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Ashley Solomon, Psy.D is a psychologist who specializes in the treatment of eating disorders, body image, trauma, and serious mental illness.

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Tag: emotions

10 Apr

It’s all about the money, money, money… and food?

Ideas to Consider 20 Comments by Ashley @ Nourishing the Soul

{image credit :: audrey sue via pinterest}

My husband and I recently began working our way through Suze Orman’s self-help guide to financial freedom. With more than a little student loan debt (grad school don’t come cheap!), we were wanted to ensure that we were most wisely planning for our financial future.

I personally think Suze Orman is brilliant, witty, and intuitive (sensing the crush I have?), so I was willing to do about anything she suggested. One of the first exercises in the workbook asked us to spend some time reflecting on our financial histories. Specifically, she wanted us to go back to childhood and think about our first memories of money and the beliefs, assumptions, and feelings that originated there. Having dreaded doing a workbook on money matters, I was relieved at this task. Deep psychological exploration? This I could handle!

Despite a smidge of initial skepticism (Memories, my husband questioned? Where does this book talk about our 401k options?), we took the plunge and started talking about early memories of money. While we come from very similar upbringings in terms of economic status, the ways that our families (and eventually we) thought about money were very different. Suddenly, so many of the disagreements that we have today about money (which, maybe surprisingly, aren’t many) came into clearer focus. We weren’t just disagreeing on how to allocate retirement savings – we were (subconsciously) talking about some of our deepest insecurities and fears.

As I started digging into my own financial formation, I began to think about just how much matters of money affect and reflect our relationships with food and ourselves. As a psychologist who treats eating disorders, it’s interesting to me to see these connections play out for my patients as well.

It’s not uncommon for someone who restricts their food to restrict their spending as well. Oftentimes I understand these behaviors as intimately tied to one another – a person will describe feeling unworthy to eat or consume, whether it’s food or material items. They might spend money on others, but they will rewear tattered clothing, deny themselves typical “splurges,” and in general avoid taking for themselves. In my understanding, the root of these behaviors lies squarely on the issue of shame. Can I be seen? Do I deserve? Am I okay?

For most individuals, a pattern of dietary restriction isn’t sustainable in the long-run. Eventually, they engage in binge eating because their bodies and minds are so ravaged from a period of restriction and starvation. This pattern happens almost identically with spending. If we deny ourselves buying the things we want and need for so long, eventually we “crack” and buy something we’re not even sure we want, oftentimes spending more than we had previously saved. A personal example was when I had agreed to not buy new clothes for a year in order to save money (I admittedly had a pretty full closet). Within the first two weeks, I found myself on online retailers and Pinterest looking at new fashions – things I never did before! It reminded me of the Minnesota starvation experiment when men were restricted food intake for many weeks. Soon the men started exhibited a significant preoccupation with food, reporting dreaming about it, imagining it, playing with it when it was available. The lesson? Restriction doesn’t work! And the resulting feelings of shame and self-blame when one “breaks down” then just perpetuate the cycle.

What this all means is that if you struggle with your relationship food, you might also want to take a closer look at your finances as well. Notice if you can find similar patterns emerging, and if you might benefit from some professional guidance.

Do you see your relationship with food being connected to your relationship with money?

09 Feb

No one wins in the Pain Olympics.

Ideas to Consider 4 Comments by Ashley @ Nourishing the Soul

{image credit :: spcbrass}

Most of us have had them – those moments when we’re absolutely, positively convinced that this wrenching pain inside our souls has just got to be the biggest the world has ever seen. We think that if the if the rest of the world had to suffer this much, well… we’re pretty certain that civilization couldn’t possibly have developed as it did. We ache and we hurt and we may even feel angry that no one can know this pain inside our hearts.

And then we get back the Mr. Potato Head and feel better, right? Kidding!

In some ways, this sense that our pain is distinctive does mirror a childlike sense of uniqueness. As very young children, we see our environment as an extension of ourselves. Essentially, the world revolves around us (and it sort of does – have you seen how many toddlers own iPads?) and it takes a while to develop an awareness of other people and the fact that they experience emotions. (You mean kicking daddy in the shin hurts him?)

Now, I’m not saying we’re all a bunch of overgrown toddlers with no awareness of one another. In fact, many of us have too much awareness of one another! But our experience of our own pain can sometimes reflect that sense that no one can possibly know how this feels. And as a grown-up in the world, that’s a pretty lonely place to be.

When we perceive that our pain is somehow greater than the next guys – our day at work was harder, our mother’s cancer is in a farther stage of progression, our break-up was on Facebook and not just through text – we suddenly are gearing up for the Pain Olympics. It’s an elite event in which only the most victimized survive.

Sports featured in this daily occasion are Career, Health, Finances, Relationships, Family, and everyone’s favorite, The Universe Just Totally Screwed Me. Players battle it over out such important issues as whose trip to the dentist was more painful and who has to spend more time with creepy Uncle Sal at Thanksgiving.

The problem with the Pain Olympics is that no one ever seems to win. The battles rage on as we become more and more defeated trying to defend just how hard we have it. Our strength, the limited amount we have considering the crap we’re dealing with, slowly diminishes. And eventually, everyone seems to forfeit.

Thinking our pain is worse than others isn’t inherently bad. Heck, for all we know, it is worse! But what happens when we attach so firmly to that belief is that we find ourselves alone on an island of our pain. We’ve alienated anyone that might be able to relate – to whatever degree that might be possible – and we’ve adopted the victim role. And the victim never wins.

So how do you win the Pain Olympics? You throw down your sword and armor and you get out of the fight. That doesn’t mean defeat and it doesn’t even mean letting go of the belief that you have it worse off. It simply means dropping the battle and allowing others to help ease your pain rather than challenging it. It takes courage. And it definitely deserves a medal.

Do you ever feel like you have to defend your pain? 

09 Nov

The illusion of control {Self-Discovery, Word by Word}

Word by Word 18 Comments by Ashley @ Nourishing the Soul

20100731-wilson-fotografie-wedding-122 Photo Credit :: Wilson Fotografie

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To be human is to be vulnerable.

Somewhere along the way, we decided that life would be easier if we could control our universe — if we could minimize our vulnerability. Perhaps this was adaptive at one point. If we worked diligently to keep our enemies at bay, we could maintain our coveted spot in the cave. We got the mate, we produced more offspring, we got to live.

We are not cavemen (or cavewomen, for that matter) anymore.

We are vibrant, inspired, well-educated beings who have many, many choices. And yet most of us continue to operate as though we can control our environments. We put up fences around our homes, we keep those we care about at arm’s length, and we count calories.

All are part of our illusion of control.

We struggle and strive to keep our feelings at bay. So we eat. Or we don’t. We gamble our savings. We have sex with people we don’t care about.

All are part of our illusion of control.

We take medications we don’t need. We exercise too much. We work late nights. We don’t let our partner get too close.

All are part of our illusion of control.

We live our lives as though we will wither and die should we become vulnerable. But to the contrary, vulnerability is the foundation of trust. And it is through learning to trust that we grow.

When we can learn to trust that those we love will honor us, when we learn to trust that our hearts will not deceive us, when we learn that our bodies will not betray us… We grow.

Here’s the hard part. Vulnerability means being open to the possibility (actually, the certainty) of pain. It means acceptance.

But here’s the thing. Pain is beautiful. It shatters the illusion of control like pieces of shimmering broken glass. It burns and it glows and it reminds us of our unshakable humanity.

So go ahead, give vulnerability a shot. Peel back the layers of control and let us see your humanity.

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This post is part of the Self-Discovery, Word by Word series that kicked off last month right here. This month the word to reflect on is VULNERABILITY. You can check out all the details over on Karen’s fantastic blog, Before and After: A Real Life Story.

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