Saturday, April 04, 2009

Patterns of behavior and the subconcious

Some quotes from Yoga of Eating, ch 13 - Dieting and Self-Acceptance, which got me thinking.
[Y]our body shape is integral to your current pattern of being. It's your body's proper and appropriate response to how you live and who you are.
If the body-soul has decided that obesity is the appropriate response to a given set of psychological, spiritual, and physical conditions, it will use whatever mechanisms are necessary to achieve this state.
So, if you decide to make some change in your life to reduce your weight (like cutting out carbohydrates), your body may respond with increased appetite, aversion to exercise, or reduced metabolism. 

What's interesting to me about this is not what it says about dieting and weight loss, but what I can learn about my deep unmet needs and fears and wounds and how to heal them.

I think of the choices I have made which have lead to my current body shape. I didn't overeat just once, and suddenly get fat. I did it over, and over again. I was proud of my reputation for someone who eats a lot of food. I also have eaten many, many sweet foods. I no longer eat Hostess, but that doesn't stop me from consuming plenty of sugar. As a teen I would eat Betty Crocker frosting straight from the tub. 

There's more to this than just "here's how I ate and got fat". Perhaps a pattern of behavior like this is indicative of an unmet need that the "body-soul" is trying to fulfill. That means our habits can be a tool for understanding the subconscious. Let's look at some examples from my life:

I think I wish to be healthy and attractive and fit, but somehow that hasn't stopped me consistently making decisions that took me away from those ideal. Why is it?

I think of all the times I could have ridden my bicycle somewhere, when the weather was fine, and I had enough energy, and I had enough time, and the ride was quite doable, and somehow I talked myself out of it. Why?

I'm not just fat: I am also terribly inflexible. I can't come anywhere close to touching my toes, legs straight. This is inconvenient a lot of the time, but that hasn't motivated me to stretch regularly. Why don't I stretch?

I also have pretty bad posture. I carry my head well forward of my shoulders. This means pain in my head, neck, shoulders, and back, and sometimes secondary pain in other parts of my body. Why don't I hold myself with good posture?

There's some reason I have made these decisions this way, consistently, for so many years. This isn't just about discipline or habits or not knowing that I was harming myself or not knowing a better way to do things. There's a reason I have stuck to these patterns of behavior that goes beyond such things. 

It seems clear to me that this is the work of my subconscious (cue ominous music). There's some unmet need behind these patterns of behavior. They can give me a starting point for digging in to my deeper self to discover those unmet needs and maybe find some healing.

I don't think I can group "overeating" and "overweight" in to the same behavior pattern. When researching food issues recently, I came across a story of a woman who would binge on food, and then work out excessively to burn the extra calories, so she could stay thin. This person had one issue that motivated the overeating, and another that motivated her to burn it off.

A friend used to binge and then go on strict diets to keep her weight down. She had one issue that motivated the eating, and another that motivated the dieting. Her life coach encouraged her to stop the diets. She promptly gained a lot of weight, and she seems to be a much happier person, having let go of that harsh treatment of herself. I think her thin shape was an expression of her self-loathing, and her fat shape is an expression of her love for herself and her joy in life. 

I talked about harmful behaviors above, but this applies to all my consistent patterns of behavior, including the ones I like. Digging in to those can help me understand myself in ways that I want to be careful not to change.

In Harville Hendrix's Getting the Love you want he hits on a similar notion when he says that your spouse's consistent complaints about your are likely to lead you to childhood wounds and your adaptations to those wounds. He's right, but you can go further and look at all consistent observations, from your spouse, friends, coworkers, family, and self.

Take a look at how you live your life. What are the things you do a certain way, consistently? Why?


Jan Bosman said...

Those are really good questions. Very simple, and very difficult. I'll keep them in mind.

My metabolism lets me more or less get away with eating whatever I want. That makes it more challenging when the symptoms may be far less obvious. I've never worried about gaining weight, but more often than not I have to remind myself to eat enough. And well enough. I usually make it halfway between.

When I was a boy, my mom used to cut my hair, and the only way she could get me to sit still was to give me a spoon full of sugar. Something about the time it took me to savor every granule and waste not. I'm sure by the time it was over, I was bouncing off the walls - or maybe it was enough that I crashed immediately. The fact that I don't remember how that ended is probably indicative of... something.

Ranee said...


This may seem like a rather odd comment, but...

Did you go to CTY in Geneva in 1989?

I found your blog while searching for raw milk cottage cheese recipes, the name struck me as familiar, so I checked at the cty alumni page and there seemed to be someone there with your name. If this is the same person, I remember you, at least a little, and still have photos from that summer. I went back the next year, but didn't participate any later than that at the summer programs.

Anyway, just thought I'd ask. The e-mail address attached to this blogger account is good.

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