In Today’s world there is an intense focus on what we eat and on the importance of exercise. If one eats the right foods and eats them at the right time, along with the right amount of exercise; then one is likely to end up in physical shape. Now, for some this may work and for others this will not be enough.
There is another component that is being left out here and one that is probably the strongest motivator of all. What I am talking about here are our emotions. These are what drive most of our behaviour and this means that in order for one to seek to change their appearance or health in the first place; ones emotions will have been involved.
The Hidden Motivators
However, the emotions that drive one to consume such large amounts of food, to eat when one isn’t hungry or to eat foods that are not particularly healthy; is rarely considered or mentioned. This could be in the mainstream media or in a more personal setting.
Perhaps emotions are not spoken of in the mainstream media due to the amount of money that is made from such high consumption and there are no doubt many other theories and ideas as to why this is. But, in order for this situation to exist in the first place; the need has to already exist in the consumer.
If one is a conscious individual or is even moderately conscious, then it wouldn’t matter what foods this person was exposed or how aesthetically pleasing to the eye they were. Although this could be cakes or snacks; this could also include any type of food and foods that one may have a certain craving for.
To be a conscious eater means that one has a choice as to whether they will eat or not. Instead of continually eating on impulse or when they are emotionally affected. And when one engages in emotional eating, they are usually doing so without being conscious and aware of what is occurring.
What Is Emotional Eating?
Emotional eating is when we eat in order to suppress and escape from a certain emotion or an emotional experience; with food changing how we feel. And because of how fast and natural this process often is, it is unlikely that it will be noticed or questioned - and therefore stopped or changed.
This may have been a pattern that one has carried out for so long, that it is has become a habit. And what the food is doing, is allowing one to emotionally regulate themselves.
A Closer Look
First off; emotional eating is probably something that everyone does from time to time. We are all human after all; we are not perfect and neither are we meant to be. The intention here is not to label emotional eating as right or wrong or good or bad; that is an approach that will only make things worse and would probably lead to more emotional eating.
It is purely to take closer look and to create awareness around this area. To bring to ones attention what is causing them to act in certain ways. Ultimately, emotional eating is no different to anything else, in that, if it is done to the extreme, it has the potential to lead to dysfunctional consequences. And with this being an area that related to our own healthy, it is undoubtedly an important area to look into.
A Special Relationship
As well as the effect that the food is having per se, there are associations that may also be triggered through food. In the very beginning of life, one comes to experience food as nurturing through being breast fed. And if one wasn’t breast fed, then one is likely to have fond memories of being given food to cheer them up and certain types of food that were made by someone close to them.
The quality of nurturing that one got in these early years will often define how much one will rely on food to assist in emotional regulation.
Through being given food by the people around us as a child, our emotional state was being externally affected. And if food wasn’t being used then our caregivers would have been there to mirror, sooth and regulate our emotions. We would also have been given the emotional nurturing that we needed to develop. As a young child, it is said that our nervous system is not developed enough to do this task and therefore we need our caregivers to do this for us.
And as a consequence of our caregivers being there during times of emotional distress or even when emotions appear, we will then begin to develop this ability ourselves. The process is a lot more complex than this, but this is a basic understanding of it.
The Real World
For some, the above may be true and these will be individuals that are comfortable with their emotions and who feel emotionally whole. They will have the ability to simply sit with them, to sooth themselves and to channel them into something more productive. Or they will be comfortable enough, to share their emotions with others. However, for individuals that haven’t had these early experiences of being emotionally regulated and nurtured; emotions will be problematic, overwhelming and even something to be ashamed off.
As ones emotions were allowed to build up and were not acknowledged when they were formed; they will be a lot stronger than they would normally be. And by this I mean that; as they are being fuelled by the past that has not been processed, it is inevitable that they will be stronger.
When this inner ability is not there, food is the ideal option. On one side it will allow one to regulate their emotions and on the other side it will allow one to temporarily have the emotionally nurturing that one didn't have as a child. The trouble with food is that it is only a short term solution. And the majority of food that is sought after during these times is unhealthy. Foods like chocolate, release endorphins into our brains, as does exercise. This is the happy chemical and will be more than welcome if one were to be experiencing ’negative’ emotions.
Exercise, if not taken to the extreme, is healthier than consuming lots of Junk food. While this is so, it could also become another escape and addiction.
The ideal here is to be able to self regulate and to feel comfortable in reaching out to others when this is not possible. This ability is unlikely to be developed over night and it will require patience and commitment. And depending on one’s individual needs and psychological disposition, other options might have to be considered. So always follow your own truth and insights.
One thing a good therapist, healer or coach can do is to allow one to express their emotions in a safe environment. From here, one can begin to form a relationship with their emotions. And start to gain the emotional nurturing that they didn’t get all those years ago. Here one will begin to see their emotions as feedback and as something that needs to be heard and acknowledged; not to be feared or run away from.
Awareness is the key here; with it, one can see that they are more than their emotions and without it; emotions can seem to be as all there is. The heart can also assist in emotional regulation.
This is a defence mechanism that is no different to any other, in that it allows the ego mind to ensure its own survival. If there is a situation where the ego mind perceives that it is unsafe to express an emotion or to behave in a certain way; the ego mind will have to suppress what is happening.
So instead of someone speaking there mind or expressing how they feel to someone that has made them feel compromised or abused, it will have to be hidden from others. Here one may put on a face that is the complete opposite to how they really feel. Or one might say something that is the polar opposite to what is going on inside their head.
As a result of this it will mean that these feelings, emotions and words will have to come out somewhere. And how they are expressed, will depend on numerous factors. They will only be expressed in an environment or a situation, where the ego mind feels safe.
So let’s take a look at the situations where displacement can take place.
The Work Environment
If one is in a work environment where there is an abusive boss for example; it might mean that one can’t express how they truly feel towards that person. Here the anger or frustration could be taken out on a fellow co worker. Or it may stay hidden and get taken out on ones partner, friends, children or pets.
The School Bully
Another strong example here is of the abusive caregiver who physically or emotionally abuses their child. Due to the child not being strong enough or feeling safe enough to stand up to the parent; the child has to hold in and deny how they are feeling.
The child will then go to school and come across plenty of people that are physically smaller and weaker. And are therefore the perfect individuals to express their suppressed anger and frustration on.
This is completely different to observing the mind; where there is an awareness of one’s thoughts and emotions. Here it is possible to listen to and feel them; without needing to repress them or to act on them unconsciously.
We are only human and there will be times when it is not possible to simple sit with our emotions and thoughts. This is especially true for the younger child that is being abused in the example above. During moments like these, displacement is the only option available to ensure ones survival.
The term attachment is often used in the area of relationships and to describe what kind of relationship one had with their primary caregiver as a child. This first attachment plays a massive role in our development as a child and in how we are as adults.
A General View
So here I will give a general outline of attachment and my current views on what causes attachment problems and what the consequences are when there are attachment problems. This will mean that it will not be extensive or cover everything to do with attachment. When one is aware of these attachment problems, something can then be done.
This is usually understood through the different styles of attachment that have been constructed over the years by various psychologists. There are typically four primary ways how one can be, when it comes to their attachment style. Here one will either: avoid attachment, be in great need of attachment and seek to look after others or have a combination of the three and switch from one style to the other.
The First Attachment
During the very beginning of one’s life, the first attachment figure is usually the mother. And the quality of this early relationship, will often define how functional and resourceful one is as an adult.
As a child, one is completely dependent on this figure for everything. The ability to feel connected; that one belongs and to be able to emotionally regulate oneself is all affected by this early relationship.
To be mirrored by ones primary caregiver, as a child, is what allows one to know that they exist; however, this mirroring may not occur and if it does, then it may not be of the highest quality. And when one is nurtured by their caregiver it will be enable them to develop into a healthy adult. As this doesn’t always happen, one can grow up to feel emotional empty.
This may be due to a caregiver that is emotionally unavailable; with the caregiver being too consumed with their needs to care for the child. This could be due to: stress, work, emotional problems, unresolved trauma, abuse and depression.
What this means is that the child will end up responding in different ways to its mothers style of nurturing. On one side there is the mother’s behaviour towards the child and on the other side there are the Childs responses to this behaviour. The child may also respond to a certain style of nurturing and this will not happen if the caregiver is unaware.
This may mean that the child ends up feeling smothered and overwhelmed or that the child feels neglected and that it’s being ignored. If the caregiver is aware of the Childs needs, then these consequences can be minimized
And together these will influence what style of attachment the child will come to identify with. So now let’s take a look at what some of these consequences are.
The First Relationship
Due to this relationship being the first relationship that we have, it is not much of a surprise to hear that this is the one that shapes so much of who we are. And as well as what has been mentioned above about emotional regulation, belonging and feeling connected; it also affects our sense of: stability, security and how supported we feel. Ones perception of intimacy will also be shaped by these early experiences.
If this early attachment was not very functional and harmonious, it will mean that it is highly likely that one will grow up with numerous problems as a result.
These effects can include:
· Feeling a deep sense of abandonment and/or rejection
· Feeling isolated, alienated, unloved and/or alone.
· Feeling ungrounded and disconnected.
· Feeling that one doesn’t belong; no matter where one is or if one is surrounded by people or by themselves.
· Feeling an inner sense of instability and that one has no sense of inner safety and security.
· Keeping people at a distance and fearing intimacy.
· Fearing that people will leave, if there is not constant contact or closeness.
· The inability to emotionally regulate oneself.
· An undeveloped sense of self.
The Present Day
However, because all of this happened in the very beginning of one’s life, it may seem that these behavioural, emotional and thinking patterns are just happening. And that they are part of one’s nature. What happened during those early years would have had to have been denied and repressed, in order for one to survive.
This will mean that one’s awareness of what happened all those years ago might no longer be available, at least consciously that is. And because this programming is still running behind the scenes it will mean that one is still likely to feel, think and behave as they did all those years ago.
How it is
Although these feelings, thoughts, emotions and behaviours are not who one is, out of familiarity, they can come across as the truth. And in order for ones caregiver to act in the ways that have lead to the development of a dysfunctional attachment; it is evident that they were not aware of their behaviour.
The caregivers may have responded to the Childs feedback at times, but in the extreme cases, the caregiver would have been oblivious to this feedback. This is the result of their own emotional unavailability and lack of awareness.
This will mean that from the very beginning, one will have come to see that this behaviour was normal and will unconsciously accept it.
In order for these patterns to change and for one to be the person that they want to be; there has to be awareness. And out of awareness, it becomes possible for these patterns to change. The mind has formed its perceptions based on what is familiar and it will hold onto them, until its sees that that there is another way to be safe.
From here one can choose to do something else and to behave how they want to behave. This could be through the assistance of a friend, therapist, book, or a mentor.
The purpose that we all have on this earth can change as we change; similarly to how the weather can change. From one moment to the next, what one wants to do and achieve can alter. And then there are certain dreams and expressions that one has, that never seem to change and always remain.
These are there for the duration and will not simply be go away; until they have been expressed and achieved. One might feel this in their heart or as an inner knowing.
However, although one might know within what they want to do; there are often internal and external challenges. And these can have the potential to completely derail one from achieving their inner calling.
Is It Important?
What one can then come to contemplate is: do my dreams matter? This can be asked at a conscious level or it might lead one to simply giving up and sabotaging their growth altogether. Here one will unconsciously undermine their achievements.
If one were to come to this conclusion, it could probably be the result of what one has learned from others and over time what one has then internalized. Once it has been internalized, like a parasite, it can become who one is.
One is then likely to experience conflict; both on the inside and on the outside. And this is due to what they truly want, being covered up and not being expressed. The expression can not only be covered up from others, it can also be covered up from oneself.
There is then a lack of coherence or harmony and one is then left to wonder how all these parts can be brought together and how the conflict can be put to an end.
Is There Another Way?
For one to have a different internal and external experience, one has to be shown another way or to know that another way exists. It might be that in their heart they know that another way exists, if only they could get their mind on board.
If one is shown another way through the assistance of another person or people; they can gradually begin to change their perception of their external reality. And of how they perceive themselves from within.
As the process continues one can begin to get a clearer a connection from the knowing that they have within or one can gain for the first time a connection to what is within. This could be called the heart or just an inner knowing. What is it called is irrelevant; what matters is having this connection.
The Ego Mind
One of the biggest challenges here is in getting the ego mind to work with the heart or the inner knowing. The ego mind is defining what one sees and what one doesn’t see in the outside world and within.
The dreams that one has and the purpose that one wants to continually fulfil is within. It does not operate on whether it would be safe to be expressed - like the ego mind does.
As long as something is familiar and therefore safe, the ego mind feels comfortable and will not cause any conflict or create fear. The problems arise when what the ego mind has come to associate as safe is in direct opposition to what one truly wants. The ego mind could feel comfortable and yet one could be dying inside.
And it is out of this conflict that so much pain and suffering is created. If these two aspects were working together, it would put to an end a lot of unnecessary drama and pain.
This means that as long as something is associated as familiar and safe to the ego mind, then its survival will be ensured. And when the ego mind feels accepted and approved of, it feels safe. However, what the ego mind has come to associate as safe may have very little to do with ones present life or what is actually true in the present day.
The reasons for this is that these associations of what is safe and what is not safe, are usually formed during the very beginning of one’s life. This was a time when one was a dependent, powerless and vulnerable child.
And this meant that one had to be acutely aware of others and to the degree that their own needs and wants may have had to of been compromised, to guarantee their own survival.
The Defining Factor
What can be the defining factor here is how aware ones caregivers or the people in their early environment were. If, as a child, one was around people who were aware of their own needs and wants and could therefore listen to the Childs needs and wants; it would enable the child to from an inner connection.
If this doesn’t happen and the caregivers are out of sync with their own needs and wants, then the child has to ignore and deny these needs in favour of the caregivers wants and needs.
The child will then learn from a very early age, that its wants and needs are not important, what is important is in fulfilling the needs and wants of others. Ones ego mind will then begin to form associations around this and come to conclude that this is what is familiar and therefore safe.
As a result of this, one’s attention will become outer directed and this will cause one to be hyper vigilant to the needs and wants of others. It is then only natural to see another person’s wants, needs and the purpose of another, as being more important than one’s own wants, needs and purpose.
And as this meant ones ego mind learnt at an early age to only feel safe when it comes to fulfilling another’s person wants and needs; it may mean that one now feels unsafe to follow their own purpose.
Through becoming aware of our needs and wants and what we feel in our heart; it will become clear that they will not be silenced or forgotten. Our ego mind may try to blind us with memories and associations of the past, but these are not the truth.
Each one of us has a purpose that is different and although some peoples purpose may seem grander or superior to others; we are all part of the same whole. And this means that, neither one of us, is more or less important than the other.
Emotions are part of being human and this means that they play a vital role in each of our lives. This could be to inform one of what is going on in their immediate environment or to do with something that is being triggered from their past for example.
However, no matter what their reasons for appearing are; they are trying to communicate something. And yet this form of communication doesn’t always occur.
When this happens they can be repressed and ignored. If they are repressed; this can lead to all kinds of problems. And if they are not repressed, then they can be acted out; in the form of reactive and unconscious behaviour.
To be emotionally honest, means to acknowledge and admit to ones emotions. In order for one to do this, there has to be an emotional awareness in the first place. Because without an awareness of them, it will only be possible for them to be acted out or acted in.
And there will be times when it is appropriate to express ones emotions and times when it is not appropriate. What is important is that one can admit to oneself what emotions they are experiencing.
As one is the observer of their emotions and not the emotions themselves, it means that one has the ability to be aware of each emotion. And from here, one has the choice of acting on the emotion or whether to just acknowledge the emotion.
When one does not have this ability available; there will be the tendency to be at the whim of one’s emotions.
Each emotion that one has is neutral; it is neither right or wrong, or good or bad. It just is and what makes an emotion into either of these things, is the value judgement that one labels them with.
The ego mind will categorise emotions in this way and this is due to the minds way of seeing everything in polarities. There is no middle ground to the ego mind; there are only extremes.
From here the ego mind can come to identify with certain emotions. And through this process each emotion will be classed as good or bad and right or wrong. Some emotions will be acceptable and others won’t be.
The emotions that are labelled as being acceptable will end up being associated as what is safe. From here one will begin to decide what emotions they can express and what emotions they can’t.
If ones ego mind has come to associate an emotion as bad or dangerous, it is likely that this emotion will then be repressed. As this happens one can end up becoming enslaved to this emotion; which is a natural result of an emotion building up.
Reactive behaviour will then occur and what should be about a two on the emotional reaction scale could end up being an eight or a nine for instance.
Ones moods and emotional health will also be severely affected. Through the expression of certain emotions being denied, it will also mean that one’s whole emotional spectrum will be potentially numbed and limited.
Although one may be caught up in the repression of certain emotions, one can also end up going the other way. And this means that they feel as though they have no control over their emotions. As a result of this, one may end up constantly reacting and expressing certain emotions.
The Emotional Trap
To repress an emotion or to react to an emotion without awareness is to be enslaved to the emotion. The emotion needs to be heard and expressed from a place of awareness.
The longer the emotion is repressed or acted on, the longer it will take control. And one will have no choice other than to continually deceive not only others about what is going on, but also oneself.
For one to either repress or act on their emotions without awareness, it shows that one doesn’t have a good connection or relationship with their emotions. And out of this emotional disharmony, all kinds of conflict and dysfunction are created.
This then leads to one not being able to be honest about their emotions. For if they were, these emotional difficulties wouldn’t exist in the first place.
The Emotional Relationship
The relationship that one has with their emotions is usually created in the beginning of one’s life. It is during this time that one’s ego mind will come to associate what emotions are safe to have and what are not.
How ones caregivers respond to ones emotions will go a long way in defining whether one is comfortable with their emotions or whether they feel uncomfortable by having them. And all ones caregivers can do, is pass on the same understanding that they have with their emotions.
If they are alienated from their emotions, then they will most likely cause their child to form the same relationship with their emotions.
This may have resulted from the caregivers passing on the same form of repression that they themselves had. And emotions that their ego mind had associated as unsafe become what one now sees as unsafe. The same would apply with emotions that were displayed as safe and appropriate.
And what could have been used to control the Childs emotional expression would have been the withdrawal of love and therefore ones survival would have been at risk. This could have been through: rejection, abandonment, punishment or isolation.
One might find that the relationship they have with their emotions, is nothing more than a reflection of the relationship that their caregivers had with their emotions. And out of being in the same environment; one ended up seeing them in the same way.
The very act of judging them as good or bad and repressing them, or getting caught up in them; is ultimately what causes the identification and attachment to them. And with this, one loses the ability to observe their emotions and to decide whether to act on them, express them to another person or to simply acknowledge their presence.
As one comes to express their emotions, either to themselves or with the help of a therapist or healer, one will begin to gain a better emotional understanding. And with this, ones emotions will begin to settle and lessen in their intensity. Through this process, repression and reactive behaviour will start to diminish.
And most importantly; one will be able to be honest to oneself about what is really going on at an emotional level.
Oliver JR Cooper
Author, Transformational Writer, Teacher & Consultant - With Over 2,000,000 Article Views Online.
That which is contained within these articles is based on my own empirical understanding and is true for me at the time they were written. However, as I continue to grow, what I perceive as the truth will inevitably change and as a result of this - parts of these articles may not reflect my current outlook.