Many people fear sharing hurt or upset because they don’t want to “burden” others. If you are one of these people, it’s time to let go of that dysfunctional way of thinking and behaving. Remember, the more you can rely on others (plus your own emotional resources, of course!), the more likely it is that you won’t turn to abusing food whenever you are in emotional distress.
We become fearful of burdening others when in childhood (yes, we have to travel back there again) our care-takers give us the overt or covert, intentional or unintentional message that our problems are too big and our feelings are too intense. That belief is underscored if they reject, humiliate, or turn away from us when we try to express normal emotion or if they compete with us for emotional airspace. Does that mean that as a child you had too many problems, were over-sensitive, or should have been able to manage your distress on your own? No, no, and no again. It means that, for whatever reason, your parents were unable to give you the validation, understanding, and support you needed to help you modulate and regulate difficult emotions.
Maybe they worked two or three jobs and were exhausted most of the time, had too many children to adequately care for, were easily overwhelmed with their own troubles, were frightened of upsetting emotions, or used an addiction (alcohol, drugs, food, work, shopping, gambling) to avoid feeling. Taking care of your problems and, age appropriately, teaching you how to take care of them yourself was your parents job. Because they didn’t do it well (for whatever reason), doesn’t mean that what you wanted emotionally was wrong. That is a child’s interpretation of the situation. I’m not blaming parents (after all, they can’t teach you what they don’t know), but I am holding them responsible for inadequate parenting. At a young age, it’s nearly impossible to understand that your parents are incompetent (or worse) and too scary to contemplate because you’re almost totally dependent on them. So instead of thinking they are at fault for ignoring, invalidating, or making fun of your feelings, you naturally think there’s something wrong with you—and that if you’re at fault, you can make things better.
If your parents could not meet your emotional needs, perhaps you assume that others also cannot. However, they were two people in the big, wide universe. Healthy people are happy to help you with your problems because they recognize that sharing is part of emotional health; they know that they need you as much as you need them. Keep reaching out until you find people who want to listen and be there for you.
Visit the message board exclusively devoted to my new book, The Food and Feelings Workbook, at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/foodandfeelings.
PLEASE NOTE: I encourage you to comment on my blogs and will do my best to address topics/questions you raise in future blogs. Unfortunately, however, due to time constraints, I cannot provide individual responses.