If you have an eating disorder and negative body image you not only feel negatively about yourself, but you really struggle to manage negative emotions and thoughts. Below I share a visualization to practice to help you learn to better manage negative thoughts and emotions.
One reason it seems hard to deal with negative emotions is because you are human, and because you are human you hate having to experience and deal with very overwhelming, negative emotions. Another reason you struggle with negative emotions is because us ladies are told we need to be sweet, humble, kind, patient, and loving, so when you feel anxious, mad, frustrated, overwhelmed, and bothered you have this idea that you are wrong for feeling that way.
As an eating disorder therapist, body image specialist, and self esteem coach I see people all day long that struggle with accepting and dealing with very overwhelming and upsetting emotions. Anxiety sucks. Anger sucks. Hurt sucks. All these negative emotions you experience feel very alarming and it feels like you are controlled and ruled by your emotions. When this happens you feel ashamed for not feeling like a woman “should” feel. You also feel controlled by your emotions because your mind and your physical body are consumed with negative upset.
Upsetting feelings seem very difficult to manage and there is a tendency to stuff, avoid, or ignore the emotions. The problem with this is that you feel bad, you think bad, and therefore it is hard to make decisions that are helpful for you and your body. In my practice I see people turn to hating their body and wanting to change it. I see people turn to food and either try to restrict eating or binge eat and/or purge. When you feel upset emotionally you come the conclusion you are the problem and if you could only change something about yourself you would feel better. There is a sense of “I can’t control my emotions and my situation, but I can control my body and what I eat”.
When entering into an emotionally upsetting situation, rather than seek food or self-loathe yourself and your body to help you cope, try this visualization:
– see yourself on the Titanic, and although there is chaos going on all around you, you are going to sit and play the violin on the deck.
When you feel a negative emotion, you think negative things about yourself. When you feel negative emotions you feel physically uncomfortable in your body. For the people I work with it seems really difficult to challenge negative thinking and relax to feel better when in this state. When the body feels upset and your thinking becomes upset doing something like thinking positively or doing something that makes you feel better feels fake and disingenuous. I work to help my clients learn to remain non-judgmental and calm despite the chaos going on in their mind and their body.
You have an emotional brain and a rational brain, but the idea is to come to the middle, your wise mind, where you are non-judgmental and at peace. I visualize this concept like this:
– Imagine you are on the Titanic and it is sinking. This is your rational brain. It is assessing the situation and coming the conclusion, “OMG! This ship is going to sink”.
– You hear sirens all around you. You see people jumping off the ship. You feel the cold of the air and the water. You see and experience chaos all around you. This is your emotional brain.
– Now imagine you are the violin player sitting on the deck playing calming music with all of this going on around. You are aware of the sinking ship, you can sense all the chaos around you, yet you sit calmly and play the violin. This is your wise mind.
The idea is to acknowledge the emotion and the thoughts but to remain focused. You do not have feel calm and you don’t have to feel like you are going to be OK, in fact you feel the exact opposite. However rather than give in to the emotion you feel cool, calm, and collected enough to feel in control or your mind and your reaction.
This times practice and time to master but is so powerful once you are able to practice this skill. The key is to remember you are entitled to how you feel but rather than let your emotions control you, you take control of your emotions. It is possible to learn to manage the upset that you feel and it is possible to learn to overcome self-esteem, negative body image, and and eating disorder.