One Little Technique That Can Change Everything
This is Part 3 of a series on Healing Bulimia and Addictive Eating. Please click here to read Part 1. And click here to read Part 2.
I was originally going to continue this series with my next batch of Healing Ideas about bulimia. I’m still going to do that in the next post. However, this one idea, which had initially been part of the second batch, became more important as I wrote about it. It is an opening to major behavioral shifts in any addictive process.
Idea # 7: Ask, “What do I really need now?”
I have spent lots of time examining the behavior and energy of addictions, be they smoking, eating, drinking, or drug use. Each one of them has an element of what I call “stuffing.” Stuffing down the real issue. The activity is always a pushing downward. In smoking, you inhale. In eating, you chew and swallow (downward). In drinking, you gulp (downward). In the physical addictions of what we do to our bodies, it’s almost as if we’re pushing it deeper down, stuffing it, suppressing it. And as long as we’re still addicted, we’re never getting to know or see what IT is.
For instance, you get home from night class. You’re tired. You’ve had a long day. Your mom has been leaving you messages with increasing anger that you haven’t been in touch. There are emails to answer. And a friend’s wedding this weekend. You can hardly think. What you probably need at the moment is rest, self-care, quiet time, and a moment or two to just cry. Then you probably need to go to bed early. When you wake up and you feel clearer, you can sort out all that stuff.
Instead, what you do is ignore all that stuff. You go to the fridge and grab the left over cake from your friend’s birthday party, and so it begins. You fill up. And push it down. And then when that’s gone, you fill up more. In other words, you’re attempting to deny the real need. You’re suppressing it.
The only problem with this is that it’s like trying to push a beach ball down under the water and hold it there. It doesn’t want to stay. It’s not meant to stay. Your real needs, your real feelings aren’t meant to stay down. (My theory is that for those people who throw up their food, they get to have a manufactured, sometimes even violent release that temporarily makes their body feel like its needs were met. And of course, its needs haven’t been met at all.)
When you find yourself in this situation, even the slightest shift in behavior will begin a new pattern. This is not trying to stop the behavior or take anything away from you. But if you can take two minutes before launching in to the binge to ask yourself, “What is it I really need right now?” And just listen. Even if it’s something seemingly impossible like “I want to quit my job. I hate it there,” this is at least a start. You are at least shifting the pattern by listening to your heart or your body. It doesn’t mean you have to call anyone up and quit. It just means that you get to sit with that knowing. You are being radical here. You are honoring yourself. Yes, it can be scary.
If you want to follow it further, ask yourself, “What can I do for myself now? What do I need right at this moment?” The answer might be as simple as just going to bed even though it’s only 8:00. Or it might be that you want to lay in fetal position under your favorite comforter and watch “When Harry Met Sally.”
The point is this: if you can pause just for a moment and do something different, and then allow yourself the binge, if it’s still necessary (which it might be when you’re new to this), then please do it. The point is to begin to shift where you automatically go by default, which is straight to the stuffing. By asking the questions of yourself, you take even a little moment to breathe and get clear that there’s something deeper going on here. Take that one moment, even if you fail. Take it. Face the discomfort. Listen to your heart.
One final note that somehow parallels this thought: In his funny and provocative book Skipping Towards Gomorrah, Dan Savage explores, among many other things, the addiction of gambling. He writes about how bored we are as a society and how “films and television rub our noses in the exciting lives of people who almost never seem to be watching films or television.” After Savage loses three thousand dollars in three hours, he finally gets this idea of the deeper need below the gambling addiction. He writes, “Americans don’t gamble because we’re greedy for money, but because we’re greedy for reality, for a sensation that isn’t a palliative, for the real deal, a real risk, a risk that’s our own and not Brad Pitt’s. We gamble because we want a cliffhanger of our own.”
I definitely won’t be taking on gambling addiction, but it was interesting to read his take on this. What people often really need is to live a life that has meaning, risk, depth and authenticity. Begin creating this now with this tiny courageous step and listen to what your heart has to say.