Two weekends ago, I was in Vancouver with my husband Alex – Olympic Fever Reigned! Holy cow, what a hockey game!!! While there, I treated myself to a trip to the Ayurvedic Clinic. I met with the physician, Dr. Shiva Varma, who I had met with a handful of times before, always with great success for whatever had been ailing me.
On this trip, I was going to see him for his thoughts on why my sleep hadn’t been so great the past month or so. He immediately assessed my situation perfectly, stating that the only problem I had was that I was feeling a sense of a lack of community in Vancouver as I plan my transition there and he encouraged/insisted that I join him and his team at his new, state-of-the-art, clinic in Richmond, as well as out of the centre in Kitsilano and begin to offer lectures, seminars and workshops there. So, of course, I said…”Yes! Thank you!!!!”
I felt instantly relieved and relaxed and very supported as I considered the expansion of CEDRIC to a new town. A great supporter of my work for a number of years now, Dr. Varma is 2 weeks away from opening the doors on his amazing new 20,000 sq. ft. facility with state-of-the-art lab facilities in Richmond. The facility will have among its staff: 2 General Practitioners (one who is also a Naturopathic Physician); 1 Oncologist; 1 Gynacologist; Dr. Varma, and his staff at the Ayurvedic Centre; and other services as well. They will be able to fully assess and analyze many health concerns (hormone imbalances, cancer, blood sugar, cholesterol, etc.) very quickly in their own onsite lab.
Any who, I could go on. But suffice it to say, I’m very, very excited to have been invited to be a part of this new integrative health clinic and to be able to step into a community of like-minded practitioners. It really is just the cure I was seeking for my moving to Vancouver jitters and now that I feel that CEDRIC has a place to land, I feel much more relaxed and peaceful, and excited about the move.
This experience is a fine example of how, when we have needs that aren’t being met, we really just can’t completely relax. Any feeling of anxiety or unrest is an indicator of unmet needs.
According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Basic Human Needs, the most fundamental needs of humans are the physiological needs for food, air, water, rest, and procreation of the species. Many species exist on this level alone.
The next level on the hierarchy are the physical safety and security needs. This level pertains to obvious things that are important to our sense of safety, like not being physically or sexually abused or having the threat of such things around you, but it also pertains to things that many people experience without even realizing the fundamental impact: divorce; separation; moving from neighborhood to neighborhood or town to town; financial concerns; witnessing or hearing about something violent or harmful happening to someone close to you. These are all powerful examples of experiences that will, without exception, undermine your sense of physical safety and security, at least temporarily (until the problem is resolved and you’ve had time to debrief, heal and really trust that the problem won’t recur). And until you have that reassurance, you will undoubtedly continue to feel a little anxious if not downright panicked depending on the situation. This is often where many of us turn to food to cope with the anxiety and uncertainty we naturally feel in these painful situations.
The next level on the hierarchy, which we can dabble in but can’t fully ascend to while any lower level needs are compromised, is the level of love, acceptance and belongingness. I call it the emotional security level. Here we are seeking to meet needs in our primary relationships (parents, siblings, teachers, peers) and then in our greater community and world at large. What we’re really doing is looking outside of ourselves to key people in our lives for messages (verbal and non-verbal) about our worth, deservedness, okayness and overall lovability. If the messages we receive from those key people are reinforcing of us as lovable and worthwhile and deserving of care and of time, energy, dignity and respect we naturally internalize those messages and they become our sense of self.
Also known as our self-esteem. How we esteem ourselves comes directly from what we have been taught to think and feel about ourselves from watching and experiencing the behaviours of the key people in our lives towards us. Thus, it makes perfect sense that “Esteem” is the next level on Maslow’s Hierarchy after love, acceptance and belongingness. If we have any unmet needs on the level of love, acceptance and belongingness we will feel emotionally insecure (to varying degrees depending on the degree of our sense of neglect or undeservedness, as modeled to us by those key people) and that insecurity will trigger us to feel naturally anxious and unsettled until we are able to find ways that honor us to meet those needs. As children in situations where we aren’t feeling worthwhile or cared for in the way we need to, we can live for many years with that anxious, unsettled feeling until it becomes a part of life: Bothersome, but normal to us. This is where many of us will also turn to food to cope. The focus on our body in a judgemental way and the use of food through restriction, overeating or purging are all just forms of our desperate attempts to release ourselves from the constant anxiety we feel. And because, for so many of us, that anxiety has been with us for so long that it is just a part of life, we don’t understand where it’s coming from or what triggers it and therefore we feel stuck and we typically assume that it’s just something wrong with us.
Many people have a story in their heads that anxiety is bad; that you shouldn’t feel anxious and if you do it means you are “too sensitive.” On the contrary, anxiety is your autonomic nervous system’s way (your instinctual self) of letting you know that something is happening, or has the potential to happen, that isn’t meeting needs for you. It’s a giant heads up. Only in our culture we judge it, we shame it, we condemn it, we hide it, we drug it…..and we continue to use food, drugs, alcohol, spending, isolating, avoiding, procrastinating, nail-biting, picking, toe- tapping, etc., etc. as well as co-dependency to numb out so we can live without being aware of how anxious we are.
But folks, you are anxious for a reason. It’s not because you’re too sensitive. It’s not because you’re crazy or bi-polar or borderline or schizophrenic or suffering from “panic disorder.” Any of those clusters of symptoms are really just your best way of coping with the unmet needs in your life and the anxiety and grief they produced.
The solution will never ever be found in judging yourself and masking or numbing your symptoms. But first, some part of you must be willing to acknowledge that perhaps, even if you’re not entirely sure how as you think about it now, you have or at least had as a child, a perfectly valid reason for feeling like some key needs weren’t met.
The interesting thing about needs is that you don’t have to go back in time (thank goodness or we’d be totally screwed!) in order to meet them. You simply need to identify the ways in which you or others are behaving in such a way in the present that is reminiscent of those old experiences and get yourself some tools to address those present-day pieces. You will be amazed at how quickly your anxiety dissipates and how easy it becomes to simply choose not to use food to cope. Yes, I said easy. When you don’t feel that chronic anxiety and when you understand the difference between fact and fiction, story and reality in your present-day life, it is easy to not get caught up in old defaults and instead choose to respond to yourself with new tools that take moments to bring you to a place of clarity and peace.
For my part two, weeks ago, I knew that I was feeling unsettled about the move. I knew that was both about the physical security of leaving my home and not yet knowing where I was going to be living in the new town (which isn’t happening until August by the way – and for your reassurance, I’ll still be in Victoria 2 days a week). I also knew that I was experiencing unmet physical and emotional security needs about CEDRIC moving and opening new doors to a new community. What I hadn’t yet put together completely was exactly what I could do about it now. I had begun to make forays and offer workshops there, attend health shows to get the word out. But clearly, given my release of tension at the meeting with Dr. Shiva, what I had been missing was a sense of professional community and a sense of a physical presence for CEDRIC in my new-town-to-be.
There is always a reason why you feel as you do. It’s not because you’re too….anything. Learning how to listen to and respect your emotions as indicators of needs is key to completely stepping free of the use of food to cope.
So stay tuned to your inner self and check in regularly for any sensations of anxiety or distress. Remind yourself that you only feel that way because you have needs that aren’t being met and take some time to learn how to identify what’s up and what you can do about it. The process doesn’t need to take a long time, in fact it’s usually very speedy once you stop focusing on food and instead focus on the needs you’re seeking to meet through its use.
And, stay tuned for more details on this amazing integrative health project and the offerings there. While it is likely that CEDRIC will have its own separate physical presence in Vancouver, I will most certainly be offering my counselling and workshops at the Ayurvedic/Integrative Wellness Centre as well.
To kick off my association there, on Saturday, March 27th, I’ll be hosting an introductory seminar at the Ayurvedic Clinic near 4th and Alma in Vancouver, BC. The seminar will be offered from 11 am – 1 pm. If you’d like more information please email or call me directly @ firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-866-383-0797 and I’ll give you all the details. The seminar will be an introduction to why we do what we do with food and how to begin to approach yourself and life in a way that leads to complete freedom from any harmful coping strategy.
The last level on Maslow’s Hierarchy is Self-Actualization. This is the realization of your full potential; the living of your true purpose in life. We all feel an inward pull to this experience. But if we are spending much of our energies just keeping it together because of the unmet needs at lower levels and the anxiety and depression they bring, achieving a state of self-actualization is an impossibility.
I know you can do it. I know you can not only have the sense of safety and security you seek in your relationships with others and in your physical realm (home, finances, etc.) but that you will be successful in feeling solid and secure in yourself as an individual of worth and deservedness, equal to all others. And I know that you have within you, the power to realize your full potential, you only need to clearly identify what’s blocking you and learn how to step free. If you’re still using food to cope in any way, regardless of the amount of support you’ve received, you haven’t quite yet identified what’s up or what to do about it. It’s that simple.
So hang in there. There is a solution. If you’d like some support just email or call and we’ll discuss what your needs are and how best to meet them.
Have a great week.
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