This post is part of a series about Complete Recovery on our blog. If you’d like to read all of the blog posts in the series, see The Three Steps to Complete Recovery – 1, 2, 3.
Last week I encouraged you to stop twice a day, anytime, and just ask yourself the following questions:
“Am I feeling at all unsettled (or thinking of using my coping strategy or actually using it right now?)”
“What might be triggering that feeling or the need to check out?”
“What am I telling myself about that situation or about me?”
Based on the feedback I received from many readers this was powerful in and of itself. Many of you hadn’t even realized you were feeling anxious in that moment until you checked in and many of you had been planning to overeat, restrict or purge without even realizing the connection between those thoughts of numbing out and the anxiety you were feeling.
The feedback also showed that with just a little inquiry within, almost all the time, you were at least able to get in the ballpark of what was really triggering your anxiety and to see, very clearly, that it wasn’t your body and it wasn’t food. And I have some tools for you for those other times, so don’t worry.
Nice Work on the checking in and staying tuned!!!!! Well Done!!!
(P.S. If you haven’t done this piece for yourself yet go back and read the article from last week, give it a try for a day or two – that will be enough for you to have your own inner, gut proof, which is required for you to move forward – and then add this next piece.)
The most important part of this puzzle is already starting to take hold for those of you who tried the homework: You’re beginning to prove to yourself that your thoughts and actions around food and body image are triggered by anxious feelings that are unrelated to food and body image. Ahhhhhh, sigh of relief. There is a reason you do what you do and it’s not that you’re lazy or lack willpower or don’t care about yourself, it’s that you’ve been taught, way back when, to association feelings of anxiety with hopelessness and despair. So you simply automatically check out with your coping strategy of choice when you feel at all anxious, whether about being five minutes late, or losing your job, the illness of a loved one, or missing the due date on a bill.
There was a time when things were happening to and around you that were not meeting needs for safety, respect, love, emotional and / or physical security. And at that time you were powerless because of your age, size, and stage of development in your thought processes and communication skills, as well as your dependence on your primary caregivers for shelter and food as well as love and belongingness and emotional support and encouragement.
In that old life, if your best attempts to get your needs met were not successful you had no other recourse. You simply did not get what you needed. It is very anxiety-provoking to be in a situation where you’re not getting what you need and where you are powerless to do anything about it. And if you’re a dependent child and this is happening, it is practically overwhelming. Anxiety disorders, depression, ADHD and ADD, dissociation, eating disorders, alcoholism, drug abuse, sex addiction and promiscuity, body image obsession and raging are all methods that human beings frequently default to, without conscious intent, as methods to communicate as best they can their overwhelm at the unmet needs for trust, respect, safety, love, acceptance, reassurance, reliability, etc., that they are experiencing at that time, or that have yet to be properly met since childhood. These are protective measures for the individual as well as solid statements, to anyone who understands that language, that at some key point, and still in some way, fundamental needs weren’t met.
The most important news is that, regardless of how your needs weren’t met in the past and who didn’t meet them, you can absolutely find ways that truly, 100% meet those needs in the present, with or without any communication with that person, acknowledgement from them, or reliving any of those old painful experiences.
The first place to start is last week’s assignment; begin to prove to yourself the irrefutable and causal relationship between you feeling anxious about myriad things in your life (past, present or future) and you immediately feeling stuck and hopeless and feeling the urgent need to check out with food in some way.
This week I want you to deepen that awareness and take it one step further by encouraging yourself to notice whenever you’re reaching for food (or thinking of binging, restricting or purging) or feeling that sinking, stuck feeling, or feeling anxious to just stop and ask yourself:
“Am I feeling at all anxious or unsettled right now?”
“What was I just thinking or experiencing that might have triggered me to feel anxious?”
“Was I at all thinking that there was no solution; that I was going to fail; that I wasn’t capable; that things were not going to go well; that bad things were going to happen?”
If so, I want you to just stop and think about this article. Think about the fact that because of your past, your anxiety automatically triggers you to feel overwhelmed and to feel the need to check out and then say to yourself:
“That’s my old, learned helplessness training. There was a time when I was powerless to meet my needs. But I am not powerless now, simply uninformed. And, even if I don’t know how yet, I know that there are people who can show me how to stop defaulting into stuckness and how to meet my needs in ways that don’t harm me. I trust that with some help I can figure it out.”
The solution is simple. And the sooner you prove the link to stress about general life stuff and the urgent need/desire to overeat, restrict, purge, drink, spend, etc., the sooner you can set about living the life you’ve always deserved!
It’s just around the corner.
Let me know how this week’s homework goes and if you’re ready for a hand in taking the next step let me know.
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