The Unnerving Force: Permission to Feel
Eating Disorders Edition
What would happen if you gave yourself permission to feel?
Imagine: Pressing pause on the busyness, facing the avoidance, slowing down for a moment, acknowledging the overwhelm and uneasiness…as your body senses freedom to release what it truly feels. Do you listen?
Remember: When was the first time that you can recall sharing your true, authentic feelings to someone that you trusted, confiding in them … mustering the courage to share your vulnerabilities … and their reaction was … uncalled for? Perhaps they rejected your expression with denial, anger, or ignorance toward your confession. When was the first time you internalized that your feelings were not valid and that it was easier to shut off uncomfortable emotions rather than to feel and express them?
Reflect: Each of us has a tapestry of lived experiences that have shaped how we tolerate or suppress emotional outcomes. For years, many of us have been conditioned to deny our feelings – specifically speaking – feelings that evoke distress when considering our bodies. Perhaps we have felt overwhelmed by our own emotions and expectations of our bodies … and after a long period of time the complexities of our feelings can project catastrophe and even chaos as we consider the unveiling. To begin articulating such bodily sensations feels utterly confusing. Obsessive or compulsive thoughts may precede intense physical responses to our emotional discourse … numbness, disgust, dissociation, or shame. Many of us cope with such discomfort through the illusionary lens of satisfaction by controlling food or exercise. With eating disorders, emotional highs and lows can become a rollercoaster, sweeping us off the floor and throwing our heads back in self-disciplined delight, to the next minute plummeting into an intrusive hole of self-hatred. When experiencing an eating disorder, it can feel that you have control at last, that a structured regime creates a sense of ease, while simultaneously disconnecting our bodies natural rhythms from the parts of our brain that manage rational thinking.
Imagine: Having a phobia, something you fear, and Every. Single. Day. facing that fear, multiple times a day, fixating about that fear, ruminating on mental exits, yet you can never completely get away. Struggling with an eating disorder, can feel something like this. We may deny our emotional wounds and think only that this acquired sense of control will help us feel in balance or create relief. We may be aware of the harm occurring to our bodies, but the release of tension through restriction overpowers logical reasoning to stop. And so we hide. Stay silent in the fight until our bodies start speaking for us.
Remember: It is important to know that anyone who experiences an eating disorder feels reality differently. Their reasons, story, and symptoms will sometimes differ drastically and often overlap. This may take the form of food avoidance, obsessive-compulsive eating habits, food anxiety, social anxiety or phobia, Anorexia Nervosa, ATypical Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia, Binge-Eating Disorder, Body Dysmorphia, restrictive eating, excessive exercising or dieting, as well as issues regarding self-worth, body image, self-harm or suicidal ideations. If you are experiencing characteristics of an eating disorder, OR you are curious about steps to take in allowing yourself to feel whole-heartedly as a human being; unpacking the physical sensations connected to your lived experiences and the emotions that run deep; questioning and facing the behaviour that makes you feel stuck – reach out, we can help!
Reflect: What could happen if we (re)discovered and (re)established one part of us, a singular personal narrative, one moment in our day to say: “I give you permission to feel your feelings”. To go on narrating, “The next time I experience a wave of embarrassment, fear, sadness, or the next time I am upset, but don’t know why, I can stop whatever I am doing and allow myself to feel my feelings”. I can validate them and say, “Yes, I am angry, sad, etc.” “This is how it feels…” What would happen if you slowly, but surely learned steps to reclaim parts of your body, the feelings, and thoughts that attach to those parts? Remember, that whatever you are feeling is a part of your wholeness as a human being, be brave to experience it fully.
Blog Post by Canadian Certified Counsellor, Cayle Fiala