Monday, July 02, 2007

Invasion of the Pain-Body

What a night. I tossed and turned for a while, woke up at 3 a.m. and agonized over the out-of-control eating that happened yesterday, seeing all my hard work, my years of losing weight, slipping through my fingers. I couldn't even figure out why it happened, and I felt so helpless and unable to control this eating disorder. I started strategizing how I would call the doctor's office this morning and ask if I could try Meridia, because clearly my grasp of this IE is not working and I'm failing, failing, failing. I've been reading about Meridia as a medical treatment for Binge Eating Disorder, and I was convinced this was my only option to save myself.

I'm not sure what time it was when it finally hit me -- I think it was in the 4 a.m. hour. But I suddenly remembered the one part of "The Power of Now" that I hadn't written about here yet, and it clicked immediately. I had experienced a takeover of the Pain-Body.

Eckhart Tolle, the author, says that emotional pain leaves behind a residue of pain that lives on in you. It merges with pain from the past and becomes lodged in your mind and body. It is a negative energy field that can be dormant or active. Anything can trigger it.

This Pain-Body wants to survive, and it only can if you unconsciously identify with it. It gets its "food" through you and feeds on any experience that creates further pain in any form. Pain cannot feed on joy.

Once the Pain-Body has taken over, you want more pain. You are not conscious of this and will vehemently claim that you do not want pain. But your thinking and behaviors are designed to keep the pain going. Its survival depends on your unconscious identification with it, as well as your unconscious fear of facing the pain that lives in you.

Here's what happened to me, as far as I can tell. My Pain-Body was activated by spending the evening with my father. While nothing specifically terrible happened, it didn't have to; I started eating before I even got there just anticipating and preparing for my visit.

I don't write a lot about my father here, because to be honest we have a very distant relationship. I would consider us on good terms -- our conversations are pleasant and there aren't any major issues between us -- but it's very much a relationship of absenteeism. To fully illustrate this, here's a little anecdote that pretty much sums it up: several years ago a woman I worked with asked if she could interview me and my mother about my adoption of Mabel, because this co-worker was working on a book about adoption. She came to visit us, interviewing me first and then my mother. This co-worker came back to me for some wrap up questions, and she asked, "So, how long has it been since your father passed away?" I sputtered and said that he hadn't, and she apologized, saying, "I just thought, since you and your mom didn't bring him up at all, that..." Yeah, you get it.

There came a point for me 15 years ago that I had to emotionally withdraw and lower my expectations for our relationship, because to expect anything more was to create more disappointment and heartache for myself. I came to the conclusion that my dad was giving me all he had to give, and I had to learn to accept that. And to be honest, our relationship actually improved because of it. But it's normal for us to see or talk to each other maybe six times/days a year, and that's a high estimate.

Some of the old problems between us stems from the fact that I believe he associates me with my mother (they've been separated since 1996; the divorce was final in 2001), while my younger sister was considered on his side. Growing up I can remember being viewed as the spy, the stool pigeon who would tell my mother what he was up to and ruin his fun, while Sister was considered his "buddy." And yes, I was often my mother's ally in the war zone; I was her confidante, and sometimes that mother-daughter definition blurred as she relied on me for support. Meanwhile, Sister was Dad's party buddy and was his staunch defender on any number of issues. Since the divorce this division of the family has increased, especially when my sister left her husband and moved herself and her daughters into my dad's house, where she takes care of everything while he's traveling half the year. I live a mile away from my mom's house and see or talk to her nearly every day. So the camps are clearly defined.

I've tried to put these and other bad memories behind me (some of which I've discussed here before), but obviously these things still haunt me. I'm sure Tolle would consider this my Pain-Body. And what triggered my compulsive overeating yesterday? The yearly let-down that my dad once again forgot my birthday.

This has become almost a running joke in the dramedy of my life. My birthday is always the week of Father's Day, sometimes falling on the same day. I always make an effort to recognize Father's Day -- I give him a card, sometimes a gift, get together for a meal at his house -- but the only way he remembers my birthday is if I remind him repeatedly and basically bash him over the head with it. He even has a friend who has the same birthday as me and gives him hell for forgetting it, but it doesn't seem to sink in.

Now believe me, I don't expect balloons, streamers or big presents. I don't even have to get a card. But it would be nice for him to at least throw a "Happy Birthday" my way. And on the years when I do get some recognition because I've reminded and badgered him into remembering, it feels forced and unsatisfying.

So here's my theory of what happened: I started overeating earlier in the day in preparation of being forgotten about once again -- the fear of facing the pain that lives in me. When it did in fact happen, I continued to eat to comfort myself. My Pain-Body was activated by an expected trigger (dad forgetting my birthday), which then came true, and even though the eating was supposed to be a soother, it was really just feeding more pain (my eating disorder) feeding into the Pain-Body to make it even stronger. As if that wasn't enough, my middle of the night self-bashing and the snowballing irrational thinking gave the Pain-Body even more to feast on.

But then something wonderful happened. I did exactly what Eckhart Tolle tells us to do to regain control -- become aware of what is happening. He says:

The moment you observe it and take your attention into it, the identification is broken. A higher dimension of consciousness has come in -- presence. It cannot use you any more by pretending to be you, it can no longer replenish itself through you.

When I let the Pain-Body take over, I became unconscious, which according to Tolle means to be identified with some mental or emotional pattern. It implies a complete absence of the watcher -- my conscious Being. He suggests doing the following to do this:

Focus attention on the feeling inside you. Know that it is the Pain-Body. Accept that it is there. Don't think about it -- don't let that feeling turn into thinking. Don't judge or analyze. Don't make an identity for yourself out of it. Stay present and continue to be the observer of what is happening inside you. Become aware not only of the emotional pain but also of "the one who observes," the silent watcher. This is the Power of the Now, the power of your own conscious presence. Then see what happens.

Well, I will say that I feel better this morning having recognized all of this. It is gratifying to figure out why I do what I do and what causes it. While the perfectionist in me would have preferred that I discover this before I took thirds of potato salad or that third piece of pie, at least I figured it out before it stretched out into Day Two, Three or Thirty. But at least I now know this and will be prepared for the next time. Because if there's one thing I've learned, there's always a next time.

1 comment:

Beula said...

Andrea, we, Friend Kim and I, are reading this with bated eyeballs. Wow. What a post. You are such a help. I have been feeling out of control with the IE also. Yesterday's post and today's may be saving me. I am getting this book. "Pain body" what a concept. I will be thinking about this all day. Thank God for you and your willingness to share.