Dear one, did you find yourself bingeing or overeating today? When we retreat back into painful patterns, we typically ask ourselves: why? We search for reasons was I too tired, was I hurt, was I angry? Was I overhungry?
Seeking to understand the deeper reasons why we do what we do is helpful, useful and has its place. We can use this awareness to do differently the next time.
But our search for why can also be an attempt to soothe feelings of shame, guilt and anxiety. Many us feel very judgmental towards ourselves when we make a mistake. There’s that clench in the gut, that feeling of, “How could I?” We feel embarrassed, guilty, and so we look for a reason to justify why we fell short.
We want a reason so we can feel better about why we messed up, so we can soothe our anxiety. It’s a sleight of hand, a way to shift the blame.
But what if our search is mistaken? What if our path is not about finding a reason for our behavior (finding some situation or some thing to blame it on) but softening, diffusing the self-blame in the first place?
The truth is this: we all make mistakes. Lots of them. As Rabbi Harold Kushner points out in his book, How Good Do We Have to Be?, life is so dynamic and complex, with so many shades of grey, how can we possibly get it right all the time? We can’t.
Sometimes life just happens and we forget. We forget to do the things that make us feel good because we are human, and it is easy to forget, it is easy to go back to familiar patterns, and it is easy to get caught in our thoughts what our mind thinks will soothe us.
We don’t like forgetting because it reminds us that we’re human, and that all of us stumble and get mud on our faces – not as a judgment against us but just because we are these tender human creatures who mess up from time to time.
When we find ourselves digging furtively for answers after we’ve made a mistake our efforts may be an attempt to not feel what’s underneath our anxiety about messing up. What’s usually there is anger. We may feel angry at ourselves for bingeing or judging ourselves for going back to sugar. What’s often underneath the anger is sadness. Grief. We feel sad that we didn’t honor our intentions; that we found ourselves somewhere other than where we wanted to be.
The way out is compassion. Can you tenderly, lovingly hold yourself in this space? Can you close your eyes and breathe in your disappointment, your sadness?
Can you sit with yourself and inquire, “What feelings are there?” What is there under the frustration? Under the disgust? Under the judgment? Under the thought of, “I shouldn’t have done this?”
I’m guessing that there might be fear, sadness, grief. Sadness that you have this pain. Sorrow.
Can you hold that grief, that fear, that sorrow with tenderness? Can you sit with it and tell yourself, “I care for you? I care for this suffering.”
When I hold my grief and feel my sadness, my whole body softens. I cry my tears. I feel my sorrow. I truly feel my feelings which hurts and which is also very cleansing. And yet I also create feelings of spaciousness and lightness and peace because I’m no longer judging myself. I’m no longer blaming myself. I’m able to sit with all my feelings of, “This is not how I wanted it to be” and I’m able to slowly find my way to the other side – that this, too, shall pass. That this mistake is not the sum of my story. It is not all of me.
It is this tender holding, this awareness and compassion, that helps us know – know as in “the hollow of our bones know” – what to do next, how to take the wise step to care for ourselves, to do what needs to be done to nourish our sweet bodies, whatever that may be to stay off the sugar, to put away the dinner plate, to go for a walk instead of graze the pantry. (I love Julia Cameron’s name for God: Good orderly direction.) It’s what makes us able to respond.
(sigh)…it is 3:42 AM. You can probably guess what I just did…up at this hour…alone…I ate.
I also wasn't getting any numbing affect from my usual mindless website hopping. "I'll go see what Karly has to say," is the thought in my head. What a wonderful, but painful idea!! This post was just what I NEEDED! I am feeling a lot of shame and sadness. Can I sit with it? I'm trying. I can sit NEXT to it for now. I can hold its hand. But I want to bolt at the same time.
Maybe I'll use the-newborn-wrapped-in-a-blanket image again. I can sit with my sadness and grief that way.
"Oh, ouch. Sweet lord, ouch."
Oh, dear, sweet Jenny,
I feel so grateful that this was just what you needed and that I was able to come alongside you.
I love the idea of sitting next to your shame and sadness and holding its hand. That is precious. I think so much of this healing journey is holding our own hands, caring for our pain, not abandoning ourselves when were hurting.
I know this is not easy (Im thinking of a quote from Jung about healing means going into darkness. Dang.) And and .everytime we sit with that pain for even 5 seconds we remind ourselves that we are so much bigger than our pain.
What I am (slowly) working with is understanding that my sadness and shame and terror all those painful feelings are only a part of me. (I say slowly because Ive been working with this for the past 4 years or so and probably will continue for many, many more!) I like to label them as such, Oh, theres my shameful part. Or, A part of me feels sad . That helps me detach and realize that those feelings of shame and sadness are just from a very hurt part of me. They are not the sum of who I am. They are not *me,* me. That gives me some breathing room, some space, and a bit of freedom. I can move from being the feeling to caring for it to holding its hand as you so gently say.
You are doing so, so well, dear one.
This path of unconditional love, of unconditional acceptance is so radical and counterintuitive and takes so much courage. So I bow to the incredible strength and courage and heart I see in you. And I feel honored to walk with you as a fellow traveler
I loved this post. It came at the perfect time for me. It's an amazing thing how we can trick ourselves a bit with very crafty ways of avoiding feeling our shame and self judgment. I make a mistake, and then I immediately want to jump to figuring out why! Let's nail down the exact reason so I can fix it next time so I never make another mistake again! Ha! Good luck. 🙂
It's actually much easier to just cradle yourself. Love yourself. Feel that things didn't go the way that you wanted to, and know that it's okay.
Thank you Karly!
I love your article! Unfortunately, I have a problem with my overeating. One day I'll be fine: eating everything in moderation and such, but then the next day, I'll over eat. I would weigh 163 on one day, and then eat a lot the next the day, and weigh 170. I feel as though my body functions differently than normal. I'm not a fat guy; I STRUGGLE maintaining my weigh. I'm about to go to college in two weeks, and I don't want to get fat while there; I've come a long way, and don't want to end it.