When you’re in a grounded, secure emotional space, it’s easy to say no to the impulse to binge, overeat, restrict, or purge. But what happens when you feel powerless, hopeless, or helpless?
When you’re in this emotional space, you can believe you’ll never heal from binge eating, overeating, or sugar bingeing. As these feelings churn around and around, you may succumb to the impulse to binge. You may collapse into food in a gesture of, “Why bother?”
If you find yourself collapsing into food, it helps to remember that collapse is a feeling, and one that comes and goes.
But there’s something deeper going on. When you get stuck in an emotional space of helplessness and powerlessness, you’re stuck in your child self. You’re feeling the helplessness, hopelessness, and shame of a child who’s in emotional pain and who feels powerless to make it better.
As you step back and recognize – ah! these are the beliefs, feelings, and voice of my child self – you move from your child self to your adult self. Rather than being identified with your child self, hating this part of you, or thinking that this powerless, hopeless young child is you, you become the mother bear, the loving alpha that cares for this tender being. You move into a space of strength, into a fuller, more present, more spacious mode of being.
As you move to care for the tender feelings and for that young part of you, you find emotional release and healing.
This creates an internal boundary where you no longer feel compelled to act from this young part of you in a binge, purge, or sugar free for all. You support a new way of responding with food, release what doesn’t work, and reclaim your wholeness.
Wanting more hands on help?
If you feel stuck in powerlessness with food, I invite you to join me for When Food is Your Mother. In this 8 week class, you’ll learn how to heal the emotional dynamics that drive overeating and binge eating. Instead of ping ponging from one food compulsion to another or trying to control the overeating, you’ll learn how to create lasting relief with food.
Read a transcript:
“That feeling of collapse, that feeling of, “I’m not going to be able to handle it, like it’s too much,” those feelings like you’re not capable or that you’re small, it’s helpful to remember again that those are feelings that come and go.
But, what I find for people is that when they’re really stuck in those feelings, what they are really stuck in is their child self.
Those are the feelings that we have when we’re little. They’re the feelings we had when we were little and in pain, and we felt powerless where we didn’t feel like we could cope. Because we were dependent, because we were children, we weren’t in charge. And so there isn’t power.
There’s all kinds of things that happen to us as children that we might not have felt were fair or wrong, and we might have suffered some real injustices and some real pain and suffering. And because we’re children, we’re not adults, we don’t have the ability to say, “No I don’t like that, stop that,” because we’re in the dependent position and we have these caregivers and adults who are caring for us.
It can be this place of pain and helplessness and powerless, a feeling of “This hurts and there’s nothing I can do about it.” And as children, what we also tend to do is when there’s something that isn’t working because we don’t have the ego strength because we’re children, we’re not meant to, we’re not able to separate and detach, and look at it and realize like, “Oh, this is about this other person.”
We personalize it and think it’s about us and ourselves. This becomes the basis of some of that conditioning that then we carry forward into our adult lives where that early childhood conditioning can start to form an identity that then we think is us.
We then act out of that identity, so we think of ourselves as too much, or we think that we’re too sensitive, or we think that we’re too fragile, or we think that we’re incapable, or we think that we’re too needy.
These are the beliefs of a young child. And when we get stuck in them as adults, we have things that happen to us here as an adult in our lives. And what they do is those situations trigger these feelings in us, we might be feeling it here in the present day in the moment, but they’re also triggering all those feelings that we have from childhood – we start to inhabit that young, powerless, helpless space.
I invite you to play with this. I know for myself I can absolutely sense and feel when I’m inhabiting a small childlike space. It doesn’t feel good because it’s usually in a space where I want to act in a way to care for myself, but I don’t feel like I can. I feel like I’m going to upset someone, or I feel like all those childhood beliefs come up of if you did that, that would be unkind, or you’re just too much. Those are some of the beliefs that come up for me. You can see what comes up for yourself.
It helps to have a frame of reference to be able to recognize that’s what it is: “This is my young child self talking.” Or, “Oh, these are these young feelings” because what that does is it gives you some space as an adult where you can move in to care for those feelings without being identified with them and thinking that they’re you. It’s how you stand in your adult self.
I talk about this in a lot more depth in When Food is Your Mother.
One way to heal those childhood beliefs is an internal form of boundary setting. When you feel like you’re in that child space, you’re moving to care for it and relate to it – you’re not in it. You’re not identifying with it. You’re coming to that space. You’re integrating it and healing it.
Another way of healing those childhood beliefs is through the grief and the adaptive process of releasing them and letting them go. Something didn’t work as a child, but what happened was you in some way looked at it that it was your fault and you blamed yourself. And those voices of blame of, ‘I’m too much, I’m not enough, I’m too sensitive, I’m too demanding, I’m too needy,’ that’s the belief that arose from that space, how you interpreted the world around you.
It’s the same processes of unwinding from sugar, of recognizing it doesn’t work. It doesn’t work to blame yourself. It doesn’t work to look at it as it’s all my fault. And when we recognize it doesn’t work, that’s a really deep grieving process. It often is for people because it means feeling that childhood pain.
For myself, that’s been some of the deepest grieving I’ve done in my life. It’s a releasing process. And what comes out the other side of that, again, is the new life where I don’t feel so bound and identified with those young child beliefs, and I start to create a new pattern and a new way of being.
Carl Jung said it this way. He said, “We all walk around in shoes that are too small for us.” And the two small shoes that we wear are the two small shoes of these painful beliefs from childhood. As we recognize that they’re not true, and recognize that they don’t work, they don’t really protect us in the way that we’re wanting. They just don’t work. They don’t work.
And what’s left and underneath that is to feel the sorrow and the loss underneath that, that loss and sorrow that we felt as children, and we cry the tears that need to be cried as adults. And that is a pretty profound healing process.”
Thanks for this podcast, I spent some time listening to this over the weekend and found it so helpful. The challenge ongoingly is that I don’t feel I actually KNOW how to love this young part. And that I think this collapse, or some mini version of it, is happening all the time inside. I think its the same collapse that is there under depression, the lack of a secure base maybe. It is so hard to ‘become’ without other relationships to shape the heart and mind..in a sense it feels like being completely remade. Losing that old identity that you speak of and really believing something better. Thank you..!
Being completely remade feels very accurate for my experience of this dynamic, too. Another way to think of it is growing up – growing up those young parts that got stuck.
What you are speaking to is the developmental process of becoming our own person. Attachment is meant to foster the development of the self – where we have our own ideas, feelings, thoughts and more – where the container our parents hold for us is transferred to our own hearts. For many of us, this process got stuck in childhood.
I find that spiritual practice helps me feel tethered when I’m feeling unattached. It reconnects me to my alpha – to that part of me that says, “I am with you always. You are never alone. I will never leave you. I am at your side.” It feel energetically and somatically very, very different – like “standing in my strongest self,” as Neil Fiore says it.
When we feel strong, I’m guessing what we’re feeling is connection, is the secure base to this place inside. (Or with others or the Divine.)
When we collapse, we’re feeling disconnected. We’re often feeling a fear of separation, too, which can contribute to the feeling of powerlessness – we don’t want to do anything that would jeopardize our connection.
Thanks Karly that really shines more light on this. I read today that when the desire to connect or attach isn’t met over time (as children) that neurons, previously expecting to connect, begin to prune and the child starts to shut down and feel no heart desire to connect..eeeeek. This seems like the ‘being stuck’ you describe, the loss of hope. This ‘reversal of the decision’, having hope to connect and believe oneself welcome, is something utterly new, a coming to life or rusty hinges starting to swing open. It did make me think that in a sense, those who turn to food are trying not to give up, to shut down desire entirely, but just in desperation taking the desire to the wrong place to something that ‘doesn’t work’ as you often say. The spiritual practise part is a work in progress for me..I slightly put it to one side and decided to just look at what should happen between the hearts of parents and children in growing up because I found the whole ‘God deal’ so alarming (always worried I wasn’t doing it right) but as I spend time in these attachment truths it naturally reframes spiritual connection too, though I’ve a long way to go :o) Thank you again. Love Pauline