I bought Geneen Roth’s book Women Food and God, and I started reading it this week. It is a fascinating book addressing many of the same observations that I have made about the connections between the body, emotions, and spirituality.
For those of you who are triggered by religion, please note that she uses the word “God” to represent the “something” that exists outside of ourselves and within, which is also referred to as a “higher power.” This is not a religious book, nor is it exploring religion. The focus is on how, through examining our eating patterns, we can discover who we truly are in a metaphysical sense, which leads us to whatever that “power” is when we are quiet and still. She claims that her methods work even if you have no belief in any sort of higher power.
I am so excited about this book and will probably be referencing it a lot as I work through it. I feel like I am reading it too quickly and might have to read it twice to be able to absorb all of the pearls of wisdom it holds. Today, I would like to focus on an interesting observation about how our childhood hurts and traumas affect us in adulthood:
To the extent that we go into survival mode—I can’t feel this, I won’t feel this, it hurts too much, it will kill me—we are slipping into baby skins, old forms, familiar selves. Young children, especially infants, mediate the pain of loss or abandonment or abuse through the body; there is no difference between physical and emotional pain. If the pain is too intense and the defenses are too weak, a child will become psychotic and/or die. It is lifesaving for a child to develop defenses that allow her to leave a situation she can’t physically leave by shutting down her feelings or turning to something that soothes her. But if as adults we still believe that pain will kill us, we are seeing through the eyes of the fragile selves we once were and relying on the exquisite defense we once developed: bolting. Obsessions are ways we leave before we are left because we believe that the pain of staying would kill us. ~ Women Food and God, pp. 41-42
I found Roth’s observations about the way children deal with pain to be very interesting, especially as I have had preverbal memories/feelings bubbling up. There is no question that I continue to act and react as I did as a child, although I have made a lot of progress in this area. So, I guess my question is how to unravel all of this in my head. When I am feeling pain, how do I choose not to react by “leaving” (dissociating)?
I am trying that as I write this with some success. I am upset about a conversation with my son, but I have not turned to food, alcohol, or Xanax to “leave” the pain. I am trying to let myself feel it in the hopes that it will pass and not “kill me.” I know that I have faced much worse pain than this, but I also don’t want to spend the rest of my life doing nothing but feeling pain as it bubbles up to the surface. But what is the alternative? I admit that my lifelong history of dissociating hasn’t exactly made me happy, either.
It sounds like the key is learning how to live in the present and feel whatever comes up in the present moment. This is the same stuff my therapist told me over and over again, but I still have a long way to go before I am there.
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