Food Addictions

From a talk by Tim Jackins at a workshop in New York City, New York, USA, June 2004

Patterns are addictions. That’s one reason why we still have so many of them. It feels hard to free ourselves from them.

What are labeled as addictions in society are patterns, but they are usually patterns that involve chemical addictions, addictions to some substance. They are not viewed by society as the same phenomena as greed and other patterns. In RC we know that there is no sharp distinction. All these patterns are about undischarged distress getting stuck on something.

People do get stuck on food, and counseling on this is similar to counseling on distresses related to sex. We have instincts connected with both sex and food. Instincts are not patterned. They are neither irrational nor rational. They are there when we are born; they are part of our species. We have depended on instinctual behaviors for our survival and for the survival of our species. How does a species survive if it can’t think clearly about getting energy or recreating itself? It has to have instincts.

As we grow up, distresses become attached to our instincts and this gets really confusing. How do we tell what piece of our feelings comes from our instincts and might make sense, and what piece is out of dis- tress? People can spend a lot of time wandering through these thickets trying to figure things out. Nobody who lacks an understanding of dis- tress patterns has great answers. You can watch medical professionals, and others, pontificate in seven different directions on what good nutrition is. Patterns attached to eating are well established and confusing. As with a lot of distresses in our society, because money can be made from confusing people about food, a whole industry is aimed at keeping us confused, just

to sell us things. Some groups in this industry are traditional and some are new, but almost all of them offer little thought or hard data on which to base decisions about what makes sense for us.

So most people have a lot of work to do on eating. Some people get a little lost in their distresses and start telling other people what everyone should do—based on their own feelings and experiences, and not much more data than that. Sometimes people get caught up in working on food addictions because it doesn’t run them into heavier distress. We can end up working on something to avoid working on other things.

There isn’t a lot written that I would recommend you simply fol- low. Instead I suggest that you dis- charge on eating—that you actually notice what happens for you, that you look at real data about nutrition (some does exist), and that you don’t accept the conclusions of experts who have never had a chance to discharge on their addictions. Think about it, test it, and figure it out. We need people working on this. Go back and work on where the confusion comes from; don’t simply try to solve it in the present. When we have a problem with our thinking, it is not usually about the present. It’s about the places we got hurt early in our lives. With food, as with everything else, we need to go back and see what has caused the confusion, what has caused the difficulty—now and decades ago.

A young one I know had trouble feeding in the second week of his life. Later, if he started to drink milk from a bottle and got interrupted, or if he finished his bottle and more was not available in twelve seconds or so, he panicked. Desperation showed immediately, though it wasn’t because he needed more food (he was not a

slim little thing). Of course his folks tried not to let that twelve seconds happen. They worked as a team to have food ready so that he didn’t have to feel the panic, and so that they didn’t have to feel what it re- stimulated in them. Until I made him wait longer than twelve seconds, he didn’t get a chance to work on that. Once he did, he had two days of long, heavy sessions—scary for other people, but sweet, too. You see the panic in babies, with their hands out like this (hands extended and shaking). This little one was doing that, looking for something to grab on to for safety, and he cried very hard. Three days later it was time for me to leave. A lot of things were happening and people didn’t remember to feed him all morning—and he didn’t care.

I suspect this isn’t unusual. I suspect that when many of us were young, people didn’t always stay aware of us and of what we needed, and that we have incidents back there that can leave us feeling hungry no matter what we do—not really hungry, but feeling desperate for food, and we can’t tell the difference between the two.

To change things in this area we have to go back to early times and look at what happened then. The farther away we get from what happened, the more confused it becomes. We can also help young ones do the work early in their lives.

Reprinted from Present Time No. 144, July 2006, page 8

Last modified: 2020-05-05 05:05:25+00