Food is not always used, as we know, for healthy nourishment. Often it serves an ulterior motive, as a way for us to sneak into psychological mischief and indulge our emotional appetite for unresolved inner conflict.
When people struggle with overeating and weight gain, they usually believe their problem is with the food itself. They obsess or fixate on food. But food is only the meat and potatoes of their unresolved emotional issues.
In other words, food is being used to replay unresolved issues. In the foreground, in one’s face for that matter, is the unconscious compulsion to act out unresolved inner conflict. The primary conflict in the psyche is the conscious wish to feel strong and capable of self-regulation versus the unconscious willingness to experience oneself through familiar emotions associated with weakness, self-criticism, and shame. We can overcome this conflict by understanding the unhealthy psychological ingredients we bring to the table.
Food is just one of many external means by which people get into emotional trouble. We can make mischief with alcohol, money, drugs, possessions, work performance, family, friends, neighbors, and bosses. A basic principle governs all such misadventure, namely that the struggles in our life, our misery and failures, are direct offshoots of inner conflict. This conflict drives us compulsively to produce misery and self-defeat in our encounters with the world around us.
With inner conflict, we compulsively seek and create situations or circumstances through which we can feel the conflict. Food, alcohol, money, or people serve as staging-grounds on which to act out such conflict. The emotional price for this acting-out includes stress, self-doubt, guilt, shame, anxiety, and self-recrimination. Costs in behavioral self-defeat—involving incompetence, foolishness, and failure—must also be paid. [Read more…]