Does your love life make you want to don your tennis shoes and bolt? Do you wish Elizabeth Gilbert had written a different sequel to Eat, Pray, Love ~ one that would give you the inside scoop on what she learned on her sojourn through Italy, India, and Indonesia?
If so, I highly recommend Geneen Roth’s Women, Food and God: An Unexpected Path to Almost Anything. Ms. Roth believes our tendency to bolt is rooted in experiences of abuse. When something in our present life triggers a painful experience from our past, we bolt for the safety of our favorite obsession. The book is primarily about issues with food, but her wisdom applies equally to our tendency to guzzle a bottle of wine, wear out our charge cards at the nearest mall, gamble (not just at the craps table), or use work as an excuse to avoid going home.
“The Voice” Is a GPS from the Twilight Zone
Abuse survivors get told a lot of lies about love by people who claim to love us but don’t have a clue how to do it in a loving and respectful way. To survive the abuse, we internalized these lies as if they are the Holy Grail. We were conditioned to dance to the abusive person’s tune or else. Our brains were hard-wired to a GPS from the Twilight Zone.
Ms. Roth calls the collective messages from abusive authority figures “The Voice:”
It’s intent is to keep you from being thrown out of whatever it perceives as the circle of love. . .
The Voice saps you of strength. . .cuts you off at the knees. . .
We spend our lives following instructions given to us ten or thirty or fifty years ago by people we wouldn’t ask for street directions from today.
On an instinctive survival level, I think we know there’s no real safety or security inside that circle of love. It’s an illusion. When we find ourselves bolting toward our favorite obsession, I think we would be wise to ask ourselves what triggered the instinct to bolt. This will help us to see the lie for what it is as well as keep us from engaging in self-destructive behavior.
Self-destructive behavior at its essence is our abuser’s voice in our heads telling us that we don’t deserve to be loved or to be happy. Bullshit!
Obsession gives you a plane ticket out of a particular kind of heartbreak.
– Geneen Roth
Trust Your Longing for Freedom
Healthy love nourishes us and gives us energy. It sustains us. Abuse annihilates our spirits and oppresses us. It exhausts us. We feel like we’ve been hit with a tsunami of grief and pain. The obsession we turn to after experiencing abuse will give us an adrenaline rush ~ like being high on drugs ~ that won’t sustain us. Why? Our actions are motivated by fear of consequences rather than by love.
Ms. Roth suggests we listen to our bodies. What gives us sustained energy? What feels like “champagne bubbles” of joy?
Who are you when you are not being run by your past?
What do you love?
What motivates you to be kind? To take care of your body? Your spirit?
Trust the longing. . .trust the love that can be translated into action without the threat of punishment.
. . .you will not destroy what matters most.
She believes the change we want in our lives springs from love. I believe this is true. I often wonder why I don’t give myself the unconditional love I so freely give to others. So, tonight I’m taking myself on a date. I’m going to dress up and light candles. I’m going to treat myself to all the wonderful things I would do for a man. I’m going to say all the loving things to myself that I would say to him. Then, I’m going to do it again tomorrow and the next day until it becomes a habit.
Queens Live in Castles with Moats and Drawbridges
Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry have taught me that we must be vigilant about limiting our inner circle to people who bring good energy. I believe this is the secret to their success. And, I have discovered that my life is more successful and happy when I surround myself with people who are on a quest for excellence. I’ve noticed that it is easier for me to engage in self-care when I am surrounded by people who have developed this habit.
I find it helpful to think about how a queen lives. . .in castles with moats and drawbridges. They have the power to control what comes into their lives. We all have the right to pull up our drawbridges to exclude people and things that sap our energy. We have the right to live in a sanctuary of love, nurturing, and support.
A few weeks on the South Beach Diet taught me that I have substantially greater energy when my body gets good fuel. Twelve weeks on the Artist’s Way taught me that weekly artist’s dates ramp up my creative potential. I know for certain that I am happier and more productive when I eat nutritious food and get regular aerobic exercise. Why? I get a good night’s sleep.
Ms. Roth helped me understand that I already know how to love myself unconditionally. I have a good map in my head. If I jettison the Twilight Zone GPS, I’ll never get lost again.