Transforming Lead to Gold

There was an interesting interview on the NPR show TELL ME MORE on Sunday night.  The author Stephanie Covington Armstrong spoke about her battle with bulimia nervosa.  She traces the root of her condition back to when she was 12 years old and was sexually assaulted by her uncle.

During the incident she pretended she was asleep, telling herself it wasn’t happening, until she felt emotionally separated from herself.  Later she started stuffing herself as a relief from the feelings of pain and isolation.  But, not wanting  others to discover her pain by seeing her gain weight, she became bulimic.

She was using the eating and purging as a way to run from her feelings, and it worked… until the feelings came back.  Eventually, she couldn’t stay ahead of her feelings.  She’d throw up and the feelings would come right back, all the low self-esteem and shame from being sexually abused.  Her coping mechanism was requiring more and more to provide less and less relief.  In fact, it was killing her and she knew it.

After bottoming out she started going to support groups and gradually learned to accept herself and to find more effective coping mechanisms like turning to people for support, journaling, and helping others.  It was a gradual process, and she didn’t stop overnight.  As she puts it, she was learning how to be good to herself, how to love herself.

Now she’s gotten to the point where if she finds herself reaching for something to eat, and she’s not hungry, she immediately starts an internal dialogue:  I’m not hungry, so what’s going on?  Maybe she discovers it’s a deadline she feels overwhelmed by due to a fear of failure, or of being found incompetent.  Whatever the cause, once it’s identified the urge to eat just goes away.  My theory here is that once we see what’s real, the unreal can’t survive.

So she learned how to take this tremendously self-destructive condition and turn it into a positive.  Instead of living with that overwhelmed feeling, missing a deadline, and confirming her fears, she gets an advance warning.  No longer being controlled and manipulated by her condition, she now uses it to serve her.  She uses the unhealthy urges to eat as a warning signal that something is wrong in her life and needs to be dealt with.

If only we all had such a direct link to our deeper self… But we do.  We all have feelings; we just either ignore and suppress them, or don’t know what to do about them when we do feel them.  The question is how bad do things have to get before we start tuning in?

I can’t prove it, but I have faith, that all negatives can be turned to positives.  It’s quite simple and elegant actually.  And it extends to everything which is negative.  We don’t have to wait for a condition to bring us to our knees (though that seems to be often what it takes to wake us up).

Anytime we feel even a slightly negative sensation, that’s our warning light.  Something is wrong.  Something.  And part of the process of learning how to be good to ourselves is the process of first listening to these warnings, then figuring out why we don’t feel good, and what we can do about it.  The solution may be a long and hard road, but if we don’t heed the warning signals, we’ll never be able to transform our pain into something good.

Explore posts in the same categories: philosophy, psychology, spirituality, Uncategorized

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