Having an eating disorder is like being a passenger in a rickety old school bus which is speeding down a winding mountain road at night in a blinding thunderstorm. The bus is careening off the guardrails with each turn and picking up speed as it goes along. If this wasn’t bad enough, notice there’s no driver on the bus!
Recovering is like making your way to the front of the bus and getting in the driver’s seat. Imagine with all your senses, feel it in your body as you make your way to the front of the bus. Experience sitting in the driver’s seat. What is the very first thing you would do in this situation?
You probably would reply, “Put my foot on the brake and stop the bus!”
Yes! Once the bus is stopped, you can sit there, as long as you need, to calmly make the decisions necessary to steer the bus to safety. Then, you can start to slowly drive the bus forward again.
An important tool towards recovery is as simple as taking a breath. In the momentary pause of that one breath we can step back and notice what’s going on. Then from our Self, from the place of peace and wisdom within us, we can consider our options –rather than from an emotional knee-jerk reaction.
Early in our lives, we learned to react to situations quickly, without thinking, to protect ourselves from getting hurt or getting in trouble. When these knee jerk reactions were successful, they were reinforced and became habitual. If when we were a child every time someone was angry we quickly tried to fix whatever was wrong, we will be conditioned to fix everyone’s problems as an adult. Not that fixing problems is bad or wrong, but if deep inside a young part of us frantically feels it is her responsibility to fix everything every time anyone is angry then we carry that anxiety and burden with us constantly.
We can practice taking a breath, pausing and considering until it becomes natural to us. Imagine a recent situation that where, in hindsight, you realize now that you felt like Life was racing down the mountain without a driver and you wish you had handled it differently. Maybe something that made your Parts react like in the old days. Now, take a deep breath, filling the bottom lobe of your lungs, holding it and then letting the breath out in a sigh. Repeat a few times until you feel a Pause – like Life has momentarily slowed down. In that Pause, feel yourself step into the wisdom of your Self; ask all your Parts to step back so your Inner Wisdom can see the situation objectively. Consider any and all options. It may help to ask, “What would my best friend do in this situation? What would I suggest to my best friend if the situation happened to her?” Then imagine yourself handling the situation using these suggestions from a place of peace and wisdom within.
I would love to hear your comments about trying this new tool.
Amy Grabowski, MA, LCPC has written a book about recovery from eating disorders. She is in the process of finding a publisher! She can be reached at (773) 929-6262 x 11 or email@example.com