I remember when I was six years old and there was a terrible thunderstorm. I was so scared; I ran into our freezer in the basement and started to eat chocolate peppermint ice cream by the spoonful. In order to avoid feeling the fear of the thunderstorm, I attempted to feel better by eating loads and loads of ice cream. Well, the thunderstorm did not disappear and my feeling of insecurity was simply masked by a stomachache, cold hands, and a cold mouth. I learned, like so many people do, at a young age to stuff my feelings with food.
Interestingly enough, my comfort food of choice in high school and throughout college was always ice cream. Coincidence? I think not. I imprinted a memory of being scared and alleviating the feeling for a moment by eating ice cream. That imprint stayed with me for over 15 years.
It wasn’t until I was out of college that I started to address this unhealthy way of dealing with “negative” emotions. Throughout college, I learned to journal, to talk about how I felt, to pray, to run, and to connect for the first time.
For many years in high school, I simply avoided how I felt by being really busy and “productive” in school and sports. And the occasional ice cream binge was included in my coping mechanisms.
When I arrived in college, I started to unravel and the true feelings that I had been hiding for so many years came out in very strange ways. For example, I started to deal with panic attacks on a regular basis. I would try to go to sleep in my dorm room and my heart would start racing and I couldn’t breath properly. The feelings chased me down and would not allow me to move forward without addressing and dealing with my true feelings.
Day by day and month by month, I began the painful process of peeling away the layers of feelings. It wasn’t until years later that I hit the deepest emotion that I had felt in my life: emotional abandonment. I learned this when I was on a Biblical study tour in Israel.
I had a wonderful childhood and about the best parents that anyone could ever have. I was a daddy’s girl and loved being with my dad. When he bought my grandpa’s business and took over ownership, I didn’t know how to interpret what was happening. I ended up feeling emotionally abandoned because I didn’t understand that he was doing what was best for our family and what was necessary for our wellbeing. The problem wasn’t that he bought the business; it was in my interpretation of what was happening.
It was a divine set-up because in Israel, years and years later, God uncovered this root of abandonment and I received the most profound inner healing that I have ever received. It was the most incredible experience of my life. Through prayer and journaling, I discovered that God was with me the entire time and that the abandonment that I thought was from my father was actually something that I felt internally between God and myself. There was a gaping hole in my heart, a hole of abandonment that could only be filled by the love of God.
After my trip to Israel, I felt so satisfied in the deepest part of my soul. What I noticed was that I ate less and felt more satisfied. I did not feel many urges for sugar or ice cream. The emotional mess internally was repaired in such a deep way that I did not have any need to try to mask my emotional turmoil.
“Even if you are not at ease right now, being aware that you’re not at ease embraces that unease and dissipates it. Learn to be with and accept what is (Eckhart Tolle).”
Through the process of inner and emotional healing, I had to learn to embrace whatever I was feeling when I was feeling it in order for it to be resolved. This is exactly what so many of us try to avoid and push away through various distractions and addictions. Many of us are addicted to avoiding feelings and food is one of the means by which we avoid feeling all our feelings.
“All addictive behaviors are attempts to suppress and avoid feeling what we feel” (John Gray).
One question to ask yourself would be: How do I avoid feeling my feelings? What am I avoiding? How do I use food as a way to escape “negative” emotions?
Take steps towards embracing yourself as an emotional, spiritual, and physical being. We are not machines nor are we robots. This process is very counter-cultural, but being a healthy, whole person is counter-cultural as well.
Many people who are ill have feelings that are masked and covered beneath all the physical manifestations. Somehow our feelings will find us. Whether we learn to breath and feel through all of our emotions or whether we mask and stuff our emotions, they will come out.
“Acceptance means you allow yourself to feel whatever you are feeling at the moment (Eckhart Tolle).”
Can we accept the emotional side of us? Can we embrace the painful moments and invite the process of healing? We can reach out to people, to God, and to many avenues to help our soul and heart heal and reach a place of complete acceptance.