Feeling remorse about your own behavior is a horrible feeling. It hits you in your body, your stomach, and in your feelings and thoughts like a dark sticky cloud.
Not long ago I was working with a woman who had the same bulimia behaviors I used to have. Going on these eating frenzies, consuming frantically, and then forcing herself to vomit once she couldn’t hold any more.
As I sat in my quiet cottage, on skype, hearing this woman’s words and sadness (which I’ve done many times with many clients) I remembered vividly the strange trance of addiction with food.
It can be any addiction really.
The urge seems to enter into your world and take over, like a magical evil fog.
Then the actual behavior, so destructive and painful. Sometimes like a tornado, sometimes violent, sometimes getting up and going back to the fridge for a little more, and then a little more, so many times until being stuffed.
Then later, I’d wake up after the whole nightmare was over and have some period of rest….before the next time.
No matter what it is you did when you feel regret, it’s pretty stressful…but when you’ve engaged in addictive behavior of some kind like overeating…your sense of esteem after the whole episode is over can be absolutely horrendous.
I did it again. I’m such a loser. I’m so weak. I’ll never change. No one would love the real me, that does this. I’m greedy, selfish, wrong. I deserve to die.
There are tons of other activities that seem to enter the human experience of addiction.
Eating, drinking alcohol, doing drugs, smoking, cleaning the house compulsively, watching screens/videos/TV, shopping, pornography, lying, betting.
All of them offer a phase of reflection, when the behavior or activity is completed for the moment, and regret and remorse enters the scene.
It felt like I was my own worst enemy, but it was super heavy in those moments after the current storm passed. Before the next one.
I couldn’t stand myself. I couldn’t take this cycle anymore. If it kept going, I would prefer to die!
The thing about these terrible moments is that there is tremendous emphasis and focus on how terrible we are…..and it hides some other really, really important stressful beliefs.
Even when what you did wasn’t all that bad, but it’s something you promised you wouldn’t do again.
You procrastinated, you bought another music CD, you yelled at your kid, you ordered another book.
In that moment, when normally you’ve hated yourself, see if you can dig in and find some other beliefs, even if the ones that are against you are screaming loudly, that were happening BEFORE you went on your raving trip into mind-altering behavior.
Often, there is something that scared you. Something that made you really mad (also fear). Something that made you sad (fear of loss). Something that made you uncomfortable (fear again). Something that made you giddy (huge excitement, kinda feels like fear).
If you can find one thing you were afraid of a few hours ago, right before you had the idea to go on a binge, right before you decided you had to have a cigarette.
If it wasn’t before, don’t even worry much about that.
Just notice what you think of as scary in your life.
The client I was working with noticed one thing she was afraid of in those evening moments, alone in the house, hours before bedtime, when she felt like eating everything in sight.
Then her mind would start to think about what she should be doing, from cleaning the bathroom to developing her career and earning more money, to finding a mate.
It was easier to start snacking.
But, not really.
It is not easier to avoid your thoughts. It is not easier to avoid your feelings. It is not easier to pretend that your thoughts aren’t bothering you.
It is easier to notice that you are a believer of very painful beliefs.
And investigate if they are true.
I found that actually, it’s your only choice.
“People who aren’t interested in seeing why everything is good get to be right. But that apparently rightness comes with disgruntlement, and often depression and separation. Depression can feel serious. So ‘counting the genuine ways that this unexpected event happened FOR me, rather than TO me’ is not a game. It’s an exercise in observing the nature of life. It’s a way of putting yourself back into reality, into the kindness of the nature of things.” ~ Byron Katie
In that moment, when your head comes up out of the water and you’ve stop eating, or spending, or you wake up sober….
….can you even consider the turnarounds to be as true or truer than your thoughts about how awful you’ve been.
I did it again. Some part of me is losing, and that’s OK. I’m so powerful. There is a central part of me that never changes (good), and I have the power to change at any second. The whole world loves me, even when I’ve done my crazy behaviors. I’m greedy for love and joy (good), I’m selfish and that is appropriate, I’m afraid. I deserve to live.
What is this moment, this thought, this experience offering me? There is a gift.
Yes, even in this painful moment.