For the past 3 years or so, I have seen a psychologist on a weekly basis. I know that there are those people out there who either poo-poo the idea of seeing a mental professional or think that this is a matter that shouldn't be aired publicly because others might think less of you. Personally, I think everyone should be in therapy. We are all emotionally damaged in our own special way and act based on that damage whether we are aware of it or not. There's always the manifest portion of an act as well as the latent portion of that act. Choosing to ignore the latent portion (the REAL reason behind why we do what we do) only leads to a perpetually acting in that same way.
In my therapy sessions, we figure out the WHY of what I do so that, if the action is detrimental to myself or someone else, I can act differently in the future. Over the course of the last few years, I discovered lots of things about myself and how I feel that haven't been so pleasant, but have allowed me to view the world differently and to, therefore, act or react to situations differently. In the past two weeks we have come up with some pretty amazing insights.
1) Hi, My name is Heather (Hi Heather) and I am an emotional eater. (GASP!)
I've actually known this about myself for quite a while, but I was in denial for a LOOOONG time. The problem is that, up until last week, I couldn't figure out WHY I was an emotional eater. I was (thank God) never physically abused as a child or an adult. I, long ago, started trying to express my feelings rather than "eat" them. (Literally and figuratively). But I still didn't get why I felt the urge to eat a piece of cake or cookie or pint of ice cream in certain situations. (The theory is that, for emotional eaters, if you need love, you gravitate towards "soft" foods (ie, cake, ice cream, mashed potatoes). If you feel like you can't express anger or frustration, you lean towards foods that crunch (ie, potato chips, etc). I need love and so, my foods of choice are always "soft".)
The hypothesis that Dr. F and I have been working with recently is that my relationships are not emotionally nourishing. In my interactions with people on a daily basis, I expect to be fed on a cornucopia of fruits and vegetables and Filet Mignon. Instead, I come away from most interactions feeling as though all I've been offered is a rice cake. Now, don't get me wrong, if you are a fan of Styrofoam, a rice cake is quite a treat. For me, it's definitely NOT the first thing I'm going to grab out of the pantry. Despite being offered these relationship rice cakes on a continual basis, I keep going back thinking that THIS time it will be different. The problem with that theory is that some people are only capable of serving rice cakes. It doesn't matter what I say or do, that's not going to change. Thinking it will is an exercise in futility and only leads me to constantly seek solace in foods that bring me comfort.
2) Compliments and admiration are like crack cocaine for my soul.
When I was growing up, I was a pretty smart kid. I didn't really try very hard and yet I did well in school and it seemed like I could do anything I wanted on the first try (I think this is what they call selective memory). People complimented and praised me continually. This sort of emotional propping up is what I became accustomed to.
When I went to college and didn't do quite as well, when I was no longer a big fish in a little pond, when I had to actually work at things and didn't hear that kind of constant acknowledgement from the people that I relied upon for that sort of thing, I began to behave like an addict. Of course, it's only in hindsight that I realize that. I would do anything I could to get the attention and admiration that had once been doled out so generously, yet it wasn't as readily available to me.
Now that I have been weaned off of that sort of constant praise and introduced to what the real world is like, I find that when someone does compliment me, I feel nearly euphoric and ravenous for even more of that sort of stroking. It's like what I would imagine a drug addict experiences when they get a little taste of their vice. I've really noticed it take hold in the last week or so. Three times, I've had people say things to me or act in such a way that it makes me frightened of the effect it has on me. It makes me wonder how I can get more. Since I've been trying to build the emotional fortitude to stand on my own two feet and to not rely on others for my emotional well-being, this desire to please others and garner their attention seems a dangerous path to go down.
It's a good thing I get to talk to someone once a week so that I can work on these very things.