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Widen Your Perspective
One reason that many clients don’t resolve their eating or other problems or progress as quickly as they’d like to is due to having a narrow perspective. They think they’re defective or unlovable, that a diet will keep weight off them if only they tried harder, that they are the problem in their marriage or romantic relationship, or that it’s better to rely only on yourself than on other people. Although I understand how they acquired these irrational, incorrect views, I can’t keep nagging them to change. My job is to lay the groundwork for helping them develop intellectual curiosity so that they can find new solutions to old problems themselves.
For instance, when clients are giving me a history of their lives, I automatically do a mental check off of experiences which could derail them from living happy, healthy lives—parents with addictions, mental health problems or personality disorders; having been abused or neglected; moving frequently as children; growing up in poverty; or having parents who divorced and remarried several times. Knowing these particulars gives me an immediate wider view of who the person sitting across from me is. I may start to think that she has an anxiety problem rather than an eating problem or that he was punished for expressing emotions and now depends on food to help him appear stoic, contained and “just fine, thanks.”
This is what I mean by widening your perspective. I can’t tell you how many children of alcoholic parents have great difficulty acknowledging that what happened to them in childhood set them up for poor self-care. Or how many clients of narcissistic parents keep thinking that they must get others’ approval and need to go along to get along. They have no idea that their food problems and weight concerns are about allowing themselves to want something and then go out and get it—no matter who approves.
Instead of saying, “If I could just stop eating so much at night/not bring sugary foods home from the store/get myself to the gym,” ask yourselves more in-depth questions. If you’re living with someone who ignores you, especially at night, and heads for his computer or her phone, your relationship is likely a major, underlying problem. If your partner drinks, watches porn to excess, or gambles, eating to blot out disappointment and feeling rejected may very well be at the root of your problem. If your child is depressed and you don’t get help for him, but try to make him feel better yourself, you may be wearing yourself out and feeling so hopeless and helpless that you turn to food for comfort. To change your behavior, you may well need to give yourself a brand new and far wider perspective on what ails you.
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