I have just started my amazing studies as a (Tony) Robbins-(Cloe) Madanes Certification Student. I enrolled in Strategic Intervention Coaching to learn about myself and my patterns, and with the hope I can help others, as well.
In the very first module, I was led to look at the controlling metaphors that have used to create meaning throughout my life. These metaphors show up over and over as we try to make sense of our relationships and life experiences–these are like phrases and symbols that we repeatedly come back to us.
The metaphor that spoke to me in my mind’s eye is: “I’m starving.”
Looking back, I can see how this metaphor has worked to both sustain me and keep me in a position of learned helplessness over the years.
As a child and an adolescent, I was literally and metaphorically “starving”–for love, for approval, for appreciation, and for those around me to truly see me and accept me for me. As a child, I simply wanted to be seen (and I still do).
In my youth, this manifested in my taking care of others and giving of myself in hopes that my needs for significance, love, connection, and approval would somehow be reciprocated.
It didn’t work.
As I grew, I became more and more of a chameleon to morph into what I thought others would approve of, love, and value. And because I believed I wasn’t enough, I continually attempted to gauge what others wanted from me, and the pattern became painfully circular. As I worked harder and harder to get my needs met and I continued to emotionally “starve,” I began to erase myself and disappear.
I was a perfect student.
I did as I was told.
I didn’t argue.
I became increasingly silent and voiceless.
I pictured myself as a tiny bean hanging onto the world by a luminous, threadlike string.
And I literally began starving myself.
While I did my disappearing act, I began to cook for others–sharing my amazing culinary talents, but not partaking in the feast I myself prepared.
Nobody noticed, and nobody knew. I’m not sure why, and I don’t know if it matters why they didn’t.
The point is, I was erasing myself; I was disappearing.
I didn’t want to live, truth be told. (Looking back, I know that my food addiction preserved a semblance of control that probably saved my life. Funny how that works).
What I really wanted was to be wrapped in a blankie, rocked, fed, given warm milk, and loved.
Eventually, I became so hungry that I began to repeatedly gorge myself with food, and then purge out of guilt, shame, and fear. This, too, became a toxic cycle.
I hit bottom in my twenties–more than once–and landed in treatment once for food addiction, and again a few years later for exercise addiction.
Over time, while my addiction abated and got easier to negotiate (although I continue to bargain with it on a weekly and sometimes daily basis), I still attracted people in my life who did not see, appreciate, or recognize me. And I continued to over-function, and I continued to starve, emotionally.
I’m sure, looking back, that it was because I did not see, appreciate, recognize, or love myself–and I tolerated relationships that mirrored this shadow of myself.
I hit bottom again in my mid-forties, and I was faced with a decision: save myself, or die in an unhealthy, unbalanced dynamic.
“Pain is when your life conditions don’t match the model of the world.
Suffering comes when your life conditions don’t match your model of the world
and you feel powerless to change it.”
The RMT training module has reminded me that there is a difference between pain and suffering–namely that suffering is a choice that “occurs when you accept the limiting belief that you have no control over your life.”
So how do we transform our metaphor from one of powerlessness to strength?
My new metaphor involves me lovingly preparing the most delicious feast, savoring the aromas and tasting the hints of flavor as I cook, and then sitting at a beautifully set table with a heaping plateful of my creation, and
“I am first feasting upon the abundance before me,
and then I am sharing this feast
with others who share this table.“
I am learning how to feed myself, how to take responsibility for my self-care, and how to give from a place of overflow–first to myself and then to others.
The Long-Handled Spoon Story
Swami was having a conversation with Lord Shiva one day and said Lord, “I would like to know what heaven and hell are like.”
Lord Shiva led the Swami to two doors. He opened one of the doors and the Swami looked in. In the middle of the room was a large round table. In the middle of the table was a large pot of stew, which smelled delicious and made the Swami’s mouth water. The people sitting around the table were thin and sickly. They appeared to be famished. They were holding spoons with very long handles that were strapped to their arms and each found it possible to reach into the pot of stew and take a spoonful. However, the handle was longer than their arms, they could not get the spoons back into their mouths. The Swami shuddered at the sight of their misery and suffering. Lord Shiva said, “You have seen hell.”
They went to the next room and opened the door. It was exactly the same as the first one. There was the large round table with the large pot of stew which made the holy man’s mouth water. The people were equipped with the same long-handled spoons, but here the people were well nourished and plump, laughing and talking.
The Swami said, “I don’t understand.”
“It is simple,” said Lord Shiva, “It requires but one skill. You see they have learned to feed each other, while the greedy think only of themselves.”
The Long-Handled Spoon story speaks to me in many ways, especially since I discovered my metaphor that “I’m starving.” Just like a mother needs to give herself oxygen first before she can do the same for her child, I must learn to feed and care for myself–only then can I serve others, which is the greatest gift I can offer.
What metaphor have you lived? How can you transform your metaphor from a limiting belief to a powerful mantra? Let us know in the comments and share your experience.
Dana Lynne Curry, Ph.D., has been teaching middle school English (with no low bun) for over 23 years. She is a gReaT-fuL Writer, Storyteller, Teacher, Student, Irreverent GoofBall, Blogger, Servant, Philosopher, Spiritual Collagist (is that a word?), Mama, LoVer of LiFe!, Amazing Friend, and one cOOL pUsSy caT!! Find Dana at funfreeME and on Twitter @funfreeMe1.