For people in recovery from Binge Eating Disorder, relationships are usually where a lot of healing can happen. Conflict with people is often especially scary, and can be a significant trigger for overeating or for bingeing to numb the stress.
One of the things I have found useful for people is to commit to do the following steps when you feel angry about an interaction with someone important to you.
Example: My friend showed up quite late for our coffee date. She didn’t even apologize. I felt hurt and angry, but acted like everything was fine.
Acknowledgement of feelings: I allow myself to feel whatever is there for me, without judgment. Even if it is unexpected, or seems wrong or “nonsensical.” I don’t wallow in it, or try to prolong it, but I allow myself to feel it fully. I “stay with the feeling.” For example, I was hurt by my friend’s behavior, however inadvertent it may have been.
I acknowledge there is a reason I feel the way I do.
I spend a minute or two identifying what is causing the “negative” feeling. For example, my friend being late to see me without calling, or seeming to not care once she arrived.
Are my feelings about the “here and now”, or is there anything from my past that this reminds me of? If much of my energy is from the past, what do I need to do with the energy? For example, My mother was always late picking me up from school. It made me feel unimportant. I may need to express those feelings with my mother, or with my journal or a supportive friend or therapist.
Having identified any part of my feelings as being caused by the present situation, I ask myself what I do want. What I probably want is the opposite of what I am experiencing. For example, I want to feel love and mutual respect in my friendships. Also, I want to know my feelings matter to my friends.
I then name what I want. I want people to respect my time with them. If they will be late, I would like them to call, both out of respect, and so I don’t worry about them. This step reflects the power I have to say my needs clearly, and to acknowledge that I deserve to have my needs met. It allows my adult self to take control of the situation and advocate for me.
Finally, I affirm my ability to take action to create what I want. I say my feelings to my friend in a loving, respectful way.
Amy Pershing LMSW, ACSW, Clinical Director, The Center for Eating Disorders, Director, Bodywise Binge Eating Recovery Program and The Bodywise Intensive www.thebodywiseprogram.com. All rights reserved.