“When I use my tools, they work! Things are easier, more peaceful. I just don’t feel the need to use food to cope when I use my tools.”
I hear this a lot from clients. And it’s true.
However, from clients who are a little new with the process, there is usually a “…but” attached to the end of it and the rest of the statement sounds something like, “…it’s just so hard to use my tools.” Or “….it takes too long and I don’t have the time or energy to do anything other than eat.” Or even “….what if they stop working? I need to hang on to my use of food to cope just in case my new tools stop working.”
Okay, for starters, under what circumstances could increased awareness and compassion for yourself and others ever stop working for anything? They are the key to the happiness in every single happy person. That last statement, “…what if they stop working…” if you’ve ever thought it, is a great indicator that your Drill Sgt. is in charge of your healing in that moment and not your adult self. The all-or-nothing thinking; The doubt; The belief that coping with food actually helps you in any way and would be a good thing to hold on to are all indicators that your mind has kicked into one of the basic characteristics of the Drill Sgt.: Learned Helplessness.
In essence you’re saying to yourself “I don’t really think anything but food can make me “feel better” and I don’t really think I can learn to resolve my underlying stressors so I have to keep my numbing tactics at the ready.”
If that’s the mindset that you are bringing to this process – which it is – because no one who uses food to cope ever does so from any place other than learned helplessness – this process can feel hard and like it takes a long time. My role in your life is to shift you out of that stuck, all-or-nothing headspace asap and get you into a possibilities mindset where you genuinely realize the many options in each situation and you don’t default into that stuck, sinking feeling that makes you believe the only solution is to restrict, or binge, or purge.
Common learned helplessness statements sound like this:
- I can’t do anything about X;
- Life will always be like Y;
- I will always be stuck/lonely/unhappy/insecure;
- Change is too hard;
- It’s too overwhelming;
- There’s too much to do;
- Others will be upset with me;
- I don’t even know where to begin;
- I can’t!!
When you think of not using food to cope and you feel sad and scared and disappointed, it’s only because the part of you that is thinking about using food to cope in that moment is the part of you that believes that you can not truly feel peaceful and nurtured and safe and comforted without food. Thus it imagines that what’s really going to happen when you use your tools instead of eating is that you’ll still feel anxious and overwhelmed but you won’t let yourself comfort yourself with food. So of course it resists using the tools. Who wouldn’t!
That’s the same part of you that believes that using your tools is a lot of work, that it’s hard and that it won’t actually lead to any lasting change anyway. We call that the Drill Sgt. and his characteristic “learned helplessness.”
But you can’t let the learned helplessness mindset of the Drill Sgt. have the last word. You can’t defer to that voice inside your head that tells you why you can’t be successful or that it’s too hard, too much, too overwhelming, etc. That fearful, sad part of you is the part of you that you are trying to change through this process. It makes no sense whatsoever to recognize that your current mode of thinking is faulty and then allow your current mode of thinking to decide whether or not you take action to make things different in your life. Does it?
You do not want to let that part of you decide whether or not you’ll use your new tools, or you never will. It is the problem mindset and to let that mindset determine whether or not you try something new is like letting your two-year-old decide if he’ll have chocolate or broccoli for dinner. Not a great plan for long-term health and wellness.
The truth, experienced by thousands of CEDRIC clients, is that when you just take 3 minutes to do a 4-7-8 (4-7-8 is a very quick breathing exercise I teach all of my clients) or write out a quick list of stressors before turning to food to cope, you feel instantly more relaxed and within a few minutes you not only know what was upsetting you, but more than likely you’re clear on what you can do about it, (bye bye learned helplessness!!), and you truly don’t feel any compulsion to use food to cope (hello true freedom and happiness!).
In the words of many clients: “When I sit down to do a list of stressors rather than just default to binging or food focus, it’s truly not a lot of work. It’s just a few minutes. And I feel better almost instantly, before I even finish the stressors list.” So, it doesn’t really take long, it’s really not that hard, and it saves you from the stress and Drill Sgt. berating that comes when you use food to cope, not to mention the bloating and “feeling” fat. (Fat is not a feeling 😉 )
The learned helplessness mindset of the Drill Sgt. needs to be your primary focus. Every single area of your life will improve, as if overnight, when you no longer default into the automatic assumption that something bad is going to happen; that you’ve screwed up somehow; that you can’t handle whatever it is that’s going to happen (even if you have no clue what it is); etc.
Our work at the CEDRIC Centre is geared around creating this shift from the old stuckness of learned helplessness to a more open, balanced, reality-based, possibilities mindset as quickly as possible. It isn’t a lot of work, and it doesn’t take long. You just have to begin.
If you’re not already taking part in some of our services I encourage you to explore the tools that suit you best. If you’re Internet savvy, explore our interactive web program; if you prefer the solo path, explore our books, CDs, DVDs, and workbooks; and if you’re interested in groups, workshops, or one-on-one counselling, I encourage you to email and arrange for a session today. Get started! You’ll be surprised how your anxiety dramatically lessens and your confidence grows once you get past that old learned helplessness mindset.
Have a great week! And don’t let that Drill Sgt. have the last word!
Whether you prefer one-on-one counselling (in-person, by phone, or email), our intensive and transformative workshops, the self-help approach with the book, or our Food is Not the Problem Online Membership Program, take action today to have a stress-free relationship with food. Sign up for our free newsletter today (see the left top side of your screen). Newsletter subscribers receive exclusive product discounts and are first in line to get on all the latest new at CEDRIC.
© Michelle Morand, 2010