It’s a great feeling to finally feel yourself properly in the driving seat. You set the destination, you decide where you want to go and how and why, there’s no-one holding you back now, or ordering you around.
Which is when most people discover the next hurdle on the path: now they are starting to get some mental clarity, and a break from the backseat driver’s incessant instructions, nagging, small talk and general freak-outs about all things large and small, they find
they have no idea where they want to go. Or why. Or how they actually feel about the process of trying to get there.
It’s like that 17 year old who finally gets around to asking the cute girl out for a date, and after months of planning and hoping and waiting finds he has absolutely nothing to say to her when the big day comes around.
If you’re not prepared for this part of the journey, it can easily tip you head-over-heels and have you scrambling to invite the backseat driver back into the car again, so you can get past that panicked feeling of having no frigging clue about what you actually want to do in life, or how.
“Sure, I had all plans to drive down South and visit a bunch of cool canyons but now that I can actually just go right ahead and do, I’ve got cold feet. I’m not sure I want to spend a month of my time on a road-trip right now. I’m scared of what I’m going to find if I go. I’m even more scared of what I might come back to.
“Maybe, this emotional freedom is more hassle than it’s worth, and it’s easier to go back to just following orders and dreaming about freedom in theory…”
This is a really normal response, to that first taste of freedom.
That's why so many long-term prisoners baulk when they're finally released, and will do anything they can to get themselves back into jail as quickly as possible.
You’re being stampeded into a panic about what’s out there, and you’re probably also stressing about how you’re going to cope, and feeling pretty overwhelmed by all the things that you kind of relied on the backseat driver to take care of for you.
This is when it starts to dawn on you that kicking that guy out of the car was empowering, but maybe also the dumbest thing you ever did in your life. Because now there is no-one else to blame, there is nothing else to hide behind and the buck stops with you.
If you’re not prepared for that heady kick-back from your first real taste of freedom, it can knock you out cold. So many people turn tail and run when they’re finally given the key to open the door, and get out there a little, but that’s only because no-one ever told them that this feeling of overwhelming panic is just a stage.
If you sit quietly, and wait it out, it’ll pass. For some people, it may take a few minutes for the freak out to start to fade away, for others it may be more like a couple of hours, or a couple of days. But it won’t be more than that, and if you can get through this stage, you’ll be through maybe the biggest milestone on your quest for emotional freedom.
It’s like when you bring that cute puppy home from the pound in its plastic travel crate. The first time you open that box up, that cute critter is going to power out of there like Usain Bolt.
It’s going to run up the walls, wee in the corners and generally make you wish you’d just said ‘no’ to all the wheedling to get a dog.
Alternatively, it’ll push its way back, far, far back, against the wall of the carry crate, and not hell nor high water will get that animal to venture out into the wide open space of your yard. But just leave the door open, go about your business, and slowly but surely, he’ll start sniffing around and when he gets a little hungry, or he needs to attend to some present business, he’ll come out and make your acquaintance.
Whichever way your own internal ‘critter response’ is going to play out, trying to stuff the dog back in the box and shipping it straight back to the pound is not the answer.
You wanted that dog in your life because you wanted the benefit of getting your face all licked off when you open the door after a hard day’s hustle, and you wanted something warm and cuddly to hang out with and talk to. Maybe, you also wanted Buster in your life to give you a greater sense of security, and like someone, something, has got your back.
A dog can do a lot of good things for you. Persevering through those often difficult few days and weeks when you’re starting to get to know each other, and starting to figure out what each of you can bring to the relationship, and how best to relate to each other takes time and a lot of patience.
The same is true with your internal ‘critter response’. Those guys have been all boxed-up inside of you while the backseat driver’s been calling the shots for years. Now that you’re finally swinging the cage open, you can expect to feel messy and chaotic for a while, or panicked and all crumpled up at the back, scared to put a foot wrong.
But with a bit of coaxing, a bit of training, and a lot of patience, your critter response will turn around from crazy-making overwhelm, to giving you the best, most loyal and lickable best friend you ever had in your life.
Once you’ve been in the ‘alternative health’ game for a while, you start to realize that a lot of what passes as ‘healthy’ eating is actually an eating disorder in disguise.
It can be so very difficult to spot this, especially initially, because deep down we all know that at least on some basic level, we are what we eat, and the more fruit and veg we can get down us, and the more whole grains we knock back, and the more ice-cream, margarine and jelly beans we avoid, the better it’s probably going to be for us, health-wise.
BUT - there’s a line that’s so easily crossed when ‘eating healthy’ actually turns into ‘eating disordered’, and in this post, I want to try to pin down where that line actually is.
THE FIRST RED FLAG: EVERYTHING IS BOILED DOWN TO FOOD
One big red flag is when the ‘healthy eating’ person starts to bring all their problems and issues - and everyone else’s problems and issues back down to food. Got a headache? It’s a food issue. Feeling sad, anxious or upset about something? It’s a food issue. Having serious relationship difficulties with your parents, spouse or kids? Man, you just need to eat more seaweed and steer clear of red meat!!!
And so on and so forth, until the whole awesome complexity of being a sentient human being with a spiritual dimension and a highly complicated inner emotional world is boiled down to how much gluten or sugar you’re consuming.
Sadly, this is something that I see SO OFTEN in the ‘healthy eating’ world, and amongst the ‘healthy eating’ experts out there that is pretty much passes as standard, normal behavior. And that’s such a shame, because people are rarely so black and white, and even when food is a major component in their issues, it’s hardly ever the only thing contributing to their problems or difficulties.
People typically eat junk when they feel overwhelmed by life, and when their self-destructive emotional and spiritual impulses are running the show. But here’s the thing: simply switching the diet over to wholefoods / raw foods / gluten free / sugar free / macrobiotic / whatever the fad of the month is doesn’t solve the underlying emotional and spiritual issues.
Over time, it can surely ameliorate them, and begin the process of moving to a much healthier overall mindset and approach to life which puts a proper emphasis on looking after the self, and dealing with cause and effect, but food is not the whole answer.
So that’s the first way you can tell if ‘eating healthy’ has morphed into ‘eating disordered’, when absolutely everything in the world is brought down to food, or the particular diet etc that the person happens to be following.
THE SECOND RED FLAG: A RIGID, JUDGMENTAL AND CONTROLLING ATTITUDE
Another key sign that ‘eating healthy’ has become ‘eating disordered’ is when the healthy eater starts to adopt an extremely rigid, judgmental and even controlling attitude towards people in their orbit that aren’t eating healthy, according to them.
Again, this is unfortunately such normal ‘standard’ behavior in the alternative health world that it’s completely off most people’s radars. But to call a spade a spade, when people start getting all uppity about other people’s ‘lack of self-control’ that they don’t just eat kale for lunch, or jog five miles before breakfast, or contort themselves into all sorts of ‘relaxing’ poses for three hours a day, that’s another big flashing neon sign that ‘eating healthy’ has become ‘eating disordered’.
Rigid thinking is one of the key signs mental health professionals look for when diagnosing serious issues including personality disorders, etc. The more ‘rigid’ a person is, the more controlling they are, the less flexibility or ‘give’ there is in their routine, their thought processes, their ability to roll with the punches and react to ever-changing external circumstances, the bigger the problem.
Again, let’s remember that so many people only eat unhealthily in the first place due to underlying emotional and spiritual issues that aren’t being properly acknowledged and addressed.
It’s the easiest thing in the world to ‘flip’ these issues into a rigid, intolerant and judgmental approach to food and life that’s anything but really healthy.
THE THIRD RED FLAG: THEY'RE ANGRY, MISERABLE AND STRESSED!
The last telltale sign that ‘eating healthy’ is really actually ‘eating disordered’ is the person’s own mood. Invariably, when people are truly ‘eating healthy’ in a balanced, truly useful way, they feel great, they feel happy, they exude calm and joy, and they tend to be pretty laid back individuals that are easy to get on with and be around.
By contrast, when someone is ‘eating disordered’ then they’re usually full of repressed (and not so repressed…) anger, prickliness and intolerance. They tend to be wound very tight, on the ‘mega stressed’ end of the relaxation scale, and to be very hard to be around or really get on with, for any length of time, not least because they often put the burden of their own incredibly high expectations (and diet prep…) on to you.
These are the people who will tut disapprovingly when they see you holding the Starbucks paper cup, or who have to tell you how many ‘bad’ calories are in that muffin you’re eating, or who encourage you / nag you to eat different, or exercise better, or fast more ALL THE TIME!!!
No conversation can pass that doesn’t have some reference to food, and if you’re not eating disordered yourself, that usually makes for a pretty annoying, stressful and aggravating exchange of ideas.
So, to sum up: if someone isn’t glowing with joy, if they’re a martinet about food, or hyper-anxious about everything they’re eating, if they can’t go with the flow and keep feeling the need to bring up their food (figuratively speaking…) every chance they get, and to lecture people about their diets - the chances are very high that they are eating DISORDERED, not eating healthy.
Whatever they’re actually claiming or telling you about their AMAZING!!! eating habits.
You know, I’ve spent the best part of four years studying personality disorders, and all the related mentally-ill behaviors and traits that people display when they’ve got a serious screw loose.
I can quote whole parts of the DSM by heart; I’ve been exploring the links between trauma, and particularly the fight/flight/freeze response and emotional and mental illness; I’ve written a few books on the subject too, looking at how emotional difficulties and physical health problems go hand-in-hand.
And yet last week, it still shocked me to realize that certain patterns of behavior that I’d been on the receiving end of (and also, to my deep dismay, reflecting along the chain to others) – was actually emotionally abusive.
I’ll give one example: for the past couple of years, certain people have been giving me the cold shoulder. To my knowledge, I haven’t done anything ‘bad’ to them, and I’ve spent the last two years reaching out, apologizing for ‘whatever it is’ I might have inadvertently done, and generally beating myself up over clearly being a horrible person.
Last week, as I was researching all the information for the ‘Emotional Abuse’ infographic that I posted up yesterday, it suddenly struck me that given someone the silent treatment for two years, and completely ignoring them – without any explanation or reason – is classic emotional abuse.
And then my jaw really dropped, because once I realized how warped it all was, I could finally stop beating myself up over the issue, and get the clarity that the problem, whatever it is, wasn’t mine: it was 100% the other person’s.
Here’s where it’s important to clarify a little, as if there’s one thing I’ve learned with all my work in trying to separate out what’s emotionally normal, versus emotionally toxic behavior, the devil is ALWAYS in the details.
Sometimes, I also don’t respond to people’s emails, phone calls or overtures.
Sometimes, I haven’t got the energy or ‘space’ to deal with the second person, even if I love them to bits. Sometimes, I get random emails from people I’ve never even heard of asking me inane things that are not relevant to my life in any way, shape or form – and I often ignore them, or just delete.
But here’s the difference: even when I’ve taken a week or two off from ‘correspondence’ mode, if I know the person in any way, or if they’ve asked me something that genuinely requires a response, even a short, negative one, I always try to give it to them.
Sure, I’ve also been very upset at certain people in my life, and haven’t wanted to hear from them in any way, shape or form if they weren’t ready to apologize, or make some move, however small, towards opening a meaningful dialogue and discussing the issues we might have had.
But if they even made just the tiniest move towards reconciliation, I have responded as fast and as positively as I could.
So what’s the difference between an emotionally abusive cold shoulder, and a too-tired / stressed / upset-to-deal-with-you right now cold shoulder?
Here’s my take on it:
The Silent Treatment is Emotionally Abusive When:
I mean, I know all this stuff cold, and I was still shocked to realize that (yet again…) I was on the receiving end of some seriously mentally-ill behavior for years, without even knowing it. And then, the really hard work begins, of spotting when I might have 'cold shouldered' others in an emotionally-abusive way, as described above.
So, dear reader, I’m going to continue writing about it, and doing infographics, and trying to find other ways of helping us all to join the dots about what types of behavior are literally making us crazy and ill.
And hopefully, one day soon, it’ll stop coming as such a surprise to us all to realize that so many of our friends and relatives are certifiably bonkers, and that if we want to be really happy and healthy people, a lot of stuff has to change in terms of how we treat each other.
A few months ago, I wrote this post sharing a few unusual energy medicine tips for how to take care of haemorrhoids. For those who don't know, haemorrhoids occur when the veins around your bottom become strained and swollen, and they can be very painful and uncomfortable.
You'd think I'd said all there is to say about the subject, but you'd be wrong. I got a note last week asking me: '"What's the spiritual causes of haemorrhoids?'
So I went to research it, and here's what I found:
The link between haemorrhoids and anger
According to Rav Shalom Arush, writing in the Garden of Healing haemorrhoids are caused by anger. I'll venture a step further, and say that specifically, they're caused by repressed anger.
For whatever reason, many people swallow down their anger instead of acknowledging it, and dealing with it in a healthy way by talking through the situations and people who are making them angry with God.
When you talk your anger through with God on a regular basis, sometimes you'll realize that actually, it's completely unjustified. Other times, you'll realize the opposite: nearly any other reasonable, normal person would also feel very angry in the same circumstances.
Still other times, you'll see that it's normal and even healthy to feel angry at least initially, but that staying angry is not at all what God wants. And then, there are those times when you don't want to accept or admit that you're feeling angry under any possible circumstances, which in my humble opinion is when it can really start stuffing you up, physically.
But when you talk to God about all this stuff, sooner or later you start to understand what it is you need to do next to start getting all that anger to start dissolving out of your system instead of showing up as haemorrhoids.
The Large Intestine Connection
So far so good, but the Chinese Medicine system adds something else to the picture. Instead of associating haemorrhoids with the Gallbladder meridian, which is the meridian traditionally linked to anger and rage, it links piles with the Large Intestine Meridian.
This Table which sets out what emotions are related to what meridians, says the following about Large Intestine:
Large Intestine Meridian - Emotional energy when unbalanced: Control-freak; a need to be in control, even when it's damaging the self and others; feelings of emptiness. Emotional energy when balanced: Surrenders control; can let go out outmoded, unneeded, or toxic things; inspired; strong relationship with G-d.
Questions to ask the self: Why am I trying to keep control? What am I trying to control? Can I accept G-d's running the world? Can I accept the joy and the pain?
So is it anger, or control issues?
So who's right?
The answer, if you ponder it a little, is 'both of them'. How? Well, it's like this: control freaks are generally very angry people, for the simple reason that it's very hard to keep control over every facet of your life.
Usually, the way extreme control freaks try to keep other people in line is by adopting some sort of angry persona with them. The more aggressive control freaks yell, shout and bully you into submission to doing what they want. The less confrontational control freaks often use manipulation, disappointment and guilt tactics to get you to do what they want.
But whatever the modus operandi, the bottom line is the same: when a control freak doesn't get their way, they can get very angry, disappointed and upset.
Here's the thing: most of us have some control freak issues lurking deep down, even if we'd never suspect it. For some people, they can't let go of trying to micromanage their health issues; for others, it's their careers; for still others, it's their kids, or their spouses, or their real estate portfolio.
It takes a huge spiritual level and a lot of spiritual work to get to the place where you can accept God's will 100%, in every area of your life, and most people (including me) are very far away from it.
So what does God do? He sends us a clue that maybe, we need to work on letting go of the outcome more, and upping our emuna.
I know you won't hear this most other places, but it seems to me the more we can let go of out tendency to try and control every little thing in our lives, the fewer problems you'll have with piles.
What do you think?