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One of the barriers clients and Food and Feelings message board members sometimes have is holding on to past traumas they think have misshapen them—including being eating disordered. Why continue holding onto what doesn’t serve you?
I’m not asking rhetorically. This is a question for you to answer so that you can make better choices about food—and everything else in your life. Do you understand why you actively cling to your memories of trauma and abuse, as well as behaviors you used to engage in because of them—binge-eating, excessive drinking, passivity, viewing yourself as a victim, fearing confrontation, shaming yourself, hiding the “real” you?
Here’s my view of how to approach the issues of trauma and identity; those of you who’ve been reading my blogs regularly may have heard it before. Your childhood shaped in you certain adaptive responses to the environment you lived in which, in turn, gave you a perceived identity. Say you used to sneak off to your room with a bag of Oreos after your mom or dad released their own stress by yelling at you and you’ve continued sneak-eating for years. Now you say things such as “I’m a binge-eater” or “I’m a secret eater.” Do you tell yourself that you’re this kind of eater because of your history. Or does telling yourself this is who you are generate and reinforce them?
When are you no longer a trauma survivor or binge-eater? This happens when you no longer think of yourself that way or when you act, for example, more empowered or rarely go on a food bender. Too many of you still think of yourselves as damaged and unable to function well in the world. I’m all for exploring and recognizing how you got to be the way you are, food-wise and otherwise, but I’m two thumbs down on continually reminding yourself of a chapter (or even several chapters) of your lives that are long over and done with.
Consider who you want to be now. Why not quit telling people you’re too: lazy to go to the gym, scared to speak up and set boundaries with your parents, uncomfortable praising yourself and feeling proud to give yourself pats on the back, hyper to meditate, or busy to do a feelings journal. Could it be that the demon in your life isn’t whoever traumatized you long ago, but your unwillingness today to grab some courage and carve out a new identity for yourself? You’re losing precious time when you could be living out your dreams of eating “normally” and being happier, healthier and more successful. Choose how you want to be and you will become that way.
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