It is no secret that I used to do whatever it took to push my feelings away.
I binge ate. I obsessively exercised. I had lots of sex with strangers. I drank. I did drugs. I stayed in unhealthy and unsatisfying relationships.
You name it, I did it.
Then, I spent years in therapy trying to understand my feelings. For the first time in my life, it felt like I had someone who would just listen to what I was experiencing without calling me wrong, or bad, or shameful because of it. I really needed that.
But after a few years, therapy began to feel like wallowing. I noticed that I was telling the same stories over and over again and that I didn’t seem to be getting anywhere new. I was still engaging in the binge eating and the obsessive dieting.
I was totally on board with the idea that I was doing those things to avoid my feelings. But, what I really wanted to know was:
I know that binge eating doesn’t feel better in the long run but why can’t I stop?
I know that dieting and being thin doesn’t make me happy but why do I keep chasing that goal?
I know that spending hours upon hours on Facebook doesn’t feel good so why do I keep logging on?
I wanted to know how to use those painful feelings as a catalyst for behaviors that felt joyful and in alignment with what I wanted for my life.
I was ready to move beyond the story of my feelings and into a new way of being.
So, I studied everything I could about emotions. I took tons of professional training, classes, and hired many coaches and healers.
I learned about my thoughts and beliefs, I learned how to feel my feelings in my body, I learned about self-care, I learned how to fuel my body with nutrient dense and satisfying foods, I learned and learned and learned. I even applied what I was learning!!
But even with all that, I wasn’t seeing any long-term changes in my behavior. It was like none of it was sticking.
To pile on even more frustration, I could easily help my clients create the long-term changes that they were looking for. It was like I “got them” and could pinpoint, very intuitively, what the core of their issues and motivations were.
But my own stuff? That was a totally different story.
Eventually, though, I discovered words to describe what I seemed to intuitively know with my clients (but not with myself) all along:
Every action is an attempt to meet a need.
Whether it is smoking pot, going on a diet, dating bad boys, beating ourselves up, hanging out on twitter, eating, drinking, buying things, reading books, taking classes.
Even the ever faithful “self-sabotage”.
This doesn’t mean that those actions actually meet our needs. But they are attempts.
This is why we keep doing the same shit over and over again and expecting different results.
Because, as human beings, we just want our needs met. And oftentimes, we have lost touch with what our needs are and how to actually meet them. We tell ourselves:
This diet is going to work this time.
This guy is different.
I will find some sort of connection on Facebook.
These cookies will make me feel better.
We keep doing what we’ve been doing, hoping and praying for a miracle. And then we wonder why it never seems to work.
The reason they don’t work is that they are attempts at meeting needs that those actions won’t ever meet.
Dieting and being thin won’t make you love yourself.
Bad boys will never offer you the safety you long for.
That hunger inside isn’t physical so food can’t solve it.
So, what is the solution?
The solution is to uncover what it is you are hoping to accomplish with your actions. Tell yourself the truth about whether or not those actions are actually accomplishing those things. Then, heal whatever needs to be healed so that you can start taking action that DOES meet your needs.
For many, one of the hardest parts is figuring out what you really want and need.
How To Figure Out What You Really Want and Need
Whenever you feel upset, or frustrated, or ANY uncomfortable emotion, this is your signal that you have unmet needs/desires.
If feeling your feelings is still new to you, your moment of noticing may be as you notice you are engaged in behaviors you don’t want anymore. And even still, if you don’t notice all of that until after the fact, there is still an opportunity for inquiry.
It is never too late to discover what you really want and need.
No matter where you find yourself within your own awareness, stop and ask yourself these questions:
What am I feeling right now?
What do I really need right now?
How can I meet that need right now?
How can I meet that need proactively?
Am I willing to do those things for myself? Why or why not?
(And by the way, the answers to those last questions are the clues to the things that need to be healed.)
Really sit with these questions. Allow yourself to feel into them. Get out of your head and into your body and your heart. Get out your journal or do whatever you do to connect with yourself. Allow yourself to be honest and go there.
Because here is the thing: When you understand and honor your true needs, the desire to diet, date bad boys, and eat cookies will fall away on their own.
No more force. Or willpower. Or beating yourself into submission.
Just you, feeling your feelings and honoring your needs.
How awesome would that be?