"I'm sure you've found this to be true. What you can't be with won't let you be. No matter how hard you try to get rid of an unwanted emotion -- whether you eat over it or drink over it or shop over it or work over it -- it will always keep coming back until you allow and invite the emotion, the feelings, the thoughts, the fears and the resistance to be as they are." - Debbie Ford
I'm working with a coaching client, who is doing great with her workouts and healthy food choices. She's doing everything right, all day. Then just before bed, she eats enough calories worth of ice cream to counteract all the hard work and healthy choices she's made that day. She really wants to lose weight, but this cycle of sabotage has her in its grip.
No amount of controls, workouts, food tracking, strategies, programs, diets or anything else can stop it. She is not in control of her choices at that moment. Something else is driving her decisions.
We talked about it for awhile. Typical advice sounds like this: Don't keep ice cream in the house. Work on portion control. Use a small bowl and small spoon. Only have ice cream if you go out for it. Try low fat, low sugar, frozen yogurt, suck on an ice cube, chain yourself to the sofa.
I understand completely about setting up your environment for success. However, strategies do absolutely nothing to heal the compulsion. There is no freedom in putting more controls in place. Even if you are chained to the couch, you are still craving.
I don't know about you, but I got so sick of hearing about ways I could control it all. If you are addicted or under the power of a compulsion, it's unbelievably hard to control it. White-knuckling my way through life was not appealing to me. But I didn't believe there was any way to be free, either.
I was wrong.
What you can't be with, won't let you be.
Here's what I had to do. Here's what I still have to do. If I feel like my healthy choices are suddenly being undermined by the saboteur within me, I have to sit with whatever emotion I am feeling.
If I'm bored, I have to allow myself to be bored.
If I'm angry, I have to feel the anger.
If I'm sad, I must allow myself to grieve.
If I'm lonely, I have to fall to my knees and say, "I'm lonely."
If I am filled with fear and anxious thoughts, I have to be with them.
The issue is escape. Every time I tie off the vein and load up the syringe (or scoop up a heaping bowl of ice cream) to escape, it only puts off the inevitable. Emotions do not get processed by avoiding them. There's a support group saying, "You must feel it to heal it." Corny, but really true.
It's difficult, but if I can do it, you can do it. We have to find healthy ways of processing our emotions, instead of avoiding them.
I'll never forget the day I decided I was going to stop running away. It was around ten years ago. I climbed onto my couch and crossed my legs, and said to myself, I am going to sit with my grief. And I allowed it to wash over me. The pain of losing my parents, of not having them for support, for milestones, for conversations. How it rocked my sense of security to the core. I sat with it. I didn't eat. I didn't pour a glass of wine. I didn't text a guy. I didn't shoot up or snort anything. I didn't turn the TV on. I didn't read. I sat with my grief.
I know you feel like if you do that, you won't survive it. That was my fear, also. But I did. The wave didn't even last that long. It was intense as it moved through me, then it evaporated. As it did, a sense of peace washed over me that I had never experienced before. Ever.
That was the beginning. I try to consciously invite and be with whatever it is I'm feeling, and when I can't figure it out I call someone I trust to help me process it. It's the only way to stay rooted in my peace. It's the only way to keep my life from being sabotaged by buried emotions.
Today is father's day. I sat on the couch for a few minutes to think about my dad, wondering what it would be like to have him with me in this life. He's been dead for 36 years. People are celebrating their dads on Facebook, which is great. I wanted to sit with that. I wanted to check in with my own heart to make sure I didn't need to be with grief again. Tonight, for some reason, all I could do was smile.
I have learned to be with that loss. I have learned to be with my grief. I no longer need to escape. I am so grateful.