Marisol began our session saying “I cannot stop eating sweets!”
She said she was usually OK in the morning, and OK when there was a lot of work to do (she is a therapist and a mother and manages an apartment complex). However as the afternoon went on, she lamented: “I can’t help myself! I want sugar and cookies in the afternoon. I want it right now. I want to eat what I want to eat, right now!”
There are lots of ways we could approach this problem. We could tap for the cravings (she had already done a lot of that). We could work with the upside and the downside of losing weight. We could explore her family’s history with food, and specific incidents in her life that might have led to Marisol’s obsession with sweets. We could work with how terrible she felt about herself that she couldn’t discipline her sweet-eating.
I thought about a linguistic trick—shifting the words a little bit for a change in meaning from “I cannot stop eating sweets, “ to : “I CAN not stop eating sweets,” and then riffing on the implications of positive strategies in this statement (“If I CAN not stop eating sweets, what else CAN I do??”) in our tapping.
I didn’t choose any of these approaches, however.
As a spiritual life path coach, I am constantly looking/feeling/listening for how to describe a problem in a way that opens the space around it. Anything that we experience as a “problem” is a thought, belief or feeling that we are holding so tightly that it hurts. So I seek a way to reframe the tight problem into an expansive engine that can begin to generate options, choices, possibilities, a way forward.
I am always exploring where there might be movement in the issue. This is a much better option, in my opinion, than trying to help Marisol to use tapping or any other technique to beat up what she doesn’t like about herself until it is dead. (It never gets dead…)
I wanted to help her to move forward with a felt sense of trust in herself that there were other, more powerful and more effective strategies to experience a deeper meaning of “getting her way.”
Because we all have been shamed for wanting our way, now we denigrate that part of us. But what if all these years this part has been bravely holding a space for us, trying, maybe desperately, to call our positive attention to ourselves? Trying to encourage us to stand up for ourselves.
What if it is a good thing to have my way? “Way” is another word for “path.” Wouldn’t we all want to say, “I deserve to have my own path”?
Although it wasn’t my intention to work directly with the issues in Marisol’s past, our information-gathering conversation did lead to some illuminating connections. Marisol said that when she was three years old her father had left the family, and her mother had to go to work to support them, and her grandparents as well. Money became a major issue for the family. Addictive patterns had showed up in her family in the past as smoking and alcoholism to numb the painful feelings.
A further interesting twist for her was feeling bad for “thinking only about getting enough money, not thinking about other people” a pattern that continued in the family over the years. She thought that the Catholic Church was teaching her that the only way to be a good person was to help other people, and that it was selfish to think of herself. In her child mind, Marisol translated this to “I can’t ever think of myself. I am a bad person if I do.”
Here is how I used the strategy of finding movement in the session that Marisol and I did together. We came up with some interesting insights.
I was holding the components of the problem in my mind as we talked: an obsession with sweets, addictive tendencies in her family, a lot of “should’s” and “have to’s” as a child, a belief that God wanted her to turn her attention away from herself toward helping others.
I work intuitively by “feeling into” how the person I am working with describes the problem. (And the person I am working with might be me!) When I feel constriction, I begin to listen for another concept in the person’s life that offers the opportunity to move toward expansion and flow.
Two ideas that Marisol mentioned lit up for me:
- I heard her say, “Eating is my way to have my way.”
- At another point, she said, “If I have my will I am committing treason to God.”
For many people “getting my way” has the feeling of encasing your feelings in armor, steeling yourself to stand up to a formidable opponent. I pictured a little girl, valiantly trying to get something for herself in the face of difficult circumstances, including the belief that God didn’t want her to have anything for herself.
What if we could find a path toward “getting my way” that felt so sweet and delicious for Marisol that she didn’t have to eat so many cookies in the afternoon? This kind of solution-finding works at the identity level of the person, rather than at the level of the problem.
We began to tap together with the theme of “getting my way,” using set-up statements like these:
Even though I felt like I never got my way as a child, and that has translated to wanting unlimited cookies in the afternoon…I accept and honor myself for how hard it was for me to never ‘get my way.’
I honor that little girl who wanted something for herself…. I honor her bravery in doing her best to live a life of caring for others, to do what she thought was God’s will…. She was doing the best she could.
I appreciate that there is something in me that has been trying to get something for myself ever since…. and I love that there is a part of me who wants to take care of me and make me feel good.
Even though I thought that if I have my will I am committing treason to God, and I believe that God doesn’t want me to think first of myself, I accept that I have that thought, and I wonder if there are other, deeper ways to consider this.
Even though I have carried all those have to’s and should’s as a burden on my shoulders… and I am feeling them now as a craving for sweetness in my life… I accept that things were the way they were for my family, and I realize that maybe I have confused the “sweetness” that I didn’t get with “sweets.”
The people in my past did their best to follow those old rules, and they paid the price with their emotional pain…the drinking and smoking and rigid behaviors were a part of them trying to make themselves feel better….
But that was the past, and it is over now. I am free now to disconnect from those old patterns and behaviors and find my own way forward.
I can find my own way…. I can have my own way….I can enjoy the sweetness of my own independent life.
In the course of our tapping, I asked Marisol what she thought God really wanted for her. What she said made sense: “I think that God wants me to be happy, to find my own meaningful way to express myself in the world.”
So I asked her, “When you feel that you are expressing your truth, your gifts in the world, how do you feel inside?” She said, “My whole body feels lighter, no burden on my back, I feel fresh and relaxed, easy in my life. My whole being is expanding!”
With that thought, we could begin to build some tapping that would support Marisol to move forward out of the pain of the should’s and have to’s, out of the unconscious reward system of sweets in the afternoon after she had spent the whole day ministering to other people’s needs and ignoring her own.
We finished with tapping set up statements that went something like this:
Even though I used to be upset about trying to get my own way, because I thought there was something wrong with me that I couldn’t just take care of others all the time….
I forgive myself for “wanting to get my own way.” I understand that I was just trying to stand up for myself, let myself know deep inside that what I want for myself is important…that I am important.
Now I know that ‘being sweet to myself’ is what God wants for me!”
I can treat myself with a cookie or two, just because they bring me joy…
And maybe I no longer feel compelled to have sugar. I can bring meaning and expansion and sweetness to my life in many ways. I am curious to discover how this will happen!
I deserve to have my own way, my own path.
Marisol was thinking that now she could begin to explore honoring the truth of herself. She could experiment with finding many ways to bring the feeling of sweetness into her life, besides just cookies.
She could trust that she was doing God’s will, and having her way at the same time.
With my love and blessing to you~