One thing I learned early on in my recovery from Binge-Eating Disorder was that “eating disorders are not about food”. I can’t count the number of times someone would say to me, “just moderate what you eat” or “everything in moderation”, as if my inability to break out of the binge/diet cycle had everything to do with food and nothing to do with feelings. Disordered eating is not about food. It’s about the inability to tolerate and/or express feelings.
In her book, “Women, Food, and God”, Geneen Roth writes about the importance of inquiring, or being curious, about our feelings. She says, “When I am willing to question and therefore feel whatever is there — terror, hatred, anger — with curiosity, the feelings relax, because they are met with kindness and openness instead of resistance and rejection.” Inquiring about our feelings allows us some space to witness them in a more detached way and takes away some of the powerful grip they often hold over us. It also creates the possibility for responding with wisdom instead of simply reacting.
One of the most difficult feelings for me to feel and express is anger. I’ve spent a lot of my life denying my anger, holding on to it, and even swallowing it through overeating or bingeing. Doing so helped temporarily, but the anger continued to simmer. Without inquiring about my anger, allowing myself to feel it and then venting it in healthy ways, I’ve been prone to unleashing it on others through reckless driving or screaming at a partner. I’ve since learned (though I’m not always great at it) to be curious about my anger and all of my feelings. I try to understand it like I would try to understand my best friend. I ask myself, “What does my anger look like? What color is it? What images and thoughts come to mind when I explore this anger? What is my anger trying to tell me about my current situation?”
Geneen Roth continues by saying, “Any inquiry starts with wanting to know something you don’t know. If you think you already know what’s wrong and how to fix it, there’s no need to inquire. Wanting to know something you don’t know activates your curiosity; it elicits your openness. It evokes the part of you that is not a conglomeration of old beliefs, ideas, self-images, stories, identifications. The ground of your being that is already saturated with peace, clarity, compassion…”
When I read those words I realize that being curious (without judgment) about my feelings allows for the development of a deep relationship with myself. My closest and most fulfilling relationships are those in which I approach the other person with a sense of curiosity and wonder. It’s what I do in my job as a counselor and it’s what I do with my friends, family, and loved ones. So, it seems important to do the same for myself — to approach my emotions with curiosity and without judgment so that I can not just tolerate them, but accept them for what they are.
Peace, joy, and health,