ON COMPULSIVE EATING: The Secret to Getting Free…
Here’s another classic resurrection, an excerpt from When Food is Love: Exploring the Relationship Between Eating & Intimacy, by Geenen Roth.
———— On Compulsive Eating ————
“Compulsion (as in compulsive eating) is despair on the emotional level: the substances, people, or activities we become compulsive about are those that we believe are capable of taking our despair away…
All we ever wanted was love…we didn’t want to become compulsive about anything. We did it to survive…we did it to keep from going crazy. Good for us.
Food was our love, and eating was our way of being loved. Food was available when our parents weren’t. Food didn’t get up and walk away when our fathers did. Food didn’t hurt us. Food didn’t say no. Food didn’t hit. Food didn’t get drunk. Food was always there. Food tasted good. Food was warm when we were cold and cold when we were hot. Food became the closest thing we knew of love.
But it is only a substitute for love. Food is not, nor was it ever, love itself.
Many of us have been using food to replace love for so many years that we no longer know the difference between turning to food for love and turning to love for love. We wouldn’t recognize love if it knocked us over…Not because we are ignorant, but because if we’ve never been loved well, we don’t know what love feels like…what love IS like.
It follows that if we have not been loved well, we can’t love ourselves well either. (So) Compulsive behavior, at its most fundamental essence, is a lack of self-love, it’s an expression of a belief that we are not good enough…
We begin eating compulsively because of reasons that have to do with the kind and amount of love that is in our lives or that is missing from it. If we haven’t been loved well, recognized or understood, we re-arrange ourselves to fit the shape of our situations. We lower our expectations. We stop asking for what we need. We stop showing the places that hurt or need comfort. We stop expecting to be met, and we begin to rely on ourselves and only ourselves to provide sustenance, comfort and pleasure. We begin to eat…and eat.
(Another anecdote about a girl named Trina, who lived with a Grandmother who beat her everyday for 8 years straight. Geneen links this to Trina’s compulsive eating disorder and outlines the subconscious beliefs she acquired by being in that situation.)
————— Love & Compulsion Cannot Co-exist —————
LOVE AND COMPULSION CANNOT CO-EXIST…
Love is the willingness and ability to be affected by another human being and to allow that effect to make a difference in what you do say and become.
Compulsion is the act of wrapping ourselves around an activity, a substance or a person to survive, tolerate and numb our experience of the moment….
Compulsion is a state of isolation: one that includes self-absorption, invulnerability, low self-esteem, unpredictability and a fear that if we faced our pain it would destroy us.
Love expands; compulsion diminishes.
Compulsion leaves no room for love. — which is, in fact, why many people started eating compulsively in the first place: because when there was room for the love, the people around us were not loving. The very purpose of compulsion is to protect ourselves from the pain associated with love…
It is my belief that we become compulsive because of wounds from our past and the conclusions we drew at that time about our self-worth: conclusions about our capacity to love and whether, in fact we deserved to be loved at all.
>> Our mother goes away and we decide that we are unlovable.
>> Our father is emotionally distant and we decide that we need too much.
>> Someone we are close to dies and we decide that there is no reason to love anyone because it hurts too much at the end.
We make decisions based on our pain and the limited choices we had at that time. We make decisions based on how we made senses of the wounds and what we did to protect ourselves from being more wounded in that environment.
At the age of six or eleven or fifteen, we decide that love hurts and that we are unworthy or unlovable or too demanding, and we live the rest of our lives protecting ourselves from being hurt again. And there is no better protection than wrapping ourselves around a compulsion.
In many of my workshops, there are participants whose parents were alcoholic; there are participants whose parents died or left during childhood without a warning; there are participants who were beaten or raped; and there are participants whose losses, abandonments and betrayals were subtler and had to do with any combination of unavailable fathers, possessive mothers and families in which uncomfortable feelings were denied and repressed.
As children we have no resources, no power to make choices about our situations. We need our families for food, shelter and love or else we will die. If we feel that the pain around us is too intense and we can not levae or change it, we will shut it off. We will — and do — switch our pain to something less threatening: a compulsion.
As adults, it becomes OUR OWN task to examine the decisions we made long ago about our self-worth, our capacity to love and our willingness to be loved, for it is from these decisions that many of our beliefs about compulsion and love take root.
It’s impossible to be obsessed with food or anything else and to be truly intimate with ourselves or another human being; there simply isn’t enough room. Yet all of us want intimacy. We all want to love and be loved.
Once we had no choice; now we do.
The decision to be intimate, like the decision to break free from compulsive eating, is not something that is given to you. Intimacy is not something that just happens between two people; it’s a way of being alive. At every moment, we are choosing either to reveal ourselves or to protect ourselves; to value ourselves or to diminish ourselves; to tell the truth or to hide…
Intimacy is making the choice to be connected to, rather than isolated from, our deepest truth at that moment.
In every workshop, I hear, “So when is the magic going to begin???” and I say, “When you take the step, when you make the choice.”
For those of us who are used to waiting for someone to bring love to our lives, the discovery that being intimate is a choice that we make at every moment is as close to magic as anyone ever comes… ” ~ Geneen Roth
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