Something I’ve always struggled with is comparing myself to my peers, whether it be my intelligence, my character, my appearance, or a plethora of other things. Before my eating disorder manifested itself, I kind of repressed those feelings, not dealing with–or even acknowledging–them. My eating disorder was a way to numb those feelings even further; it gave me a sense of pride, and blocked out my hidden insecurities with its fake “shield” of safety. The thing is, the freedom from these unpleasant emotions was only temporary–soon after they would return, even more unbearable than before.
Once I got to Renfrew, the main message I kept hearing over and over again was sit with it.
Sit with it.
Sit with the discomfort–for if you are patient enough, they will pass by. After all, most eating disorders stem from not wanting to feel certain emotions; they are a way to weaken the emotions’ strength so you don’t have to deal with the discomfort of fully experiencing them. What Renfrew taught me is that there is a “natural arc of emotion”, a picture of which I have attached here:
The x-axis displays time, and the y-axis displays emotional intensity. Its main message is that when a situation occurs to illicit a certain emotion, that emotion will rise, peak, and eventually go back down naturally–if we allow it to. However, if the emotion feels very unbearable, some people may act on maladaptive emotion-driven behaviors (EDBs) to try and numb the experience (examples are restricting, compulsively exercising, etc.) The point at which the emotion reaches its peak is portrayed on the graph with the text box titled “avoidance”; this is when most people go through with EDBs.
However, this is not a good course of action, as it only will strengthen the emotion the next time you experience it. It also reinforces the idea that the emotions you are experiencing are negative, or “bad”–when in reality, no emotions are inherently “bad”. They all serve a purpose, like reminding you that you need to do something, or letting you know an event occurred that may not be satisfactory or pleasant. Thus, the only way to fight the urge to act on maladaptive EDBs and truly combat your eating disorder is to sit with the emotions. You can do this by acknowledging the feeling and your resistance towards it, and then trying to let go of that resistance and tolerate the feeling (easier said than done, I know!) Doing little activities that bring you joy, like painting or reading, may help–just make sure they aren’t avoidance behaviors (behaviors that distract you from actually feeling the emotion).
So, this was my little post about dealing with uncomfortable emotions! I hope it helped you 🙂