Tuesday, July 10, 2007

My Love/Hate Relationship

The great thing about "The Power of Now" is that even though it isn't a book about eating disorders or Intuitive Eating, a lot of the concepts and ideas in the book can be related to these issues. In the chapter "Enlightened Relationships," Eckhart Tolle writes about love/hate relationships, and as I read the following excerpt, I could help substituting love/hate with dieting/bingeing (I'm adding my substitutions below in brackets):

"Unless and until you access the consciousness frequency of presence, all relationships [diets]... are deeply flawed and ultimately dysfunctional. They may seem perfect for a while, such as when you are 'in love' [losing weight], but invariably that apparent perfection gets disrupted as arguments, conflicts, dissatisfaction, and emotional or even physical violence [deprivation, setbacks, plateaus, or even bingeing] occur with increasing frequency. It seems that most 'love relationships' become love/hate relationships before long... When a balance between the positive/negative polarities is lost and the negative, destructive [binge] cycles occur with increasing frequency and intensity, which tends to happen sooner or later, then it will not be long before the relationship [diet] finally collapses."

That's what happened to me. At first I was in love with losing weight, with counting calories, cutting out unhealthy foods and getting in as much exercise as possible. Then the feelings of deprivation started. A setback or plateau would start negative thoughts, not to mention the guilt and self-loathing caused by a binge. Then the drama would start all over again as I "kicked myself back into gear" and went back on the diet. Before long the destructive parts -- deprivation, bingeing, negative thoughts -- became more and more prevalent, and the emotional roller coaster never seemed to slow down.

The next section of the book validated for me why I had to give up dieting:

"It may appear that if you could only eliminate the negative or destructive cycles [bingeing], then all would be well and the relationship [diet] would flower beautifully -- but alas, this is not possible. The polarities are mutually interdependent. You cannot have one without the other. The positive [dieting] already contains within itself the as yet unmanifested negative [bingeing]. Both are in fact different aspects of the same dysfunction."

The next section of the chapter is how we become addicted to another person or relationship, but again, it's very easy to substitute here with my disordered eating:

"Every addiction arises from an unconscious refusal to face and move through your own pain. Every addiction starts with pain and ends with pain. Whatever the substance you are addicted to -- alcohol, food, legal or illegal drugs, a person -- you are using something or somebody to cover up your pain. That is why, after the initial euphoria has passed, there is so much unhappiness, so much pain in intimate relationships. They do not cause pain and unhappiness. The bring out the pain and unhappiness that is already in you. Every addiction does that. Every addiction reaches a point where it does not work for you anymore, and then you feel the pain more intensely than ever."

This is where I was in April, when I seemed to hit bottom and could no longer take the up/down turmoil of the dieting and bingeing. And I think that's why I've been dealing with so much anxiety and I have these overly emotional days. Now that the bingeing isn't working for me anymore, I'm forced to face and move through my pain. Tolle addresses this as well:

"This is one reason why most people are always trying to escape from the present moment and are seeking some kind of salvation in the future. The first thing they might encounter if they focused their attention on the Now is their own pain, and this is what they fear. If they only knew how easy it is to access in the Now the power of presence that dissolves the past and its pain, the reality that dissolves the illusion. If they only knew how close they are to their own reality, how close to God."

Yes, taking the Path of Intuitive Eating and trying to give up the diet/binge roller coaster has forced me to face fears I've been avoiding. It hasn't always been pleasant, and I haven't always been able to fight the old, familiar habit of escaping into food. But when I do manage to ride it out, to stick with those feelings, I find out I don't break down into a pile of jelly. I don't burst into tears and cry for days. I don't curl up in bed under the sheets for a week. I may be miserable and not fun to be with for a day, but no one hates me, no relationships come to an end because I've let my unpleasant feelings show.

In fact, it happens much like Tolle describes above. Once I push past my fears of the bogey man and force myself to look under the bed, there's nothing there. Because in the Now, there is nothing to fear. The emotions I'm holding in are reactions from the past, and once I let them loose, they quickly dissolve because they have nothing to do with the present. It's like placing a lit match in a vacuum -- without a source of oxygen, the flame quickly dies out.

When I keep myself aware of these things -- when I don't let the anxiety and fear of my emotions take over, when I don't immediately give in to the easy way out (food) -- it suddenly doesn't seem so hard to fight what was once uncontrollable and compulsive.

Yesterday I was able to eat half a candy bar. I tore it in half, wrapped the remainder in the wrapper and set it aside. And it's still sitting there now. This is absolutely revolutionary for me. Yet it didn't seem bizarre when I did it. I wasn't shaking and craving it like a junkie, didn't hear it calling my name the rest of the night.

While it's unheard of behavior from me, I know this is an every day occurrence with my daughter. And the last few days I've almost felt like a little kid again, especially since I got my bicycle out of retirement. Mabel and I rode around town again yesterday, then managed to get ourselves invited to swim at a friend's house, which was wonderful in our current heat wave. It was a great, calm, fun summer day like the ones I had as a kid.

And I feel especially childish (in a good way!) the last two days since I've been riding my bike to work. My neighbor, who was putting his garbage out Monday morning, caught me going to work, and I said I was doing my part to be "green" by not driving my vehicle. But that was a lie. I'm doing it because it's fun. Suddenly going to work is a mini-adventure, the world around me somehow seems new and more alive when I'm not looking at it from behind a windshield or in a rear view mirror.

Is it possible to be in love with a bicycle? I jest: I know that this piece of metal and rubber is a tool that's allowing me to be more in the Now. And I'm loving every minute of it.


Beula said...

Yes it is possible to be in love with a bicycle. I love mine. It is yellow and white and gray paisley colored. I get on it and I am a ten year old. It is fun. I don't do fun. I enjoy stuff but I don't have fun. Funny huh? On that bicycle I remember the way my whole life opened out before me as a child. Unending time filled with wonderful possibilities. I have let trials and tribulations squash my life into a narrow rut. Fooey to that nonsense. I am healthy and intelligent and blessed. Life is still an adventure.

I am also struggling to tolerate my pain load without the cushion of food mania. If food is just good tasting fuel and not morphia where will I get the pleasure to make up for my pain? Fun. I am learning to develop my fun(ny) bones. Mark, a funster from way back, says I am woefully behind. We had a water fight last night. He says I was/am hampered by not having siblings. I may not be good at it but I am willing to learn. Take care. Good post.

Tree Lover said...

I know I'm a little late to comment on this post, but I wanted to let you know how much this resonated with me. Honestly, I've never been able to get much out of this chapter of The Power of Now. Thanks for giving me a whole new way of looking at it.

Anonymous said...

Very useful, excellent information..

You may also find it useful to visit my website: http://www.healthopts.com