November 3, 2023•540 words
Recently had something of an emotional relapse that brought up a degree of fear/anxiety that I haven't felt in a while. It sucked at the time but it ended up bringing clarity around something that was teetering just out of my awareness, which are some of the ways I compulsively run away from and numb out my feelings rather than moving into and feeling them. I'm still sure there are more but some of the most deeply rooted are my tendency to eat, especially sugary foods, and to seek pleasure when uncomfortable feelings come up. It suddenly became clear as day that the cravings for sugar or pleasure always come after situations that bring up emotional unease.
Often this is after spending time with others, while the body/mind is processing the interactions and feelings. I've known for a while that I emotionally eat and pleasure-seek but I didn't realize the simplicity and seamlessness of the process - how a craving comes up in direct response to the feelings. So I'd just go ahead and eat some cookies or follow through with whatever else comes to the forefront. This effectively stalls the emotional processing and suppresses the feelings, making me "feel better" while I'm fulfilling the craving. Most of the time it doesn't really make me feel better though. Overall I end up feeling worse because I now also feel the sludge I've consumed mucking up my system or some other consequence of my choice to stuff/numb out. But it suppresses and distracts from the emotional discomfort, at least for a little while.
It struck me that when I follow the cravings instead of being with the feelings, what I'm really doing is extending my own suffering and recovery. The feelings remain unfelt and unprocessed, receding back into the body/mind only to come up again later. And in exchange all I really get is a quick and unsatisfying shot of pleasure along with a loss of resources, time, energy, power, peace, clarity and dignity.
So I stopped. I've started seeing the arising of a pleasure-craving as a direct signal that there's something to feel, and I've been focusing instead on directing my attention inward and giving the feelings some loving attention.
So far I've been surprised at how effective it's been and how I've been able to keep it up without much strain or effort. It's hard to say what it's doing exactly but I've felt more alert, grounded, energized and clear. Now that it's become more obvious what's going on it feels pretty easy. It's not like I'm forcing myself not to eat the cookies and such, I just see what's going on more clearly when they show up in the mind and am looking in a different direction now to "satisfy the cravings". Which is, essentially, at the craving/feeling itself. And usually within a couple minutes of steady attention and feeling into, it dissolves.
I know there are still other ways that I numb and distract but I'm not going to push things further for the time being. I'll carry on with this for a while, let things continue to clear out emotionally and trust that when the time comes more will become clear and ready to fall away.