Resistance to Taking Excellent Care of Yourself

Resistance to Taking Excellent Care of Yourself
Resistance to Taking Excellent Care of Yourself

It’s the nature of all life to evolve in the direction of surviving and thriving. Every living organism is wired to move towards pleasure and move away from pain, and every living organism either adapts well enough to survive or they die.

If you’re reading this, you adapted well enough to survive. And you can be damn sure you did a lot of adapting.

You’re born as this little creature whose first task is to come to terms with the fact that it is a separate body. You spent 9 months NOT being a separate body, and now you are separated and experience the primal fear of abandonment. You never before felt the pain of not being fed on demand, of not being warm enough, of over-stimulation to the senses, and suddenly these are a daily reality.

Already at this point, some babies “fail to thrive,” and die. Making it through being a newborn already implies that you as a tiny creature adapted to tolerate the new stressors of being a separate human being-body.

Then, as self-consciousness develops, we gain a sense of our autonomous capabilities, as well as their limits. We delight in our powers of throwing a ball at the wall and we cry at the disturbance of the ball bopping us on the head in rebound. We begin adapting to the physical reality we find ourselves in as we learn the laws of physics, and play with manipulating them.

By age 4 we’ve also adapted to something not having to do with the physical body or its physical surroundings. We’ve adapted to the emotional reality of the people who are raising us. If this seems like a stretch, consider the fact that if a mother and father hate (an emotion) their baby, they may decide to not feed it, or otherwise physically harm it. It is not some archaic psychoanalytic theory that states that for an infant, the emotional is completely interwoven with the physical. This is simply self-evident. If an infant screams, a mother can physically calm the infant’s body by holding the infant and conveying emotional soothing. Or she can scream with the emotions of frustration and anger and cause the baby’s body to release more of the physical chemicals of anxiety. Have no doubt that for you, for me, for all human beings, our first few years of life were completely vulnerable to and dependent on the physical AND emotional landscape of our surroundings, in a way that is very different from adulthood. For example, when we are adults, someone else’s emotion of anger almost never directly threatens us with abandonment to the point that we will not be fed or sheltered.

Looking back to age 4, it is clear that a system of behavior has been internalized, as indicated by developmental theory as well as common observation of children. Kids don’t act randomly at age 4. They’re already acting certain things out, and more crucially, they already have a sense of what’s safe and what isn’t. They know what makes mommy sad, they know what makes daddy angry. And they behave accordingly so as to not “get in trouble.” We learn what physical and emotional behaviors get us fed, get us played with, and get us praised. And just like all other living beings, once we learn that information, we increase those behaviors so that we survive and thrive to the maximum we deem possible.

Think about an animal that gets beaten. Soon, if the abuser merely raises his hand, the animal flinches. It’s made the association and it automatically adapts its behavior for optimal survival in response, before the impact. Now what if we look at an emotional analogy? When you were about to cry, did those around you say, “Sweetheart, that was hard for you wasn’t it?” (positive, affirming feedback)? Or did they say, “Now now, you’re okay,” “No need to cry about it,” “I should be the one crying!” “There you go again, trying to make everyone feel bad for you meanwhile…” “I can’t believe you’re crying over that,” etc.? These latter responses are all feedback that amounts to a rejection of a child’s own experience, and a child’s own sense of self. Whichever form the feedback takes, the child subconsciously records, “This is the feedback that letting myself cry results in.”

The point of this is not to blame those who may have had those responses. The point is to understand why an adaptation you developed in order to enhance survival/thriving years ago may manifest itself in your behavior today. Unless you’ve spent time literally re-training yourself, you operate according to your default systems. You may find yourself eating when you’re not hungry, and attribute it to lack of discipline or willpower. But, upon further examination, if you could freeze that moment in time and look at what was going on in your heart and mind before that moment, you would undoubtedly find a trigger that used to signal severe turbulence ahead. To continue with the example of crying, let’s say something very upsetting came up earlier in the day. Right underneath the surface, it actually upset you enough to make you want to cry. But, as it was wired into your very nervous system years, decades ago, you learned that crying leads to negative feedback. You might also have learned that not crying earned you positive feedback, such as comments that you were “strong,” “tough,” “reliable,” “mature.” Your brain now automatically perceives the trigger of might-want-to-cry, and routes it into take-evasive-maneuvers. We can spend other posts talking about why you developed the particular evasive maneuver of eating, but nonetheless, your brain routes the trigger into the action of eating.

What does this accomplish? You don’t cry. (Evolutionary success: negative feedback from caretaker avoided!) And while you may swear that at this point in your life, you’re perfectly okay with crying, you want to cry if it would heal you, you truly think there’s nothing wrong with crying – your body-history learned otherwise, painfully. There’s nothing like pain to wire in the deepest anxiety-association in the nervous system. It’s how organisms grow safer and stronger and avoid death. Where would we be if, decades after we were first taught verbally or through experience that the stove is hot, we decided: “Yeah… but.. really, I’m okay with touching the stove now.” We’d burn our hands. Decades passing does not change our very body’s ingrained, visceral, instinctual knowledge of pain triggers – and remember, as a very small child, painful emotional feedback is just as threatening as painful physical feedback. So we really are talking about the same intensity of avoidance of crying, in this example, as the intensity of the avoidance of holding your hand on a hot stove.

So intellectually or even spiritually knowing “it’s good to be open to my own emotions now” is not gonna cut it. Your body, your subconscious, your inner toddler, however you want to think of it, is not interested primarily in emotional healing or any of your enlightened thought – it’s interested in staying safe and secure, and you’re talking about being open to getting burned. Would a toddler listen to you explain the biology of why it’s good to eat vegetables often and chocolate less often? Would she listen to you explain what emotional freedom means? No and no. With this level of your self, you have to operate using only the concrete reality of cause-and-effect. Think: How the toddler feels after she’s guided to eat in accordance with the needs of her body (energetic, light, healthy), versus trying to convince a toddler to automatically eat this way because she should know better after you explained the nutritional principles to her. You’ve heard you’re supposed to feel your emotions instead of eat them – well, that has very little effect on the part of you that’s driven to do so.

If you find yourself – over and over, and over again – not taking care of yourself in the way you want to (for example, to feed yourself in an attuned, healthful manner), you can be certain that it is because there is a threat, wired into the deepest levels of anxiety in the nervous system, resulting from some current trigger.

It is not because you suck. It is not because you are lazy or don’t care enough. It is not because you are pathetic. It is not because you are not meant for greatness. It is not because it is impossible for you to change.

It is because those old threats have not yet been faced and lived through – they persist as full-fledged demons with the emotional weight of impending death and abandonment. They are fed by every additional act of avoidance, just as the monster in the closet becomes more and more terrifying the longer you don’t open the door to discover it’s not there.

It has felt and continues to feel like taking care of yourself is giving yourself your little hit of soothing (eating, drinking, shopping, gossiping, virtual reality, you name it) when you feel like having it.

But would you take care of a child by saying, “Okay, okay, we’ll sleep in the other room tonight since the monster is there”…?

Maybe once or twice. But knowing that this child needs to grow to stand on her own two feet, with confidence and ambition for exploring the unknown world, you would quickly lead the child to open that door and realize she survives and is not overtaken. That would be taking care.

If you experience great resistance to taking care of yourself, if you feel that for so… so long, you have stood in your own way, understand that you have not yet been able to risk the consequences of not giving yourself your shots of reassurance. Which logically implies that there has been an ongoing need for these shots – an ongoing sense of triggers and threats. That’s what you’re living with.

The healing work that’s possible is this: (1) to admit and identify what it looks like when you are reacting/giving yourself superficial shots of security (2) to identify the triggers that cause these reactions and (3) to allow yourself to experience the emotional consequences of facing a trigger, rather than reacting to it by taking your familiar shots.

Just say no to drugs n all, right? =)

Yeah, it’s not that simple. But, it is doable, and you become more alive each time.

Remember the rush of a child’s discovery that there is no closet monster. The bedroom is free! The closet can be used to play and hide in! You can smile as you rest your body and fall asleep rather than curl up in anxiety about making it through the night.

There’s such delicious reward to be had in going through this process.

Sending my heartfelt support.


Teaching Yourself how to BE Happy Again

Teaching Yourself how to BE Happy Again
Teaching Yourself how to BE Happy Again

The reason most programs-for-change (diets, self-help books, even psychotherapy) very often don’t result in lasting change is that we sign up for them expecting SOME aspect of ourselves to change, while a much more fundamental shift is required in order to have a truly different ongoing experience of ourselves – which is what we’re looking for.

Let me break that down.

We’ve heard this common wisdom before, that happiness must come from the inside rather than the outside, that there are no quick fixes, that no one thing can make you happy. And we’ve all had moments of agreeing with these sentiments, being cynical about them, struggling against them, trying to accept them. We hear these lines, and perhaps unconsciously accept the ideas as “true but not practical for MY life”: somehow you can’t simply convince yourself to not want a new iPhone, to not want the perfect significant other, to not want to be thin, to not want the fulfillment of a particular dream you’ve ALWAYS had. You just want what you want, and you believe certain things will make you happier if not happy with a capital H – even though you’ve heard all those lines, and even though you might sincerely want to be the type of person who’s “down-to-earth,” “knows what’s really important,” a person who lives a simple life, etc.

The problem is not that you have the wants. The problem is not even the ideas you have about how a certain change might make you feel (for a few moments or days or weeks, a desired item or change in ourselves will affect our mood).

The problem is when you become an unhappy person who always lives feeling as if what you want, the things that would grant you peace, happiness, and ease, are always out of reach. This leaves you with an ongoing sense of depression, that on some days is very far in the background, and on other days completely knocks the spirit out of you. Bottom line, it’s there, threaded throughout your sense of being, so deep that you don’t recognize it as resignation, hopelessness, sadness… You just see yourself as a “realistic” type of person who is “responsible” and “does what she has to do.” (Read: your lust/energy/life libido, your spontaneity, your ability to feel fully whole and engaged in a moment, have all become severely weakened), and the only way you deal with this is to fantasize about the next thing you need to acquire or do that will remedy the situation. You find something (or many things) in your current situation that are THE PROBLEM, and you spent a GREAT DEAL of your mental time criticizing and plotting yourself into what you should be and could be doing about it.

MEANWHILE, a much deeper solution is called for. Even in psychotherapy, which I believe is one of the best ways to come to understand yourself and get to the roots of longstanding issues, it is possible to get used to a cycle of thinking about the reasons for a problem, struggling to work against it, and then becoming depressed that all that work only leads to seeing more problems to be fixed.

At some point, you actually need to make a fundamental decision to BE happy again.
This is radical when contrasted to a lot of the other mechanisms-of-change that are suggested to us. And again, we’ve heard things like this before, that make it sound so simple, and even if we’d like to be the type of person who could just make such a decision and then “be all better,” it’s never really worked for us.

What I’d like to offer in this post is a reminder of why deciding to be happy IS realistic and IS necessary in order to make true change. If you reflect on our deepest motivators in life, it doesn’t take too much philosophizing to uncover love, comfort, engagement, peace, and happiness as primary reasons that people choose to live at all. It’s really not debatable that as children we all start out with a default of wanting ourselves and others to be happy – and, in the absence of abuse or trauma, very young children are happy most of the time!!

You’ve heard this before too. Oh, why can’t we just learn to be childlike again, be interested in the blue sky and get more playtime. Again, we think it’s a good idea, and are unable to implement.

What I believe we’ve forgotten is that we don’t need a reason to be happy – and very young children have not had the life experience or mental capacity to mentally conclude themselves out of that truth yet.

As human beings we are physiologically and spiritually/emotionally built to feel peace and happiness when we feel that our needs have been met – when we feel that our existence is being supported wonderfully.

After enough years of conditioning, we learn to link up whether or not we are being accepted with whether or not we are going to survive. (As a child, if your parents do not accept you, and leave you alone to fend for yourself, you would die). The evolutionarily beneficial nervous system response of fear to not getting our needs met, gets hooked into our later interpersonal life. So that when we’re 12, or 25, or 45, we have a completely out-of-proportion response of despair if someone rejects us, when really, we are still completely safe physically despite that rejection. We will still feel joy again despite that rejection, we will still eat again. But, because the fear-wiring is hooked in, we are susceptible to feeling bound to many, many, many things as derivatives of needing to be accepted. “Needing” to be successful, to be seen as savvy, to be seen as physically beautiful, to be seen as funny, to be seen as having “made something of oneself,” these all derive from feeling a “need” to be accepted – and we feel this “need” regarding others AND regarding our own selves. We internalize all this so that we feel like WE will not accept ourselves if we are not physically beautiful, if we have not “made something of ourselves” by a certain age.

The antidote is to realize the fundamental delusion in believing that we cannot be happy, we are not okay, unless _______________. It’s not new-age-shit, it’s not Buddhism, it’s not low standards, to understand that it is a delusion to think that ANY certain condition determines whether or not you can be okay, whether or not you can be happy. The reason it’s not true is the fact that we are born with a default of happiness – physiologically we are evolved to feel peace and happiness when we feel our existence is being supported – in other words – THAT WE ARE, that we continue to be in this moment, ALIVE. Even ONE moment of aliveness requires every cell in the body to be functioning well enough to allow us to inspire and expire air. When we calm the hell down and feel this (often known as meditation, or taking stock of what you’re grateful for), we DO automatically touch peace, and happiness is never far behind.

I know this has been perhaps a bit dense, but I wanted to explain why I believe programs-for-change often go on endlessly and leave us feeling essentially the same as when we started the program in a very deep way. What doesn’t change despite the amount of self-change work we do is our deepest orientation towards whether or not we are okay, whether or not we can be happy right this second, and this second, and this second.

It’s true that you can be. It is 100% definitely, completely about letting yourself be. You don’t have to create your happiness, manufacture it, will it, work on it, hope it into existence.. It is everyone’s default and your suffering is in direct correlation to how far you’ve been led towards believing the opposite, that happiness is something you may have lost a long time ago and that you as you are now cannot have it.

You as you are now has it, but you won’t let yourself believe that. And although this is a simple truth it is not a quick fix because you have to re-orient your entire way-of-being. All the moments in your day where as a default you slide toward unhappiness, you have to consciously wake yourself up.

But it’s do-able, and it creates permanent change..
Once you’re on board, you can already start experiencing yourself as a “happy person.” You don’t have to wait until you’ve suffered enough to deserve it. You’ll make the fundamental shift from “depressed person who struggles to be happy” to “happy person who works to remind herself that her existence is always being wonderfully supported, whenever she forgets.” You’ll forget less and less. You’ll get your energy back.

This is the difference between chronically struggling and waking up right now.

Having All Your Shit Together

Having All Your Shit Together
Having All Your Shit Together

We incessantly compare ourselves to others, and to our idealized versions of what we should be.
Thus, I encourage you to do the following exercise as often as possible:

Whether you are home, on the subway, in a store, wherever there is another person in your vicinity, hold your gaze on a person for a few moments. And say to yourself:
“This person does not have all their shit together. They could really use some help.”
Next person:
“This person does not have all their shit together. They could really use some help.”

Because guess what, it’s true of every single human being. The boss at work whose power you might desire. The thin, well-dressed woman whose body you envy. The runner and her athleticism. The government official and her influence. The high school classmate and her circle of followers. A celebrity, your brother, a teacher, an older or younger person.

No matter how Zen-like or powerful or in charge or energetic or approved-by-society a person may seem, there are issues in his life, be they related to housework, relationships, work, you name it, there are issues that are not fully resolved or close to ideal. And that person would benefit from support for those issues.

This exercise is in the name of directing the same understanding and compassion towards yourself. What you compare yourself to does not exist – perfection on all or any counts.
Instead of feeling shame, disappointment, and disgust towards yourself for yet again not measuring up, offer the support you’d offer anyone else if they revealed they were having a painful struggle with something.

A wise man once said: “If someone has all their shit together, it’s because they’re standing in it.”


No One Else Can Talk You Out of This

No One Else Can Talk You Out of This
No One Else Can Talk You Out of This

I just got home from my weekly session with my therapist, Janet. There are some sessions that seem to have the sole purpose of listening to how much garbage comes out of your mouth. And this is a good purpose – because when you actually say it out loud in sentences, instead of accepting it as a constant garbled hum in your mind, you see exactly what’s being said and how terrible it really is.
Some samples of beliefs I expressed in the session:
I cannot start learning something new because I will look too pathetic in the early stages.
It doesn’t matter how I look for the rest of my life because I didn’t look how I wanted when I wanted to.
It’s cooler to have friends who like you for your body or skills than for your personality.
I’m too old to ___________.
I can’t have a “normal life” until I ____________.

Siiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiggggghhhhhhhh. Miserable just to read, forget live with everyday.
So, I found myself saying some of these things as if I were expecting my therapist to give me 8,000 “oh, sweetie, of course not”s. As if that would just knock those silly thoughts right out of my head, for good, banished, as if they had never affected me.

But… When you’ve read as many amazing, beautiful books as I have, listened to as many brilliant speakers, done workshops and retreats.. You have to realize that it’s not about someone telling you the right thing enough times. Of course, hearing the right thing at the right time can be very helpful, and can sometimes make the difference. But as for long-term change, that is going to be based on YOU putting in consistent effort towards owning up to your true beliefs and making a conscious decision about continuing to endorse them or not. You don’t get to say you believe there are things much more important than being thin, act as if you believe the opposite, and then lament that you continue to have eating issues. If you are acting as if being thin is what matters most, this requires inquiry; denial will only lead to going through the motions of someone who believes there are more important things, and sooner or later collapsing into the underlying belief with self-hatred and likely bingeing. As usual, the problem there would not be the bingeing, which is always the side effect, but rather, it would be the failure to acknowledge that the damaging underlying belief is still reigning.

When you’ve got a damaging belief in charge, you must ask yourself what the benefit is of continuing to hold the belief.

So let’s see: Why would I want to continue to believe that you cannot be truly loved or wanted unless you are thin?
When I imagine dressing and acting as if my acceptability is not dependent on my weight, I sense a fear basically that others will mentally laugh at me for “trying to be” cute or normal or sexy or feminine when clearly I am not (because I am not thin). So at least 2 things are implied here: Cute, normal, sexy, feminine = thin, and, I am afraid of others judging me as a failure, trying to be something I’m not.

Again, at this point, you might imagine kind others and the better part of yourself saying, “oh, you know those things are not true. You don’t have to be thin to be those things, don’t worry about what others think.” But it takes more than that. You already know the truth here – the question is why you are not willing to live it out. For me, I think it is that fear of mockery, exclusion..

And at that point, I must ask myself: Okay. Is avoiding that hypothetical mockery and exclusion worth feeling bad about food and my body for the rest of my life? Is being safe worth losing the life I really want?

After high school’s over, who would really want to be around anyone who would meanly mock someone in real life? When you’re not a trapped kid anymore, you can realize that people who make fun of other people like that will likely make fun of you too sooner or later, and you can choose to find people who are not like that, who actually enjoy each other. It’s not a matter of not being cool, it’s a matter of not being desperate. You only feel like you need to be “cool” or “sexy” more than you need anything else, when you don’t really feel like you have anything else. Hence the other old well-known fact, when people insult you it’s all about them. Only someone who feels they have no value other than their looks would make fun of a woman dressing as she likes at any size.

So don’t just wait for the things you already know to eventually “click,” after the next book, blog post, workshop, streak of “doing a good job.” It’s deeper than that. We’re talking subconscious, OLD, deep beliefs that are wired with fear. They require active, continuous confrontation, and ultimately a decision about what’s worth believing.

Re-program yourself for the greatness you want to live now and for the rest of your life.
<3 Judy

Open, Open

Open, Open
Open, Open

I want to be the kind of person that gives strangers the benefit of the doubt. Who is inclined to trust until there is real evidence not to. The kind of person who is whole in herself regardless of who or what she is currently attached to. An encouraging person. Someone who does not contribute to needless aggression or pessimism. Someone who acts out of genuine excitement and engagement, not out of pressure, obligation, or fear. Someone whose life is an end in itself, who does not wait to be validated in order to feel permission to live fully. I want to relax into and own the freedom that I already have. I want to let go of all of the reasons I tell myself I can’t be free just yet. I want to let the chips fall where they fall when I refuse to leave myself anymore. It may feel like someone can take this from me, because it was taken over and over again when I had no power. I didn’t have the space or safety to be to able to choose how to be with myself. But it’s not true anymore and never will be again. If I stay with myself, stay on my own side, I may experience a stomach in knots over someone yelling at me or firing me or condemning me.. But the knots will pass and what will remain is how I be with myself. It could be me tending to my own pain, instead of me trapped in so many stories of why I deserved it or how I was wronged or how I am irrevocably fucked. It could just be another experience in a lifetime of unique experiences. This lifetime that could have the common thread of me loving myself, and loving life because I open to it and feel myself open. Feel myself open.

No One Can Want it for You

No One Can Want it for You
No One Can Want it for You

As part of my training in psychology, I’ve learned about borderline personality disorder. Maybe I’ll go more into depth about it another time, but a “love/hate” tendency is one of the defining characteristics. I have noticed in myself that when others anticipate my needs and go above and beyond in satiating them, I practically fall in love. And when I have to explicitly state what I need, or do not get what I need – it can take only moments to relegate a person to the “doesn’t really understand/love me” category.

At the same time on the flip-side, I feel that when I respond to others’ needs well I deserve love, acceptance, and praise. And when I fall short, there is justification for when I am treated badly. When you add in perfectionism, this leads to a constant struggle to meet others’ needs in order to feel secure, and a constant falling short and consequent feelings of deserving maltreatment.

How does this relate to food, and the title of this post?

Well, for most of my life up till now, I did what I was told. I was a “good girl.” I followed paths that are sanctioned by society as “smart,” “safe,” “good,” “responsible,” “productive.” And whatever I did (which was mainly school), I did extremely well. And I received what comes along with that: people always saying I’m so smart, scholarships, people talking about my potential, people treating me like I’m a “good girl.” I played by the rules no matter the cost and I got the rewards that those particular games offered.

The thing is, when the rewards just don’t do it anymore because you’ve burnt yourself to a crisp, you come face to face with something: your own abandoned dreams, the rules your heart would like to set for the game of life.

Which is all well and good, except when you are used to being a zombie in exchange for people praising you, it can be extremely difficult to learn true accountability for one’s actions, as well as how to relate to others in a way that relies on mutual exchange rather than sacrifice and reward.

So. At the moment, I’ve freed myself from the predetermined “good girl” path. And, as I begin to allow myself to imagine different new paths for myself, I find myself stuck in certain ways. Just the thought of picking anything is strange to me, because I think, “Well, if I pick that, it will just be because I picked it, not because it made sense, it was a good idea, my parents would like the idea, it would be good for my future, it’s the only option, it’s the only choice I can make while I also have to do ______, etc.” It appears that I am having great difficulty with valuing my own choices on the merit of simply being what I want. It feels like I’m waiting to get called on the phone and yelled at for not remembering that this or that is most important right now so I can’t just _______ (fill in the blank with whatever I want).

To get back to the borderline concept, the way I’ve operated most of my life is to feel that I owe others and that they owe me based on whether or not we are meeting certain expectations. However, now, trying to stand only on my own two legs as the foundation for my choices, for my being… Separating my intrinsic value from “doing as I’m told”… I can no longer expect others to treat me a certain way just because I play by their rules, since I realize I can play by my own now and that each person is entitled to this.

I’ve never been thin before, and for most of my life I had a frying pan poised over my skull, with the threat, “YOU BETTER DIET OR YOU’LL BE UNACCEPTABLE FOREVER.” So I dieted every day for 10 years.
Then I threw dieting in the garbage where it belongs, and began therapy in which I have for 3 years expressed “I need to do something about my eating, though, really, seriously, oh my god.” And I do not mean to diminish the true suffering here in any way, it’s real. But – in both this case and with dieting, the issue of addressing my eating has not been treated as a choice. It’s been treated as: You are expected to fix this, and if you don’t, it’s a fucking problem. And the game I’ve played with myself is that as long as I’m suffering enough about it, obsessing enough about it, I meet my own quota for suffering necessary to be a good person and then deserve the reward of bingeing.

I am beginning to glimpse an alternative. If I want to eat differently, do not make it a game with myself, seeing how badly I can demand myself to suffer, and how well I comply. Do not pretend that the “streaks” of doing well, as long as they’re often enough, prove that I’m valuable otherwise I’d just be shit. Rather… Make an honest evaluation, then make a decision, then take responsibility for seeing it through. Every action everyone takes is calculated to be the best action according to underlying beliefs, values, and emotional issues. Everyone is physically in control of the actions they take. So before you take an action you don’t want to take, you can make it your responsibility to find out what underneath is leading to that impulse. You inquire, you figure it out. You don’t ruminate, you don’t pretend it’s unsolvable, you don’t let it go on and on and on. You reckon with it until it’s known.

If you’re completely up and down with your eating, you need to find out what it is that you truly want, and then you need to be ready to commit to it. Decide if you want to live or not! For those with histories of depression or suicidal thoughts, you may need to go back to this most fundamental of questions. If you’re reading this, it’s extremely likely that you do want to live – which means the part of you that’s causing ambivalence is made up of emotional leftovers that you should not allow to run your life. If you want to live, decide if you’re willing to spend more time causing yourself suffering or not – decide EXACTLY how you are going to take action on your own behalf, and know that you can.

There’s a difference between force and threats, and firmness about the fact that you are the only one who gets to decide what’s valuable to you and the only one who is in charge of whether or not you get that value into your life. We can have compassion for the parts of ourselves that need attention, the parts that cause us to act out; however, we do not want those echoes of the past running our lives. We want our best selves and our true desires and values running our lives.

This post was inspired by a conflict with my boyfriend which was essentially about the need to manage one’s own expectations. We have been together for almost 7 years. We know each other, and we know each other’s basic traits, capabilities, habits, communication styles, etc. I like the example I used in the last post, of how people don’t try to jump in the air when they know they can’t fly that way. It would be the hallmark of not accepting one’s own responsibility, if someone yelled at the sky every day, “Oh yeah??!?? Again not letting me fly?!?? You make me sick!!!! You don’t understand me, you don’t love me.. Screw you, sky.” What a way to emotionally drain yourself every single day. Not to mention destroy your relationship with the sky.

If the reality is that this person was actually carrying around a broken heart about not being able to fly, it would be time for them to acknowledge this and to decide whether or not they are going to commit themselves to their dream. Are they going to begin training to become a pilot or an astronaut? Are they going to conclude that what they wanted was an unrealistic expectation and let it go? EITHER one of these, whichever is true in their heart, will bring peace and renewed energy, wellness and direction. Why? Because in either case, even if the answer is to let the dream die, you are no longer raising your blood pressure and releasing the chemicals of stress into your body and soul every day screaming at the sky.

FIND where in life you have conflicts that seem to have been there for a very long time, which you have been unable to solve. Of course we can use the example of food, but as the relationship to food is really only the surface indicator of deeper emotional truths, you must find these conflicts elsewhere as well.

Always all-or-nothing or back and forth in the relationship to food? Decide whether you are ready to choose life over bingeing, then commit to healing through eating when, what, and how much the body needs and doing inquiry when you want food but are not hungry.

Love/hate in your relationship? Decide what you really need, and then commit to getting that, whatever that implies, whether it be weekly conversations to assess the relationship, breaking up, starting therapy in order to sort out which are your own issues, or whatever else is needed.

If you’ve lived a life of having to prove yourself for love (and likely learned to make others prove themselves to you as a way of showing love), it’s time to find the freedom in declaring your own value and respecting the inherent value of others. If you don’t like something, do not expect that enough suffering or enough passive-aggression or enough waiting or enough hinting or enough tolerating or enough despair will make someone else make it go away because you deserve it to. There’s no more deserving in terms of being treated well. You’ve got to want it, and then you’ve got to make it happen. This is not the same as saying “you can only ever rely on yourself” – but in terms of others in your life, you still choose who is in your life and the extent of the chosen ones’ abilities to treat you well.

Let’s not delay in discovering what we truly want and need.
Go get it.

Facing the Fact that We Have Limits

Facing the Fact that We Have Limits
Facing the Fact that We Have Limits

I quit/got-fired-from my job on November 1st in order to go to Geneen Roth’s retreat in California. As of right now, I don’t have the money for rent due on January 6th —- reality check.

I quit in a binge-y sort of way: yes, I’ll go to the retreat! I’ll have free time! I won’t have to wake up early for a while! The retreat will put me in such a different frame of mind for so long! This is it! Yeah, I’ll get what I want! I’ll have it all!!!!

That last bit there – that last little line – is a blaring buzzing neon light signaling binge-mode.

“I’ll have it all.”

It’s the mark of a deprived, out-of-touch mentality. It’s a defense against guilt and loss and anger. Had a fight with a family member? Next thing you know you’re saying Damned right I’m having Chinese takeout WITH the extra egg roll won ton soup duck sauce and Snapple.

Anyway – I went on the retreat in a binge-y way, I was sort of aware of it at the time but considered the expected benefits of the retreat (I had gone once before) to outweigh this fact anyway, so I went. And it WAS brilliant and revitalizing and sweet. But. Now, the rent check is waiting to be written in a few weeks, and I am madly rebelling. I feel like I DESERVE time off and that I want my next job to be perfect for my life before just jumping into another one I will eventually want to leave. Ah – that other blaring signal word – “perfect.”

What I’ve said so far is to provide a backdrop for this main point: Binge or no binge, reality remains.

Whenever you “act out” about something, you’re left with the original conflict that precipitated the acting out, and in addition the consequences of the acting out. Plain english: After you eat all the Chinese food you want, you now still have the fact that you had a fight with a family member, plus the discomfort and self-loathing that results from the compulsive eating.

The only ways to deal with this truth are to try to stay in a stupor as often as possible (eat compulsively all day, drink every day, get high every day, buy something every day), or to face what needs facing.

To be blunt, often, I only stop being self-destructive when something demands that I crawl out of my hole. I may only stop eating when I feel like I’ll get sick if I don’t. I may only get myself to go to my soccer game because if I miss a 3rd one in a row it will look too bad. I may only say I’m sorry to my boyfriend when it becomes explicitly clear that I’ve gone too far and hurt him. I may only pay attention to the fact that I don’t have clothes that fit me when I have 15 minutes to get ready to meet a friend and then rage about it, trying to find something decent enough.

These behaviors are the manifestation of a mentality of avoidance. Essentially, avoidance of reality. Avoidance of psychological and emotional truths, and the truths of being human. This is why the Buddha focused so much on the nature of reality, and declared his central teaching to be that “Life is suffering.” Why would a guy who says shit like that still have so much influence today? ;)

It’s because it IS true – If you find yourself being a human being, it is true so far as anything is true: that you will die, that you will get old and sick and die if you are lucky, or die in some accident if you are not, that you will feel physical pain just by virtue of having a body, that you will feel emotional pain whether it’s because you have love or lack it… As deeply as you believe the sun will rise tomorrow, you may believe that every human being will experience these sufferings in life.

What does this do for us? It can smash the delusions that lead to mental self-torture and lack of compassion for others.

When you dive into the chicken and broccoli and egg roll and rice and scent of the duck sauce and chewing and swallowing and chasing with sweet drink.. When you take the dive into oblivion, no matter how long it takes (a quick swipe of the credit card, a few seconds of obsession in the mind, a 5-hour binge), you are diving into the delusion that you can have it all, and that you can control how you feel.

How many grown people do you see jumping up and down outside, trying to launch into the air and fly?
Because as deeply as they know anything, they know that humans can’t just jump up and fly, so they don’t try.

Self-destructive/addictive behaviors indicate denial of realities that are equally true, such as
– It is impossible for us to always feel happy.
– Suffering is inherent to living.
– You cannot change the past.
– I am angry at a family member.
– I am so tired that I need to go to bed now.
– I hate my job.
– I never figured out what I really wanted.
– We are always getting older, closer to death.

The good news is that working with reality is easier than working with layers and layers of compulsion and denial. Reality is unpredictable, scarier, and more raw, and it means change.. But it is also where you can actually meet yourself and taste this life.

You can’t have it all – but you CAN have what you DO have.
We’ve got limits, but we also have freedoms.
Gotta die? Choose how to spend your life.
Your body only needs 5 bites of food at the moment? Pick which deliciousness you’ll feed it.
You need to work to live? Decide what job will most enable you to be yourself at this time.
Find yourself undeniably tired? Angry? Hopeless? Heartbroken?
Clink an imaginary glass with all of the human souls who’ve ever lived who were brave enough to feel, and know, how they felt. These are the souls who learned compassion for others by facing their own suffering and in so doing faced everyone else’s as well. These are the souls who undoubtedly opened their hearts most to the world, and transformed it. This is what we all seek – offer your exhaustion to this. Offer your anger, hopelessness, and heartbreak to this shared courage and opening. Let screams and tears and laughter and sighs come. Imagine a soul putting her hand on your shoulder, nodding with a slight, knowing smile, communicating with no words, “Ah.. Yes.. That moment of facing aloneness. Mm-mm. Yes, yes..” Just that shared knowing. “Ah, anger with your friend.. Ah, yes.. Ah, that burn.” The humanity of feeling anger. The humanity of feeling the love underneath it. This is so much more precious than what a binge can offer you.

Facing the realities of limits and suffering can be excruciatingly painful, but is also the only way to feel your own heart, to look into your own eyes. If you can do this, you will be most able to be intimate with joy itself when it is time for joy – which it often is.

Offering encouragement for staying with your true way,

Rediscovering Hunger

Rediscovering Hunger
Rediscovering Hunger

There are few things more basic to a living being than feeling hunger and then feeding it. It’s built in from Day 1, and without this mechanism we die.

After years of adding emotional drama and mental judgment onto our eating habits, we eventually lose touch with or abandon our natural hunger mechanism. Natural – meaning no conscious effort necessary. We trade in an ease that we’re born with for a constant struggle, for the promise of something supernatural: being thin-loved-accepted-perfect all the time.

The way back to ourselves and the way back to ease-of-eating is to reconnect with natural hunger. This has many implications on the emotional level as well, but for now, try this exercise:

Set aside a day, or half a day, in which you will not be under much pressure and will have the opportunity to be with yourself emotionally. You’re going to use your imagination and pretend that for this time, you do not know that humans need to eat in order to live. The point is that you will go about your time with other tasks, and will re-direct any thoughts about food because food has nothing to do with people at this time. If you can do this much, you will experience the gift of your physical hunger creeping up on you. While this may seem very silly or unnecessary, for someone who is at the point where they don’t believe they can even FEEL hunger anymore, it can be a miracle. Why? You discover that your body WILL talk to you in EXACTLY the way that will guide you toward your best health. It’s truly about letting it be – letting go because you can trust that when something is needed, you will know, and you will even know exactly what to do. First things first – feel your hunger.

Without hunger we cannot know what we truly need.