Sunday, March 13, 2011

Chip Alert Level: HIGH

Eating out of fear.
Fear as a major root of self destructive behaviors.

Fear is the subject of this post. Not for the faint of heart...

For starters, my husband and I are watching a Great Courses lecture series, Great Minds of the Western Intellectual Tradition. A few nights ago, we learned about Thomas Hobbes, who asserted that people are ruled not by reason but by passions, especially the desire for power and the fear of violent death.

Hobbes' philosophy resonates with me a bit, getting me to think about fear... fear of making a mistake, fear of not being worthwhile, fear of being the first to arrive at the scene of a terrible automobile accident, fear of being alone, fear of falling, fear of terminal illnesses, fear of loss and being lost. This list could go on an on. If Hobbes is right, our fears lead us to seek security. For me, food is a security blanket which can temporarily warm me against the deep chill of fear.

What other defenses do I have?

Thursday night my husband checked, seeing the first reports of the tragic events that are still unfolding in Japan. We turned on CNN and watched in dismay as the visual impact of the destruction of life and property by the earthquake and tsunami grew ever more frightening.

After about an hour, I said, "I need some chips." My husband said, "Me too." He brought out a large unopened bag of chips and we both dove into it. Handfuls of chips were stuffed mindlessly into a mouth by a hand that was oddly disassociated... mine, but not mine... and consumed with minimal awareness while I remained glued to the TV screen.

In fact, rarely have chips been a problem food for me. I prefer sweet. But I'm abstinent on sweet. So that night, it was all about me using chips in an attempt to ward off fear.... What was that fear? Wasn't I witnessing our total and complete lack of control over our destiny? So then, is the mother fear, the fear under all the other fears, about not having control? Seems it might be.

Since then, more chips have found their way into my hands. Not a huge amount like the first time, but not on my food plan either. I want to stop my hands and ask their cooperation in exploring fear, to invite fear to expose herself fully to me, to allow fear and lack of control to sift through my body, to feel my feelings.

Back to the question about what other defences I might have against fear. What are some possibilities?
-- prayer, especially the Serenity Prayer
-- actions directly related to the fear
-- writing
-- community
-- shift of focus
-- anti-anxiety meds
-- living in the moment
-- making a bucket list
-- doing things on my bucket list
Well, that list contains more antidotes than I thought might be available to me. I bet there are even more.

Chip alert at the end of writing this post: somewhat lower.

* * * * * * *
Today's gratitude: neighbor's chickens, time to sew, OA meetings, human generosity, my sisters-in-law


  1. What a perfect post for me to write at this moment. Thanks.

    You were able to describe the problem out there quite succinctly. I think fear/anxiety is at the root of my addictive eating as well. In fact, I know that it is.

    When I'm eating because of grief or anger, I can stop if I want to. I can divert myself. I don't always, but thoughts are present that I could counter. Ahhh, but when anxiety is in play, I also seem to have that hand that is automatic and disconnected from my thinking.

    I'm going to look into OA, again.


  2. Haha. I meant "post for me to READ" not write. Deb

  3. I did some emotional eating yesterday. Not prompted by fear, but frustration. I love that you have come up with a list of defenses. I need that!

  4. Great post! It made me want to make my own list of ways to comfort myself & my inner child when I am afraid...& I am afraid often. Thank you for writing and for you honesty. I really appreciate it.

  5. My husband always says to me there is no point wasting energy on things I cannot control. Wait to see what happens then assess what, if anything we can do. I'm far from overcoming my fear of things but I do try to focus on what I can realistically do rather than stress and worry about the things I can't do.

    For now, all I can realistically do for Japan is send my prayers and when the time comes what money I can. Other than brief updates, I don't spend hours watching News reports that will upset and distress me.

  6. I've read this a couple of times now... actually reluctantly. That was the first clue there was something in there for me!

    I know why, on the surface, I "use" food. To avoid negative emotions, usually. But hadn't connected it to fear.

    And I can see, after reading this, that it IS fear at times.. fear of the painful emotions. Fear of facing them, feeling them, feeling like I could drown in them, or be stuck in the negative ones that drag me down down down...

    Hmmm... lots to think about. Thank you for sharing this, for being so transparent and open.


  7. I once used food - then I used "not" food.... as in: brutal denial....
    Then I woke up and said - that behaviour is vexed! And I made a vow to stop it all..... and let the angst come.....
    Whatever it brings will be better than the way I handled it before. And sure enough, PB, it is!
    I can make "mistake" or have a mini-melt down.... and that's ok, too. I think it's all about learning a better way.
    They say that if it's not Love, then it's fear.
    I think they are right!


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