There are two types of clients that comes to see me. Those who are prepared to take control over their lives and want me to guide them to this state of ‘mastery’ and those who want a ‘magic pill’ that would take the problem away and want me to do all the magic. Well, I am a bit unfair, we all want some magic (myself included) and support and help. But nothing slows the process of overcoming eating problems or anxiety as much as this attitude of ‘give me the goods and don’t ask for me to do a thing’.
Don’t get me wrong – I have a lot of magic tricks up my sleeve, and I can shift emotional blocks like no one else I know. But the goal of everything I do is to empower women and men I work with; to make them feel more masterful and more in control of their behaviours, emotions and thoughts. This is why it makes my heart sing when clients leave my program knowing that they are in charge of important aspects of their lives because they were willing to take control in the first place.
If you have been trapped by fear or behaviours that you can’t control, think about what it may be you truly want after all? Is it a magic pill that would do the trick? Or it is a new way of thinking, fleeing and engaging with your life? I know you want a magic pill, but think about it carefully; would the contentment last or would you start mental fidgeting because the problem may come back. In other words, you want to know what changed your life, and you want to have some ownership of the transformation. Here is why.
Feeling trapped means that you are mostly powerless and that the condition you have seems to be ‘calling the shots’. It means that there is something outside of your influence that seem to have power over you. And, as psychologists, we give lots of lovely labels to those conditions to fool you into believing that they are outside of your control.
But they aren’t. Everything that goes on – behaviours, emotions, sensations in your body are your doing. You are not doing it on purpose and you are not aware of doing it – but unless you ware willing to take a stand and own it, there is no where for you to go.
A long time ago I worked with a lovely lady who wanted to stop overeating and lose all the extra weight she put on over time. She had a long – very long- history of depression and anxiety. We kept chipping away her pain, moulding her thoughts and shifting how she felt about herself. Lots of things were changing. I was happy with the progress. But she wasn’t. Four or five weeks into the program, she told me that even though she didn’t feel depressed anymore and she could see how much happier she was and how much more alive she felt, she wasn’t happy with the progress. because her weight and her eating didn’t change.
To me it was not unusual. Overeating was an indicator that she was still super harsh on herself. But also that we didn’t manage to release the grip the ‘problem’ of extra weight had on her. Her thoughts were circling around the extra weight and she had been obsessing about it, provoking self-critical thoughts and a general sense of “I can’t be happy with that!”. Something that is often harder to release than years long depression.
Let me explain why.
I often compare the mind and mental attention to a spotlight. What we are concerned with, the problem we want to ‘get rid of’ gets most of the light. The rest seems to fade into irrelevance. What we don’t realise is that giving all the light to this ‘problem area’ makes is so visible and so palpable that it dominates our life completely.
I have been guilty of this too, I am certain we all do that every now and then. It is just too easy to become deeply so obsessed with the problem that it becomes ‘all there is’. I get it. But I also know that to change what you want to change you have to take your eyes away from the problem. Send the problem on the extended holiday. Shine the spotlight elsewhere, And look at the millions of things in your life that actually work.
If the extra 10 kilograms is the only thing that you are shining the light on, do whatever it takes to move the light somewhere else. Do whatever it takes! Look at people who are veeeery overweight, people who are disabled, who struggle to live without legs or arms or without an ability to move their arms or legs. Think of people who are homeless, or lonely or unemployed. Think of people who slave for pennies all week, and can hardly afford a roof over their heads. Think of kids who are refugees, without home or even families, think of people who lost their children or who are addicted to drugs that ate their lives away. Think of people who are struggling to find any comfort at all.
Don’t think about them with an attitude of “I should be grateful’. Rather think about those people with an intention of recognizing how lucky you are, how much you have, how wonderful your body is, how much health, money, security, love, friendship, wealth, freedom, support, luck, great opportunities, achievement, enjoyment and fun you have in your life. Look at all the stuff in your pantry, in your bathroom, look at your home, your car, your friends, your spouse, your cats, your dog, your garden, your work. Sure there are things than could be better, but there are so many things that are pretty good already! Shine the spotlight on what is really going on here, on all the prosperity, health, entertainment and love you can enjoy every day. How much freedom and support you are experiencing without even tapping into it, because your eyes have been glued to something that makes you feel awful.
Don’t use these examples to beat yourself up for being ungrateful. Use them to feel gloriously lucky. To feel special and worthy and amazing.
You want to know your own power? Start by recognising the choices you make in where to send your minds attention. And choose something that empowers you. Why not? And once you do, you will notice that you no longer need food to numb you. Or at least that you need it much less. and then acknowledge that too and put your own shoulder. Because you are doing so well!