I wish I had a dollar for every client who’s said, “You’ll probably think I’m crazy, but…” and gone on to tell me something. Good thing that I know they’re not crazy and can reassure them. The truth is, as different as we all appear to be, underneath we’re pretty much the same and have relatively similar emotional experiences.
In what ways do people feel alone and different from others? With food and in many aspects of life—eating food picked out of the garbage can, experiencing discomfort receiving compliments, ignoring a delicious, healthy dinner they’ve made and instead gorging on leftover Halloween candy, hating their overbearing parents, envying others’ successes, feeling defective, or wishing they were someone else.
Fearing you’ll be viewed as crazy implies a belief that your thoughts, behaviors, or feelings might be abnormal. In reality, nothing you or I or anyone else has ever (ever) felt is unique. The majority of our emotions are experienced by many, but perhaps not all, people. There are no new feelings under the sun and most feelings are universal.
We develop the mistaken belief that what we feel or think is abnormal—guess where?— in childhood. Maybe you were the only one in your family who was sensitive to slights or criticism. Or came from a family that didn’t share how they felt, so you never had a clue what was going on inside others. Or your parents denied their emotions, especially if they perceived them to be “bad” or shameful. For example, they told you they were fine when they clearly weren’t or that they weren’t angry when they obviously were. If you grew up not having your emotions validated—or worse, having them invalidated—and were made to feel wrong inside, you might even now surround yourself with intimates around whom you feel weird or out of step. Or maybe you never talk with people about your emotions so you don’t know what’s common, which reinforces your aloneness.
Your thoughts or emotions (whatever they are) are not unique, and there are oodles of people in the world who think and feel exactly like you do—undeserving no matter how much you do, secretly detesting cooking for your family, not loving your children equally, despising sex, yearning to sleep with your best friend’s spouse, believing there is no God, or wondering about your sexual preference. The more you share your feelings, weird as they seem, the more you’ll discover that you’re not alone with them. And the less alone you feel, the more comfortable you’ll be in your own skin which reduces the chance that you’ll try to smother your feelings by abusing food or your body.