Chasing your shadow.
Today I’ve been caught up in the parallels between my approach to weight loss, and my current efforts to improve my life by feeling better.
I like my weight-loss approach because it cut out all my uncertainty and confusion, but also took me deep into my own motivations and feelings around eating.
I like it because it took something that was simply a struggle and showed me the cross-purposes in my own mind, hidden behind self-deception.
Most of all I liked it because it worked. That’s why I’m applying the same process and intensity to my goal of feeling better.
Reality is a shadow
Chasing your shadow means mistaking the effect for the cause, the symptom for the underlying disease. In the context of weight loss I learned to stop focusing on being overweight as an undesirable state, because it was really just the symptom or effect.
The real issue was my relationship with food. I even went so far as to say that being overweight was a healthy physical response to unhealthy eating habits.
I viewed my weight as always good, always a clear indicator of my relationship with food.
What was undesirable was not my weight but my approach to eating.
Reality is like your body weight
By analogy my experience of life is always a clear indicator of my relationship with God, my inner being, the spirit within me.
Because God is always reaching out to us. Our inner being is always pouring love and appreciation into us. And this spiritual reality would colour and infuse our whole existence and physical reality if we stopped turning away from it and clinging to unwanted things.
I’ve seen it today in my own mind: I may be feeling peace and happiness and appreciation, but then I reach for thoughts of worry and deadlines and “I need to get the kids dressed in the next twenty minutes or we’ll be late!”
What do I get out of it?
My relationship with food changed when I realised I didn’t like being overweight, but part of me quietly, determinedly, wanted to eat as an escape and distraction from unpleasant feelings.
Losing weight was always a struggle because I was wanting contradictory things and hiding the conflict from myself.
So by inference there must be something I want to get from feeling bad. I must want to focus on bad feeling thoughts even while I’m trying to focus on good feeling thoughts.
Well perhaps it’s because feeling bad, worried, and stressed gives the illusion of safety.
Feeling crappy all the time might be draining, but it’s much better than walking unawares into danger.
At least, in any given moment it’s much much better to feel worried and vigilant than to be caught by surprise and feel the sudden shock and terror or hurt or panic at being accused, threatened, ridiculed, or tricked by others.
In other words, thoughts that feel bad might help us approach situations with caution and self-protective guardedness.
But as a long term strategy the cost is too great. And since we create our reality it’s also a self-fulfilling prophecy.
If I imagine letting go of that guardedness and protective cynicism I do indeed feel afraid of something worse. Better to get hit when you’re expecting it than to go down to a sucker-punch.
But it’s much much worse to go through life flinching at every imagined blow.
I think the way forward is to face the fear of being open and unsuspecting of harm, and not seek to avoid that fear by dampening my happiness.
It might be intimidating at first but it will also be a huge relief to own the fear directly rather than taking so many demoralising efforts to avoid it.