I'm not sure what to title this--a diversion of sorts

I’ve been reading a book about Nonviolent Communication for reasons that have nothing to do with my health. On the plane ride home from my last trip, I was reading Chapter 9, “Connecting Compassionately with Ourselves." A big part of compassionate communication and conflict resolution is learning to empathize with the other party. The author says it’s a lot harder to empathize with others if you don’t empathize with yourself. “When we are internally violent toward ourselves, it is difficult to be genuinely compassionate toward others.” I thought, yeah, that’s reasonable. The first section after the introduction was titled “Evaulating Ourselves When we’ve been less than perfect.” Well, that was timely, given my recent dietary indiscretions. So I practiced his suggestions on this topic, and it was very interesting (to me).

Here was the first thing that struck me. He says, “In our language there is a word with enormous power to create shame and guilt.” It is the word “should”. Here is a concept I never thought of: “Think for a moment of all the people you’ve heard say, ‘I really should give up smoking’, or ‘I really have to exercise more.’ They keep saying what they ‘must’ do and they keep resisting doing it, because human beings were not meant to be slaves. We were not meant to succumb to the dictates of should and have to, whether they come from outside or inside ourselves. And if we do yield and submit to these demands, our actions arise from an energy that is devoid of life-giving joy.” Wo, really? That’s interesting! “Our challenge then, when we are doing something that is not enriching life, is to evaluate ourselves moment by moment in a way that inspires change both (1) in the direction of where we would like to go, and (2) out of respect and compassion for ourselves, rather than out of self-hatred, guilt or shame.” Okay, so time to evaluate myself.

“…if we find ourselves reacting reproachfully to something we did, we can quickly stop and ask ourselves, ‘what unmet need of mine is being expressed through this moralistic judgment?’” Okay, I read through this section a few times, and it took me a while to figure this out. I had to come back to it after finishing the rest of the exercise and I finally came up with something. I am not really judgmental about anything I did this week except when I overate the dates. Overeating is what makes me feel shame, because it shows a lack of control, and gluttony. I feel flawed when I do that. The question is, “what unmet need of mine is being expressed through this moralistic judgment?” So we’re talking about my judgment of myself. I finally concluded that it is that I have conditional love for myself rather than unconditional. I love myself as long as I behave. Not so much otherwise. So that was interesting. For the other things I did this week, going off plan, I feel some regret but I don’t feel shame or guilt. I know I messed up but I don’t blame myself too much. Hey, I’m human, and unhealthy food is addictive and ubiquitous. Moving on to the next step, that’s where we discuss this further.

On to forgiveness: “When I behaved in the way I which I now regret, what need of mine was I trying to meet?” I wanted to be in community with others while eating (and I did have several nice conversations with other patrons). I wanted to enjoy what they were enjoying. I wanted to experience an opportunity to eat in a couple of restaurants like we don’t have at home—vegan and raw, so a feeling of not wanting to pass up this opportunity. I wanted to see the effect it would have on my body (curiosity) and confirm that I prefer my own way of eating. I wanted to be “normal” for a few meals. I thought “what harm will this do? It’s part of the life plan.” Now, what need was I trying to meet when I ate too many dates? An addictive need I guess. I felt pleasure eating them and wanted to continue feeling pleasure. And excitement. The sugar hit to the brain. This is an innate drive to seek pleasure. What need was I trying to meet when I went to the restaurant a second time? A desire to get as much in as possible before the door is shut again on me and this becomes forbidden. My choices were “an attempt to serve life” (to feel good momentarily) even though it felt short of my true needs.

So what is the solution? I prefer long-term happiness to short-term pleasure; that is, I prefer my longer term needs for health and wellness and happiness to be satisfied, rather than my short-term pleasure goals. And I really like the concept of not being a slave to the word “should”. I gave up caffeine, alcohol, and salt as a choice, when I was ready. I knew it was a recommendation of Dr. Fuhrman to avoid them, but I thought I could still be healthy and partake in all of these things at a low level. Over time, though, I preferred not to ingest them anymore because I didn’t like how they felt in my body. I think I have to recognize that my desire to eat healthy is a choice. I prefer to have the freedom of choice, rather than the requirements of “should”. This would remove this problem of forbidden foods becoming more desirable. So I am eating healthy because I want to. There are no forbidden foods, even when I pretend there are. I can say, I won’t eat another cookie, and then I can get into my car, drive to the co-op, and buy and eat a vegan cookie. So it really is a choice, and naming something forbidden does make me resist. So, there are no forbidden foods, and I will make a choice at every meal about what I want to eat.

I’ll see how this works and get back to you.