Did you know that emotions have a purpose? The first time I learned this it was revolutionary for me. Some emotions are easier to feel than others, some feel forbidden. Realizing that they all have a purpose was eye-opening. Just as the five senses give us information about the outer world, our emotions give us information about the inner world. Learning not to be afraid of emotion but using it as information is a powerful tool in the normal eating process.
In her book The Food and Feelings Workbook, Karen Koenig lists seven emotions she belives are the biggest triggers for emotional eaters based on her extensive work as a therapist. Below are the emotions and my experience with each.
Shame: Oh shame, what a familiar feeling. I felt this a lot and to a degree that I didn't deserve. I worked on shame a lot, getting to the bottom of why I feel shame and working those feelings out. I finally got to a point where I no longer felt most of my shame because it wasn't deserved.
Guilt: This is another biggie. Just as with shame, I took on way too much guilt for things that were not my fault. It's a necessary emotion but important for me to keep it in check.
Anger: This is a big scary for me. I don't like feeling anger, don't feel comfortable being angry. I would prefer to walk away rather than lash out in anger.
Sadness: This is a comfortable feeling for me. Rather than feel angry, I will skip right to sad where I feel comfortable. Unfortunately it's easy for me to get stuck at sad.
Helplessness: Ooh, this is a biggie for me. I didn't realize how uncomfortable it was for me to feel helpless and I have worked hard to get comfortable with this emotion. I am still not there.
Confusion: This was a big hurdle for me to overcome. I felt confused a lot. Sometimes I was so bogged down in confusion that I would sit and deliberate and think and think and analyze for days over one simple thing.
Mixed Feelings: This was the first to really hit home with me. I often have mixed emotions and I had to work hard to untangle my feelings. The good news is, once I did I was able to see so much more clearly.
You can read in more detail about each, reframe your beliefs, learn more about their purpose and move closer toward normal eating by going through the Food and Feelings Workbook. Learning to feel these feelings without fear, move through them, recognize them and identify how they affect your life is so important for normal eating. I highly recommend this.