing, one?
  4. What would you like to see happen?
  5. What needs to happen in order for you to feel peaceful?

Your mind will naturally and freely attach to one of the alternative possibilities once you reveal to yourself that you’re in all or nothing thinking and that it isn’t serving you.

Let’s work a few examples:

I am all alone.

    1. Any all or nothing thinking? Are you truly all alone or are there people in your life you could connect with or have a deeper relationship with if you felt more competent, capable and safe to do so?
    2. Other possibilities? I am not all alone; I could have deeper connections with so and so if I just put some effort in; I have people on the periphery of my life that I’d like to know better if I just felt more confident and secure in myself; There are people who would like to spend time with me I just don’t feel safe doing that right now or feel deserving of that right now.
    3. Any of those possibilities feel better or more likely than the original (I’m all alone) one? Yes! All of them!

What you’ve just discovered in doing this is that there are stories beneath the original story that are stopping you from moving forward. Stories like: I am not safe; I can’t trust anyone; I can’t trust myself; People don’t like me; I am undeserving of friendship and healthy relationships; I am incapable of creating healthy and safe relationships; and so on.

For each one of those underlying stories that you reveal and process with the all or nothing process you will feel freer and freer to just be as you are in the moment and trust that you are a beautiful person of worth who deserves peace and love and joy at all times and is capable of creating that for herself and honoring herself first and foremost at all times.

Let’s try another example:

I can’t cope with all the pain inside.

    1. Any all or nothing thinking? Yes! I am coping with all the pain inside – I’m going to work – doing my thing – using food – I’ve found a way to cope so clearly I can and that statement is all or nothing and keeps me shut down and not only not looking for a life enhancing solution, it prevents me from seeing how I am clearly coping now (even if I’d rather cope in a different way it is not true that I’m not coping).
    2. Other possibilities? I can cope with all the pain inside; I don’t have to feel it all at once – I can cope with some consciously and some with food until I feel able to move through it all and be done with it; I can find some life enhancing coping strategies to use while I’m starting to invite myself to be more conscious and therefore use food a little less because I can do things like journal, meditate, walk, read, etc. sometimes when I feel able to do that instead of eat (ie. when the intensity of the emotions is less) and sometimes I will let myself use food to cope with my feelings and then when I can I will use my new tools.
    3. Any of those seem more likely than the original all or nothing: I can’t cope!? Yes, all of them!

As you use this tool and reveal the all or nothing thinking that is alive in you you will immediately feel a sense of release. It may be replaced by another all or nothing thought about how it won’t work for other things or how this was a fluke or how much work it’s going to be etc. etc. etc.

Let me tell you something. Many of my clients are moving through the bulk of their healing around using food to cope in just a few months or less. This isn’t “hard” work. It’s not about battling it out with yourself and others for the rest of your life. It’s about learning a new way of being; your natural state of being and simply noticing when you’re not in your natural state of being and bringing yourself back, gently, lovingly, to reality.

If you’re starting to go into resistance and tell yourself that can’t be true for you – ask yourself: Is there any all or nothing thinking in that story?

Yes! Just because you’ve been told, or you’ve chosen to believe that this pattern will take forever to change, or that it’s “who you are”, doesn’t make that true and you don’t have to continue to believe it – just reveal the all or nothing thinking to yourself and come up with other possibilities and prove to yourself that you are safe, you are free – except when you tell yourself you’re not.

I encourage you all to feel free to email me questions about this or any stories that you feel stuck on.

Once you get through the all or nothing stories you can identify what is reality – what is true in your life ie. I don’t have many close friendships because I have a hard time setting boundaries and it doesn’t feel safe to invite people into my life because I fear they’ll overrun me and I’ll end up feeling worse.

Now, there’s still some all or nothing in that story – and, you’re much closer to figuring out where your energy really needs to go! First into enhancing your self-esteem so you know you’re deserving of what you want and need. This means you feel entitled to set boundaries and you openly and easily challenge people who violate your boundaries. It also means that you’re going to be drawing into your life people who are healthy, confident, secure people who will not intentionally violate your needs or boundaries and will hear you with respect and love when you ask them to do something differently if it makes you feel unsafe or disrespected. That’s where you’re headed. And with the all or nothing thinking running rampant you’re stuck on the surface focusing on all the thoughts and feelings and behaviours that are just coping strategies and not at all on the underlying needs of safety and security within yourself and within relationships with others.

Give this a try any time you’re feeling stuck, resistant, or hearing yourself say any of the above statements or feeling anxious or using food to cope (those are all your primary coping strategies). You’ll feel a shift immediately and be able to identify what you really need in that moment (ie. safety, love, ) and then you can start to explore how to give that to yourself.

Love M.

And, if you want to learn more about this process and experience recovery from using food to cope, consider picking up a copy of my book (http://www.cedriccentre.com/books) or joining our new web program (http://www.cedriccentre.com/ )! You deserve to be free and it’s much easier than you imagine.

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Old Core Beliefs Exercise

Here’s a great example of one client’s core beliefs exercise from page 191 of Food is not the Problem: Deal With What Is! May it inspire you to look within and identify and release your own core beliefs and move freely forward!

Michelle

Eating Disorder Core Beliefs

How to Explore them:

1. When I am being self-critical the DS says I am: fat, ugly, obnoxious, tactless, graceless, have a big ugly nose, ugly teeth, quitter, unlovable, bad, undesirable, people don’t want me around, unworthy, not enough2. Names the DS uses when I am angry and frustrated: idiot, loser, fat, lazy, ugly, disgusting, and repulsive (how sad!!!)

3. Names others used when angry and disappointed: ridiculous, a pill, a piss ant, a twit, missy, moody (these are all my mom), pushy (my Husband)

4. Messages I received about myself: bad, annoying, unwanted, irritating, ugly, flawed, bossy, unlikable, don’t want me around, life would be perfect if I wasn’t part of the family. “I am bad, ugly, unwanted, annoying, not good, enough, unacceptable, not worthy of love or kindles or tender affection, wrong”

These all boiled down to some form of bad, ugly and unwanted

5. What is important about not being bad, ugly, unwanted?

BAD: it is unchangeable and an internal part of me > I’ll be alone because no one will want to be around me > I am not good/strong/capable enough to take care of myself so I need others > since/if I am ‘bad’ I will not have anyone (myself or others) to take care of me.

Feeling: scared, insecure Need: security, acceptance, nurturing

UGLY: people will be repelled from me > I need people (presence, support, approval) in order to feel/be “ok” > I won’t be “ok” (loved)

Feeling: ashamed, sad/despair, insecure Need: belonging, acceptance, affection

UNWANTED: I will never be connected to others > I won’t get love > I need love to exist > I will die

Feeling: despair. sad, scared, desperate, alone Need: security, intimacy, acceptance, joy and playfulness, nurturing

The unwanted held the most weight with me though interesting I can clearly see behaviors I do to avoid bad and ugly the behaviors to avoid ‘unwanted’ are a bit more undercover.

After reading my answers I was filled with ah… empathy and compassion for myself and journaled to myself from the voice of a nurturing loving parent. It was very comforting and encouraging. I then felt this strength which was the core of who I was that felt wise and strong and safe and really far above the ‘story’.

It was a great feeling.. it was my authentic self and she is so strong and capable!

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Tips for Natural Eating: IV

If you’re just tuning in for the first time and notice that this article is called Tips for Natural Eating: IV, you’re right if you assume there were three others in this series. You may want to start with #1 as it will make a lot more sense that way (http://www.cedriccentre.com/blog/?p=31). Or you may want to start with this one and read back as you feel the need. Either way, enjoy! And if you have any questions pertaining to natural eating that you’d like me to address let me know. M.

Last Week I shared one of the most powerful tools out there for shifting your harmful relationship with food. If you haven’t tried it I recommend you go to the blog and read the article: Tips for Natural Eating III and give it a good solid go before doing anything else. If you have tried it I’ll bet you’re feeling more relaxed and on top of things and like you’re starting to really understand what’s up and why you do what you do. Here’s the place to begin to ask yourself to be more present around food and to stop and check in before eating anything to ask: Am I physically hungry right now? And if not, what might be going on to trigger me to want to use food to cope? And remember, you want to invite yourself to stay present so that you can know when you’re full too! A great way to do this is to start by taking a little less food on your plate or in your bowl than you normally would. Let yourself know that if you’re still hungry when you’re done that amount you can have more and that this is just a good way of creating a natural check in point. If you’re resistant to starting with less by the way, it’s a great indicator that you’re using food to cope and that you’re wanting to overeat and /or that you don’t trust yourself to let yourself have more later. Check in about whether you’re truly hungry and see what comes up – remember the tool from last week is a great resource for dealing with any thoughts that is driving you to want to use food to cope. Have an awesome week! And, by the way, if you’re getting a lot out of these articles just imagine what you’d get out of an hour on the phone! 🙂

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Tips for Natural Eating: III

Tips for Natural Eating – Okay folks, how did you do with the homework from last week? Did you make yourself a little care package and carry some things with you at all times?If not, why not? What got in your way? And would you be willing to give it a go this week?If you did do the homework what did you notice?

Typically people notice that they binge less, think about food less and eat more healthily over all when they have snacks with them and allow themselves to eat when they are hungry throughout the day.

Last week I spoke about all or nothing thinking. For this week I want to encourage you to do a little inner exploration.

Whenever you notice that you’re anxious or wanting to use food to cope stop and ask yourself what you were just thinking about; what were you just telling yourself that was making you anxious or want to use food to cope? Then ask yourself if there is any all or nothing thinking in that story.

I guarantee you there will be. This is a significant discovery because it proves to you and your Drill Sgt. that whenever you’re feeling anxious or wanting to use food to cope it’s because you’ve just been telling yourself an all or nothing story and not because of anything that’s really happening in the present moment.This means that your anxiety and your use of food truly are simply coping strategies – ways of being in an uncomfortable situation (the all or nothing story) without being aware of how uncomfortable you are.You see, if you’ve told yourself an all or nothing story about something you’ve given yourself the message that there is only one possible way things can go. And if you don’t like the way you’ve told yourself that they’re going to go, you have to find some way to numb out or detach from the story and from the feelings of powerlessness it creates in you.

Enter Food! What a great way to take your mind off that scary story and put it on to something tangible and obvious that you can really (pardon the pun) sink your teeth into. The solution really is quite simple: Notice when you’re feeling anxious, ask yourself what story you just told yourself to trigger that anxiety, ask if there’s any all or nothing thinking in that story and then ask yourself to come up with at least 3 other possibilities.

You’ll immediately feel a sense of release and one of those other three possibilities will clearly stand out as more likely than your original all or nothing story.That immediate release means that you don’t feel as anxious and you don’t need food to cope. You also learn to notice immediately when the Drill Sgt. and his all or nothing thinking are up to no good and to choose to focus your attention on more honoring and more likely outcomes.

Have an awesome week! And if you find this article helpful – consider joining our new web program www.cedriccentre.com.

It’s a great way to see yourself consistently moving forward in changing your stressful relationship with food and to be done with it once and for all.

Love Michelle

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Question and Answer: How Do I Meet My Needs For Connection In A Life Enhancing Way?

Is Food a Coping Strategy For You? This week I’m sharing a question that came to me through e-mail about why we might not reach out and create relationships even when we’re feeling lonely.

Hi Michelle,Thanks for sending your book, and also for the CD. I’ve read about 2/3 of it, and I am VERY impressed. I’ve always clicked with the Geneen Roth/Hirschman & Munter approach, and it has helped me in the past, but I’ve gotten stuck in certain areas, and I find your book expands on this approach and also gives such a point-by-point roadmap.

I’d also like to say what a positive experience it has been the little amount of contact I’ve had with you and perusing your website. I’ve made the circuit as far as e.d. treatment goes (St. Paul’s, individual counseling, VGH intensive program) and you convey such a warmth and non-clinical/non-patronizing manner. It’s very refreshing, and makes me feel hopeful.One question that I’d be interested in your thoughts/feedback on, is with regard to unmet needs. I would say my #1 unmet need is for connection/companionship. I have no friends in my town (and only 2 friends farther way; 1 I see every couple months). And my family is not supportive/doesn’t “give” emotionally in any way.

So, basically, aside from co-workers, I am completely isolated. And yet, I don’t actually do the things I know would bring me in contact with other people and potential friends (e.g. joining a hiking club, book club, adult ed class, volunteering, etc). Sometimes I’ll push myself to do these things once, but then won’t follow through b/c I get discouraged, or don’t like it, or find it takes too much energy.

I know that sometimes I don’t want to go b/c it means less time for bingeing /purging, but that’s not always the reason. I think it’s mainly a sense of hopelessness/defeat at attempting to build new friendships. Plus, to make a good new friend takes time. So, would you say that this issue is an issue for therapy (i.e. why I don’t do what I know would result in making new connections)? Or, am I missing something? And, in the meantime, how can I learn to soothe/comfort myself with the sense of isolation? There’s not many substitutes for other human beings, even when you’re ok with alone time sometimes.Curious as to your thoughts, if you have the time to respond.K.

Thank you K, for the question.Just to paraphrase, it seems that you’d like to have life that has more friends and social connections in your town and yet you see yourself behaving in such a way that undermines the creation of those friendships. Your immediate thought, it seems, is that it has something to do with wanting to be able to be alone to engage in your binging and purging behaviour but I think you’ve missed the mark. The binging and purging is just a coping strategy. I don’t believe that you want to be alone to binge and purge, I believe that you feel overwhelmed and unsafe in some aspect of your life and you use binging and purging to numb and distract you from that underlying issue. Sometimes, early on in our healing it’s very difficult to see the distinction. But, the difference between believing food is the problem, and knowing that it’s just a coping strategy is huge! When we’re buying in to the belief that food is the problem we are stuck. There is no where to go with that except to control (or try to ) our food even more and get more and more rigid and obsessed and then get more and more frustrated and self-critical when we aren’t successful with our more rigid guidelines which triggers us to get even more restrictive and self-critical which triggers a bigger “binge” and a greater need for isolation and withdrawal which triggers more self-criticism and so on and so on and so on. That’s the only thing that ever happens to anyone who begins to believe that their relationship with food is the reason they are: unhappy; alone; frustrated; “not good enough”; not having the life they desire or the career they desire or the partner they desire……and so on. Mountains become molehills quite quickly with this process when we remember that any focus on food or body image that isn’t about health and wellness is just a coping strategy. Did you get that? It’s a very important point and makes your relationship with food a very different experience: Food is a coping strategy for you if you:

 

    • Eat when you’re not hungry;
    • Eat beyond the point of fullness;
    • Don’t allow yourself to eat when you are hungry;
    • Engage in purging with laxatives, vomiting or excessive exercise;
    • Berate your body shape and size.

 

Is food is a coping strategy for you? The solution is not to focus on the food, the solution is to look a little deeper and identify what it is that is triggering you to feel that your life, as it exists today, is such that you can’t feel safe being present for it? What are you telling yourself about your life and yourself today that makes you believe that the best solution you have to offer yourself is to harm yourself with the coping strategies of isolation, withdrawal, procrastination and binging? It is those thoughts that need to be explored so that you can find out for yourself whether there truly is something that is going on in your present reality that needs some attention in order for you to feel safe putting yourself out there and creating new relationships. You may find that the underlying thoughts that trigger you to feel so overwhelmed that you need to use food to cope are old thoughts and really have no bearing on your present day reality. And yet, they are running the show in large part because you’re not aware that those thoughts exist and that times have changed.

So, to begin to create change in your social life you must start with noticing when you’re using food to cope and taking the following steps:

 

    1. Tell yourself: “Oh, I’m using my food coping strategy right now – that means I have a need that isn’t being met.”
    2. Ask yourself what you were just thinking or experiencing that may have triggered that unmet need.
    3. Ask yourself if that thought or experience in any way undermines your sense of comfort or safety in your life in general or in your relationships with others.

 

That’s a great place to start. Bringing your awareness around to what is really going on rather than staying stuck on the surface focusing on food is what will create lasting change and lead you to a relationship with food that is truly natural. And if you’re not sure what that is, a natural relationship with food is one where you eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re full, and you don’t have any energy about what you’re eating except to enjoy it.

Take it from someone who used to be obsessed, 24/7 with food – what I should eat vs. what I was eating; how fat and ugly I was; how lazy I was; how I was “never” going to be happy; how I was “always” going to be fat or to be struggling with food; how I was never ever ever going to like my body and be happy with it; and so on and so on.

You can have a peaceful and easy and natural relationship with food and be a healthy natural weight for your body without thinking about it. The first step is proving to yourself that your current focus on food and body is just a coping strategy. Once you know that everything else can being to change because now you’re looking in the right place for the problem and it’s much much easier to find the solution!

Love M

P.S. Once you’re tuned in to your own use of food to cope and can start to notice the underlying triggers, there are many practical things you can do to begin to stretch yourself and establish strong and healthy relationships that don’t take a long time to create. If you’re interested in some concrete suggestions about this send me an e-mail and I’ll share some. mmorand@islandnet.com

 

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Inner Family Dialogue

This e-mail came to me last week from a client who is actively making her way through my book.  If you haven’t explored the exercise on the inner family, this may inspire you to give it a go. I hope so!

Thank you so much for the tool of dialoging with my ‘inner family’.  I absolutely love it! Just this afternoon I was brainstorming a strategy for my business and found my hand wandering over to the bag of chocolate covered pretzels left on my desk from lunch.  After eating three or four I became aware that I was eating really quickly and was not physically hungry.   Having had such concrete and swift success using the dialoging tool for other issues this week I grabbed my pad and decided to give it a try.  With pen in hand and chocolate pretzel still in mouth I began.  My Nurturing Parent (NP) tenderly checked in with my Authentic Self asking her what was up.  It took less than eight lines on a small notepad for my AuthSelf to voice her concern and feel safe and grounded again.   And voila!  The chocolate pretzels immediately lost their appeal.  There was not one ounce of willpower or external pressure required, I just really didn’t want, or more accurately, need them.  With my anxiety soothed and my hunger previously satisfied I simply had no use for them.

 

Ok, to someone who has used food to cope for 19 long arduous years and has beaten herself up mercilessly for every excess pound that piled on as a result, this is HUGE!  I have spent so much energy restricting, exercising (read purging) and reprimanding myself in an attempt to suppress that desperate seemingly uncontrollable drive to eat to no avail.  When all it took was a few minutes to check in and calm the little girl inside of me and poof it is gone!

 

I don’t particularly even like the movie but, imagery from the Wizard of Oz comes flooding to mind as I sit with this experience.  The insidious drive to overeat and bad body thoughts personify the Wicked Witch of the West (played by my Drill Sergeant) who has ruled tyrannically until Glinda the Good Witch (played by my Nurturing Parent but sounding at the moment uncannily like M. Morand’s melodic warm voice) swoops along in all her strength and beauty and laughs, “Ha ha ha! You have no power here!”  She laughs.  That is incredibly significant.  She is coming from such a grounded place of peace and confidence.  There is no fear to be found in her voice.  And in the end Dorothy (my Authentic Self) realizes she had the power to get to where she wanted to be all along with a simple click of her heals, or in my case the click of my pen!

 

Thank you Michelle!!!

 

 

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