I'm always to blame. It's always my fault. I should have done something different. I could have tried harder. I often hear these comments from my clients. This can be in regards to a large variety of circumstances. Often, these permeating thoughts relate to relationships or work environments. They also relate to our first experiences of severe pain.
Part of normal emotional development allows for us to take a backseat to blame as we become an adult. We realize that we are actually much less in control of the world than our upbringing lead us to believe and we are very much a little fish in what seems like a very big pond. We stop seeing the world in linear equations filled with black and white scenarios and exchange them for a big pit of grey with right turns and left turns more than right or wrong.
The point at which some sort of severe emotional pain occurred can halt the emotional progression and freeze us at whatever age it happened. What it looks like in my office is typically a client who always thinks others peoples reactions are in effect to what they have done wrong. They rarely consider that someone could just be having a bad day or that their bad day is unrelated to the person they are across from (my client).
Our desire to make sense of pain creates the desire to construct a situation that we could have controlled. This is where you see self-blame in tragedy. We falsely believe if we think we could have controlled the situation than we can prevent pain from ever happening again. It creates pain as the enemy and pain being something that is now living inside of us means that we must be the enemy too. This creates the desire to be perfect, a constant running away from the self that has something wrong with it. A self that is just hurting.
While our emotional IQ may stunt at the age of severe pain we can learn to let go of linear and black and white thinking, the crazed desire for control, and complete detachment from pain and catch up to speed with our real emotional age. It's a long journey that insists you give up shame for an opportunity to heal from pain and a journey that will reintroduce you to yourself with a worth and value bag filled to capacity- with an explanation that it was always there in the first place. You just gave it all away before you knew you didn't have too.
Most of us are familiar with fear. It's that thing when you notice your heart is beating a little faster, your tummy may feel a little funny, or maybe your hands get a little clammy. Fear is a normal response to danger. What then is this word ANXIETY? Fear in the most extreme sense becomes anxiety and is still a normal response to danger.
Our brain is built to protect us. In times of danger the tiniest little part in our brain, the amygdala, prepares for an attack my a mountain lion. Useful maybe when we roamed with mountain lions. Less useful when most of the mountain lions we see are in cages or across moats at a zoo. The fight or flight response triggered by the amygdala produces immediate reaction in the way of movement away from danger. It does this by flooding the body with oxygen, hormones, and adrenaline. But, unless your danger causes a real need to flee you've just fueled up your body with extra awesome petrol and are just revving an engine that's up on stilts in the garage.
This is what anxiety feels like. It's that weird feeling you got that one time you had way too much caffeine when you thought it would be great to pull an all nighter studying for an exam and instead of being able to study you felt like you needed to go run a few miles. Now think about what that feeling does inside your stomach. It lights to furnace and puts it into overdrive. While some people will feel so pumped with adrenaline they can't even imagine eating; others will drive the body towards more fuel to be the most prepared to go into the battle for our lives. You haven't forgotten about the mountain lion, have you?
Consider for a minute how this anxiety if it occurs at a somewhat often or constant level can affect your desire to eat. Those who are more sensitive to feelings in their stomach may be triggered to either 'starve away' their anxiety or, 'eat it away'. While neither of these have anything to do with anxiety, the association can be created in the anxious person very quickly. With a wildly running nervous system it's hard not to want to fuel up at every rest stop- did I mention there is a mountain lion after you?
How many times have we heard, 'you can have anything you want' or 'the world is yours' or 'you kids have it so easy'... and how often do you feel like if that is how life is supposed to be then you just aren't cutting it. It may be true to some degree. From certain corners of the intersection, we may have things pretty easy. Most of us were afforded the luxury of attending college if we wanted to (it probably wasn't presented as much of an option- but getting out of the house sure sounded like a dream come true). Some of us got our first car at sixteen. Some of us weren't forced to work odd early jobs, in order to focus on our school work. Many of us were even supported in our hobbies and all of the expenses that go along with it. From a mere financial perspective, most of us had an easier time than our folks did.
The idea that you can have everything you want likely didn't come with a how-to guide or a customer service line. In fact, instead what there seems to be is a thousand people willing to offer what worked for them followed by many confused faces when we don't seem to want to do what they say, usually having something to do with the year 1984 and not 2015. Hopefully, it's moved past the sound of slamming doors and hollering, 'you just don't understand me' down the hall. If this is a distant memory, tell yourself congratulations for making it out of your parents house. If you just yelled it before stumbling on this site, take a deep breath and keep reading.
The point is this. From a financial standpoint, maybe. From an options standpoint, maybe. (Quick note: It's less likely that we will make more money than our parents did as individual. We may generate more income as part of a two income home than our household we grew up in IF mom stayed at home.) The language of finances doesn't translate to the language of emotional support, care, or LOVE. Yet, because our folks grew up with less money at their disposal than we did the offering up of money (buying another pair of the super cool pants we just had to have as a high schooler) has taken the place of a great deal of emotional connection. An emotional connection is likely where we find the space to feel like we are cutting it. Without it is where we find the space to feel as if we aren't.
If you use food to medicate your emotions the next step is typically a mad dash to prove we can have anything we want (ben & jerry's, giant bowl of pasta) or we decide we aren't worth it, don't deserve it and decide to starve. Sound like a familiar pattern?