Quiet Place Inside
Do you know what makes you afraid to stop and feel? Dollars to donuts, whatever it is, you’ll be able to tolerate it. As children, we really do get easily overwhelmed with emotions and they rightfully terrify us. We don’t have the brain mechanics to handle emotional intensity. For the most part, as adults, what we feel is pain with much less terror. The irony about abusing food to avoid emotional hurt is that by tolerating the pain, you avoid future pain—recriminations which follow food abuse. You’re also listening to your heart to find out what you really need.
When I ask clients and students to sit quietly to see what comes up, they often look at me as if I’ve spoken in tongues. Be still? Maybe their parents were in ongoing emotional chaos or walled off their emotions, so they have no idea how to be still. Perhaps they learned to cope by distracting themselves and not stopping ‘til they dropped into bed (too tired to think or feel). Being quiet means just that, stilling yourself both inside and out. It doesn’t mean losing consciousness, but becoming conscious in a different way—of your body, breathing, thoughts, and, oh, yes, did I mention feelings?
Whatever you’re afraid of feeling must be felt to become a “normal” eater. No if, ands, or buts. The scariest part is being scared. Unless you suffered severe childhood trauma, you’ll manage to bear the pain. It will hurt, but it will pass. Experiencing childhood wounds now is far easier than it was way back when because you have more internal and external resources to manage them. Try to understand what it is about the pain that terrifies you. Emotional pain is nothing more than biochemical sensation which can’t harm you the way you fear. Instead of turning your inner turmoil into an outward food focused frenzy, sooth it by loving self-talk. Sweet talk works better than sweet food!
You are bigger than the pain, stronger, smarter and more resourceful. I know it doesn’t seem that way, but that’s because it really was so overwhelming when you first felt it (as a child or in a traumatic adult situation). But now you can get up and walk away from it, you can modulate it, soothe it, or let it ease out of you. Yes, highly charged memories and feelings are upsetting, but for most people they are not dangerous. It’s the threat of danger you’re trying to sidestep. Ironically, over time, as you learn to be still and connect to intense discomfort, you often end up feeling better not worse. Imagine that, being quiet inside, feeling deeply, and then feeling at peace and/or cleansed. Better than shutting off by focusing on food, followed by shame, guilt, remorse, and self-loathing. Try being still and see what happens.