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Are You A Rebel Without A Cause?

I spend a good deal of therapy time talking with clients about being stuck in rebellion. Not adolescents, but adults—people in their 40s, 50s and 60s who are still wasting precious time and energy fighting imaginary powers that be. Mind you, our discussions aren’t about them getting out and protesting for civic or global causes. They’re about how they continue to rebel against “authority” and “shoulds” in the food and other arenas and how this behavior, more than any other, keeps them stuck in overeating.

Let me be frank: If you want to become a “normal” eater, you have to/must/need to ditch your rebellious attitude. Got to do it. Unless you’re living with someone who is trying to control your eating (and, why, as an adult with free choice, would you choose to live with this kind of person?), your thoughts of, “He can’t make me eat healthy,” “I’ll show her, I’ll do what I want,“ or “They should love me whatever I weigh,” are empty threats made to no one about nothing. If you’re still acting out your anger at parents who were controlling, dominating, rigid and manipulative, it’s time to let it go and move on.

Doing what people want you to do and doing the opposite of what they want you to do both back you into a corner. Automatically rebelling—You can’t make me, and I’ll do whatever I want—robs you of the chance to make wise decisions. It keeps you childlike and stuck in childish behaviors. You may believe that the opposite of love is hate, that the antidote to doing what someone wants you to do is doing exactly what they don’t want you to do. Not true! Love and hate both keep your energy flowing toward a person, give them power over you, and keep you chained to them. The opposite of love and hate is detachment. Doing what people want or precisely what they don’t want keeps you under their thumb. Indifference cuts the cord. The way out is to do what YOU want which will sometimes conform with and sometimes be at odds with others.

Maturity means not making decisions solely to please or piss off other people. Anything else is immature reaction. Adolescence is full of rebellion because the goal of this developmental stage is to separate from parents. Teens push and pull to be unlike parents to move through this phase and individuate to become emotionally independent adults. Unless you’re an adolescent, if you’re still sabotaging your eating or weight because you don’t want to give someone the satisfaction of doing what they want or making them right, you are psychologically stuck. Now it’s time to define what’s right for you—no matter what anyone else thinks. Remember, you’ll be doing it because you want to, not because they want you to. Therein lies the (very big) difference.