Perhaps like many of you, I sometimes find myself overeating – especially at night. I know I’m not really hungry – not physically hungry anyway. And, yes, I have the tools to release and work with the feelings that are driving my craving for just one more cookie. (I tell myself it’s OK because they’re sugar and gluten-free). But, I don’t want to use my tools. I want to eat my cookies!
But this morning I awoke with sense of longing – a longing for comfort – which didn’t really surprise me since I’d already figured that I was trying to comfort myself with food. But it wasn’t until this morning that I tapped into the feeling of longing and took the time to get a clearer sense, a clearer felt sense, of its tone and texture, and how it was vibrating in my body. It became clear that my longing for comfort was more specific than a longing for comfort. It was a longing to be comforted by another human being. While the two might sound very similar, at the level of the felt sense, they are very different. The former is conceptual, but the latter is palpable and requires me to feel and access something deeper and more vulnerable inside myself.
As I continued to track my body sensations and the feeling that came with them, I had a feeling-image of a kind woman sitting next to me on the ground, touching my hand, and speaking softly, after a car accident I had 15 years ago. It felt so good to let in her kindness, her touch, and the comfort of another human being’s ability to just let me be – where I was and how I felt.
In reality, after that accident, I was all alone and in shock. I went to lie down on the ground so I could get grounded and breathe and let my body shake, when an EMS person asked me to get up. She said I was traumatizing the other drivers who were being routed around the accident site! In my state of shock and victimhood I complied.
Perhaps this unmet need for comfort following the traumatic event had gotten stuck in my bodymind - maybe exacerbated by being unable to complete the discharge of energy following the accident. Or perhaps I was “remembering” other times that I didn’t receive the comfort that I needed, but it’s not really important.
Working at the level of the body has shown me over and over again that the story doesn’t matter. The whys are irrelevant. Simply allowing myself to be with the felt sense of longing, allowed an image to come, and allowed for a compassionate space for the feeling to dissolve. I’ll keep you posted on my cookie habit, but until then I think my boy Bessel Van Der Kolk says it best,
“Neuroscience research shows that the only way we can change the way we feel is by becoming aware of our inner experience and learning to befriend what is going inside ourselves.” Bessel Van Der Kolk, MD, The Body Keeps the Score.
Related article: What Are You Hungry For: A Therapist's Encounter With A Food Craving