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Over and over again, I hear clients and Food and Feelings message board members suffering with the same problem. They’re afraid to speak their feelings and end up eating them away, a particularly common occurrence with their parents, even though these clients and board members are now adults.
Let me be straight with you. This complex developmental task may take time to accomplish, but it’s crucial if you want to be an emotionally healthy and fully functioning adult. Don’t fool yourself into thinking it’s no big deal, because it’s just about the biggest deal there is. Feeling—and, worse, acting—like a child around your parents makes you feel less than. I get that you may feel sorry for them and, therefore, compulsively wish to shower them with kindness. Or that you feel angry at them and, reactively, immediately sink into guilt that you’re being ungrateful for whatever you got or get from them. No matter what emotional gymnastics you go through, if you’re afraid to be honest with your parents, you’re being inauthentic, won’t be able to have healthy intimate relationships with other adults, and will likely end up stuffing down your feelings with food.
If you’re still afraid to speak openly—that is, your truth—to your parents, grandparents or other relatives, that’s because you’re letting your memories of being dependent on them destroy your connection to reality in which you are no longer dependent on them. I’m not talking about consciously deciding how to deal with parents. That comes from knowing you can express your feelings and have no fear of doing so, but choose not to do so for rational reasons. In this case, you’re not acting out of anxiety, but from a mature mindset. I’ve said it before and I’ll keep saying it, it is okay to say or do (or not say or not do) things that make your parents upset, scared, enraged, disappointed, ashamed or guilty. It’s okay to hate them and not want them in your life. It’s okay to not have them in your life. It’s okay to wish them dead or be glad they are dead.
Try this. Knowing you’ll be speaking to or seeing them, practice saying what you want to say to them—how they have hurt you, how they hurt you now, how you feel when they hurt you, and that you won’t put it up with it. It’s irrelevant to your health and welfare what their response is. If they apologize or do try to change, wonderful: you’ve opened up a line of communication. If they get defensive or accusatory, that’s fine too: you have hard evidence that they’re incapable of change and can’t love you properly. And you can move on from this infantile wish. Speak your truth to your parents and you’ll feel like an adult, free of your need for them. It will also help you become a “normal” eater.
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