When we’re confronted with pain, it’s natural to look for someone or something to blame. This is because our tender, tender brain will move to protect us from pain that feels too much to bear and defend against it!
Many of our impulsive thoughts are simply defenses against pain. When we are in pain, our minds look for a reason, for someone to blame for whatever we feel is going wrong. If we have someone to blame we have both an outlet, a release, for our painful emotions and something to control – something to fix so that we can stop the pain.
They can show up like this: if only I would’ve…she shouldn’t have….how dare he?…it’s not right that…. Of course, they are also defenses against feeling our vulnerable emotions.
If you’re sensitive, you may have a tendency to blame yourself. You may feel guilty. You may feel ashamed and hide. You may take on responsibility for the world, for others, for your pain, for everything that doesn’t go the way you intend it to, for your very humanity itself.
I’m guessing that this toxic guilt load contributes to your eating struggles today. I’m also guessing that even before the first bite of indulgence, the first binge – even it was 20 or 50 years ago – the guilt or shame was already present. It may still be present.
What brings healing – and moves you out of the blame/guilt/shame/eat cycle – is meeting your pain. Softening your defenses and feeling the tender emotions underneath – your frustration with whatever isn’t working, your sadness, longing, your desire for peace or harmony.
Softening into our vulnerable feelings is a form of surrender – surrendering to our longing, to our neediness, to our inherent dependence as human beings. Surrendering to the thirst in our heart, for what we’re really thirsting for: love, peace, connection, compassion, mercy, courage, relief.
Most of us have a hard time surrendering because it is very, very vulnerable to surrender. It is painful to open to the feelings of neediness, emptiness, lack or loss. And yet in feeling this emptiness, ironically, we also can find our satiation. We open to something greater than ourselves. We open to the Divine – the only thing that can really fill our emptiness.
At the root, everything we’re searching for comes down to this. What we’re really searching for is the deepest attachment: the Divine connection of peace, love, and compassion. And we find that by surrendering to our need for it, opening our hearts so that they may be filled.
Wanting more hands-on help?
This excerpt is from a Q&A call from my newest class, When Food is Your Mother. If you’re wanting to deeply understand and heal the roots of food compulsion, I invite you to join me.
Hi! I think this is very wonderful and just wanted to know what it means to meet your pain, I have been struggling with several control issues and depression for some years and have not yet found a way to open myself to my pain, I think my brain keeps finding ways to protect me even thought I want to heal completely. What would you recommend to start the healing process to understand the emotions beneath the binge eating and the shame?
What a beautiful note – thank you for writing. Yes, the brain can find ways to protect us when it feels too overwhelming or vulnerable to touch what’s underneath.
I would start small – opening to a small pain, to something that doesn’t trigger the brain’s defenses. That process can help us, step by step, to know in our own experience, and in our bodies that it’s safe to open to our inner world. It’s like building a muscle – we start where we are and gradually grow stronger over time.
One of my favorite resources for understanding the emotions under our pain is Tara Brach’s work and her RAIN practice. She has a free podcast that you might like where she teaches RAIN and how to befriend our inner life – http://www.tarabrach.com.
You may also like the Binge Rescue worksheet – it can help you understand the needs and feelings underneath the urge to binge. People have said it’s a very helpful tool! You can find this free resource here – https://growinghumankindness.com/binge-rescue/
Lastly, sometimes we need support to open ourselves to the vulnerable feelings in our body and nervous system. If you notice that you often feel overwhelmed, dysregulated or flooded, this is where a therapist can be a great help. I’d look for someone in your area who has trauma training – EMDR, IFS (Internal Family Systems) and Somatic Experiencing are some helpful approaches for trauma. If you go to their websites, you can find an EMDR, IFS or Somatic Experiencing trained therapist in your area who can help.