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.