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Getting Past “The Past”

We can’t help, at times, getting stuck in “the past” and sometimes end up abusing food because of it—a new friend fails to invite you to a birthday bash and you feel slighted, a co-worker claims credit for a job you busted a gut doing and you lose it, or your child screams she hates you after a time out and you burst into tears. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again (and again!) that the bulk of our hurt is rooted in the past.

Let’s look at the examples above. First, the birthday bash. If your reaction was overwhelming hurt that you weren’t invited, you may have had too many experiences in childhood—in your family, school or neighborhood—in which you felt left out and excluded. Maybe you often felt as if you were on the outside looking in. So, naturally, when you’re not included now, you feel stung. The fact is that someone who lacked a history of exclusions might not think twice about not being asked to the bash, assuming it was for close or old friends only or feeling relief about being off the hook for an obligation that would take too much time out of a busy schedule.

In the example of a co-worker claiming credit for your work, you might become irate if you had a sibling, close friend or parent who didn’t allow you to shine for your accomplishments, who was so competitive, insecure and jealous when you were in the spotlight, that they made sure you never were. Your parents might have encouraged competitiveness and pettiness so that the whole family functioned as if winning and receiving attention and praise was what life was all about. If you didn’t have this kind of history, you would be upset with your co-worker, but wouldn’t get all bent out of shape. You might want to say something to them or to someone else, or simply let go of the situation and shrug it off because you knew you did a good job.

In the example of bursting into tears because your child screams she hates you, you might be especially sensitive if your parents withdrew love or even punished you when you didn’t kowtow to them. You may believe that speaking your mind will cause people, including your child, not to love you. Someone with a different history might assume your child struck out at you merely because she was upset and would know that kids saying they hate their parents is common, natural, and normal.

Whenever you have an intense emotional reaction, especially an overreaction, remind yourself that some issues will make you supersensitive and why that is so. Want to understand your emotions better? Read my Food and Feelings Workbook.

Dealing with Hurtful Relatives
Eating When and What You Want

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