I was listening to a wonderful lecture by Geneen Roth, who has authored many books around eating issues. What I appreciate about her work is that the focus often goes beyond awareness to self-responsibility. She has an ability to get to the heart of the matter, where her warmth and care is obvious, but yet so is her directness. This particular lecture expanded beyond eating issues and encompassed areas of life where we know our actions are not serving us in a positive way and why we are accepting that for ourselves.
I was particularly struck when she said that when we use the words “deserve,” “fair,” “right,” and “wrong” that we are in a child ego state. I’ve been thinking on that statement for days now. I’ve been listening for these words in my actions. For example, when I reach my hand into the dark chocolate chip bag, or when I avoid taking my dogs further on their walks, or I don’t feel like getting around for the day. It’s curious how these words actually do appear! And then I’m left to ask myself where, in my child ego state, feels triggered.
What that means is the part of us that represents our childhood is making decisions rather than our adult state. Have you ever reached for something- be it food, a new purchase, a relationship- telling yourself you deserve this? Deserve meaning you are owed it. Deserve meaning you’ve been unfairly deprived of it. It’s a powerful awareness when we stop and ask why it is we believe that. What lets us know that we deserve it? And what makes us still desire it even if it’s not going to serve us long term? This child ego state reflects a tantrum inside of us, if you will, that our adult selves need to address if we are going to aspire to our goals and forward our lives in a positive direction. Also within these child ego words, I hear definitive terminology all or nothing – much like a young child thinks. It’s only as we mature that we can begin to see the gray of situations that allows us to weigh the pros and cons and find a valuable solution.
What I appreciate is the directness in which Roth goes beyond comforting others to literally saying, “You can’t have what you want. So what? Where do you find the stamina to deal with your discomfort?” We all have vices of some sort; we all lean away from our discomfort to self-soothe, but it’s more about what we’re leaning into and how it serves our life that we need to apply our focus to. How often do you check your phone each day? Have you convinced yourself that it’s necessary? That your life requires it? But, if I may, think back to when there weren’t smartphones and yet, you still lived. It’s not really a requirement, it’s more of an addiction. That’s hard to believe, right? I mean, it’s your phone! But, what I’m really saying is more about the need, not the object. It’s that need that we feel pushing at us and we’ve made it alright by convincing ourselves it’s out of necessity. We deserve to check. Have body pain? Have you told yourself that’s the way it is? Or, have you said- I don’t stretch. I don’t exercise. I don’t eat to make my body happy. I respect when my body is being pushed too hard. It’s about allowing those truths to push us into discomfort. And, it’s about going through the discomfort to transform and empower our lives.
Awareness is only half of it, right? It also requires action; a conscious and committed choice of doing. When we only have awareness we can use it to shame ourselves for what we know but don’t do. But, when we couple that awareness with aligned action, then we have progress. Then we have accurate feedback about ourselves – our areas of strength and our areas where we require additional support. It’s about the truth- the whole truth- that we allow to inform us.
Roth ended the lecture with a phrase that struck me – “The pain pushes you until the vision pulls you. “ I hear in this both awareness and action. I hear fear, pain, stickiness until we cultivate a mindset that says ‘yes’ to what it is we want and who it is we truly are.