Marc David, founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating, talks to Kayla, 37, about what she describes as post traumatic stress, getting worked up with life’s stresses, and turning to food in a way she doesn’t want to in order to cope with it all. After learning about her past experiences, not having a strong father figure, being cyber bullied, and noticing strong negative reaction to everyday happenings, Marc connects Kayla’s inability to protect herself against completely getting side swiped by these things, with a sensitive nervous and immune system. Without any barrier, everything is allowed in. Then Marc makes a connection between stressful situation and abandonment, and even sheds light on the possibility that in these moments of stress and overwhelm, Kayla is abandoning herself. She walks away with a new practice of learning to stand by her own side, honor herself, and embrace her journey, so that she can feel empowered, safe, and whole.
Below is a transcript of this podcast episode:
Real people. Real breakthroughs. This is a Psychology of Eating podcast where psychology and nutrition meet to uncover the true causes of our unwanted eating concerns. Your relationship with food will never be the same. Now, here’s your host, eating psychology expert and founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating, Marc David.
Marc: Welcome, everybody. I’m Marc David, founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating. We are back in the Psychology of Eating podcast, and I’m with Kayla today. Welcome, Kayla.
Kayla: Thank you. Thank you for having me.
Marc: Yeah, I’m so glad we’re here. I’m so glad we’re doing this. Let me just say a few words, Kayla, to viewers and listeners. If you’re a regular visitor to this podcast, you’ve been with us before, welcome back. Thank you. I so appreciate you being part of our world. If you’re new to the podcast, here’s how it works. Kayla and I are officially meeting each other for the first time. And we’re going to spend time together and see if we can move you forward in whatever you want to advance in when it comes to food and body.
So with that, if you could wave your magic wand, Ms. Kayla, and get whatever you wanted from this session, what would that look like for you?
Kayla: I think if you had asked me last week, last month even, the answer would be very different. Sort of I think more so in the last 24 hours whilst thinking about this question, I’d like to cope better with stressors. I think when things sort of come up and they’re repetitive I do notice them and do endeavor to try and correct or change, learn from the past. But I think I definitely could improve more just in coping mechanisms. When it comes to really high stressors, I seem to cope well when it’s happening. I’m the best person to go to if there’s a really serious matter, and I can cope. And then it’s not until probably two or three days later post-traumatic stress sets in for me. And I’m whacked. I’m down and out for about a week. That for me I think I would definitely need some attention. If you could help, that’d be great.
Marc: Does this impact your relationship with food, your relationship with your body or health in any way?
Kayla: Oh, definitely. So from a cortisol perspective, I know that it’s triggered. At times, I will lose a ton of weight. So at times I’ll put on a ton of weight, and I don’t necessarily need to be eating for that to happen. It’s just what happens. Obviously, I get fatigued with that extra stress because I think my inflammatory markers go up just in that instance. So I don’t want to do anything—well, I do want to do things, but I can’t function. So I don’t exercise or walk or just do practical things.
That relationship does change. I sort of step out of my body for a bit, and it’s hard to sort of get back in because it’s not a comfortable place to be. So I will crumble for a period until I sort of build myself back up. And I do that through affirmations and prayer and meditation and just trying to be super positive about pretty bad situations and just get on with it. So, yeah, things do get affected from a holistically point of view.
Marc: So help me understand this. Do you want to lose weight? Is that a thing for you? A goal? A concern? An issue?
Kayla: No, not right now. I know I’m more of a feeler, so when I’m feeling sore, fatigued, just lethargic, apathetic even. I just feel. So my body weight’s never been too much of an issue. It does fluctuate up to 45 kilos every few months, depending on where I’m going. I know what my average is and where I feel most comfortable and happiest, I suppose. And that’s certainly right now for me. I don’t need to lose weight at this time.
Marc: Got it. I just want to make sure that I’m really identifying what it is that you want in—just so you know, oftentimes, people say what they want but they really want something else. Or they say what they want and that’s the thing they want. So I like to be certain. So how you answered my question when I said, “If you could wave your magic wand and get whatever you want from this session,” you wanted to learn how to cope better with challenging life situations and not… You didn’t use these words, but not kind of get knocked off your horse, it sounds like, for so long.
Kayla: Yeah, and lose my mojo. Correct. So I go from eating really, really well. And baking and cooking are all sort of love language for me as well, and I’ll just stop doing that. And I will shut down, and I go back to drinking a coffee a day and sweet things, more sort of raw foods. But I will tend to go to those sweets to comfort and less of the nutritional sort of foods that I do need to cope with those times. Sort of, well, I jump out of my practical mind and go straight for the comfort because I need a nice big, warm hug from my cup of coffee and a nice gluten-free chocolate brownie or something.
Marc: Got it. Got it. Got it. So let me ask you this question, and I don’t even know if this is answerable. By the way, there’s never any rights or wrongs to these questions. What would you say is more challenging for you? A, is it the fact that you don’t cope as well with challenging and stressful situations as you would like to be able to? Or, B, the fact that during such times, your eating can get a little crazy?
Kayla: Can I say both?
Marc: Okay. That’s fair. I got it. That’s helpful.
Marc: Let’s just break this down a little more. Can you give me an example of, “Whoa, here was a stressful situation? I didn’t cope very well, and then here’s what happened”? In a minute or less, give me a story.
Kayla: Okay. Just in general. Generalization. Feeling intimidated, fearful, scared. And that sort of promotes a real anxiety within.
Marc: Wait. Time out. Time out. Time out. Give me a story, a specific example. Something that happened a year ago, a month ago, three months ago, a week ago, like, give me a specific.
Kayla: The most recent event for me is that I had been cyber bullied, and that’s actually still under investigation with ACORN. So that’s yet to come to an end, but through that time, there were two weeks that basically they couldn’t do much. And so, things happened that were really quite traumatizing and upsetting and confusing. It really challenged me to love. It really challenged me to not judge. Yeah. To do the things that I need to do to be practical, like to continue my study because I’m coming up to the exams and to really focus. “Ok, just shut that out. It’s getting sorted. Let’s just get on with what you need to do.”
I wasn’t able to do that. I had to get an extension. When I feel attacked or bullied, I just can’t function. It triggers a lot for me, and I sort of fall into this post-traumatic stress. And I just can’t function as well or as positively. My IQ just goes, and my brain just doesn’t function. I just go somewhere else.
Marc: I’m understanding better. Thank you. Let me ask you another question about that. Is it mostly would you say—because you just gave me the example of being attacked or bullied. That’s when like, “Whoa, that can crash my system.” Is it only that? Or is that main…?
Kayla: No. I’d say—good question. Well, I think a lot of my core issues are related to that and feeling fearful, being scared, intimidated. And I think that a lot could bring that on though. So I would probably say that would be definitely a core, but a lot of things could bring it on. And that could be just road rage, someone chuckling at you, and you’re feeling sort of a bit fearful or just that day-to-day event where you could go to work and a colleague might be in a bad mood and speak to you in an inappropriate way. These sorts of things happen. And if you’re not in, I suppose, a strong frame of mind and you’re feeling a little bit fragile or vulnerable it really does take you back.
And I find it hard to—particularly the last 12 months, the more open and vulnerable and, I suppose, raw that I’ve allowed myself to be it’s more challenging to be stronger. Especially when perhaps you are changing in a way or I feel I’ve changed in a way that is quite positive and some of my close friends, the people that love me dearly will say that. Whereas, other people, they don’t like it. It’s confronting for them. We don’t have the same relationship due to the way that I have changed and the honesty in which I come with. So that’s all part of… Does that answer the question? I’m a bit all over the show there.
Marc: No, it does answer the question. Very, very helpful. Yeah, you’re really helping me understand you way better here. Are you in a relationship?
Marc: When was the last relationship you were in?
Marc: 2008. And how long was that relationship?
Kayla: That was over a four-year period.
Marc: Four-year period. Were you living together?
Kayla: We were through a time, and at the end, I was actually in Italy for a little while. So not in the end, we were not.
Marc: Would you be willing to sum up for me in a minute or less, give me the story of that relationship? What happened? And I know that’s an unfair question to ask in a minute or less. But I want you to give me like a highlight for you of what kind of how it lives in your system, how that experience lives in your system. That’s really what I want to know.
Kayla: Okay, so pros and cons, I would be certainly the first love in regards to having a relationship that I felt was sort of fully embodied. We traveled overseas together, and we experienced things that I experienced for the first time in my life which was awesome and had some really great times. Unfortunately, after the first couple of years, he was unfaithful, but emotionally. And then in the end, we were part of a Christian community, and there were a lot of politics and a lot of people involved that shouldn’t have been.
But he was, again, unfaithful in not just sort of one area. He would do a lot of traveling overseas and meet with women inappropriately and be very, very dishonest which was, again, very traumatizing because I forgave him. I actually left Perth the first time it happened and moved down south to start fresh and was sort of pulling the pieces together. And he came back into my life and asked for forgiveness, and it took a lot. And I did and then he went and did it again.
And the comments that he made to me the first time why he did that were really cutting and very, very hurtful. And in the end, he just showed no respect or love or kindness. And it was actually the most hurtful experience that I’ve been through in my life.
Marc: Yeah, I could imagine. I could imagine. I’m sorry that happened for you. I really am. And that’s helpful for me to understand. So what do you tell yourself about being in another relationship? So that was about eight years ago that that ended. What do you want for the future for yourself?
Kayla: I’ve actually been quite scared of that, so I’ve focused on my career and I’ve focused on studying. And I’m still focusing on studying. I try and keep myself busy in other ways. I don’t really know what I want because I don’t want to have an expectation. Obviously, everyone wants to be loved. And sometimes I think that’s a bit too much to ask. And I’ve had comments said to me that, “Aw, you’ll never get married. You’ll never be with anyone again.” That’s quite hurtful. I try just to avoid those questions when they come up in my mind. I’m very, very open to the future, and it just hasn’t happened. And I just hold an expectation for it anymore. I just, yeah, try and be happy with where I’m at, at the moment. And I like spending time with myself. I think I’ve gotten used to it now.
Marc: Good. I get it. I do get it. Can I ask how old you are?
Kayla: I am 37.
Marc: And are your parents still alive?
Kayla: Yes, they are.
Marc: Are you close with them?
Marc: Are you in contact with them?
Kayla: I was in contact with my mother up until probably three or four weeks ago.
Marc: And with your dad, when was the last time you had contact with him?
Kayla: So my mother and father weren’t together for very long. My mum’s from the UK, and my father’s Australian. They were both remarried, and they came together for a couple of years. And he had an alcohol problem, and they separated when I was three years old after some pretty traumatic experiences for my family and myself. I’ve intermittently sort of seen him in and out of my teens and through my 20s, but it’s never ended well. He has a lifestyle that he prefers and he’s chosen to live. And it’s not healthy to be in a relationship with him. I wish him very, very well, and I always think of him the best. And I pray for him, and it’s just not—sometimes some people are just best not in your life.
Marc: Understood. So I’m going to ask you a question, and you don’t have to answer this. If you were going to answer the question, what I’m most angry about my father is…
Kayla: Lack of father. I’ve not had a father. I’ve had a stepfather as well through actually about eight years. And I think from both perspectives, they were very aggressive, very angry, and the day-to-day, they had a lot of addictive behaviors, and obviously coping mechanisms and the results of that I just witnessed a lot growing up.
And what I miss most is, which hit me a few months ago—I was standing in line just to get some photos at a graduation ceremony I was attending. There was a young girl and her father in front of me, and it was beautiful. There was just a real moment where the father looked at the daughter and said, “I’m very, very proud of you.” And they had a hug, and it was a moment I was in line and I started crying. And this lovely lady behind me gave me a nice tissue.
But I’m very emotional about that, and I’m very sad for that for me. And I know that there would be that anger inside as well that would definitely get triggered at times of just not having that.
Marc: Got it. Got it. Got it. Got it. Makes total sense. I know you said you don’t have any expectations about relationship. It sounds like you’ve been really taking time to be with you and focus on you and strengthen you. And I think that’s awesome. I think that’s so admirable. I’m so glad you’ve been doing that. So I get that you don’t have an expectation. I want to know if you have a desire—desire’s different from an expectation. Desire might even be different from something I want. Desire has a different quality to it. You said something to the effect of, “Well, everybody wants love.” Okay. I buy that. But I didn’t hear about you in there. I heard about everybody.
So I guess I want to ask that question again and maybe frame it in a different way. If you had a desire for the future, sometime, in relationship, what would that be?
Kayla: I definitely have a desire to spend my time and journey with another soul. Grow old together and feed each other. Like I still have those dreams. I have those thoughts. Gee, certainly would like to do that. But I don’t look for it.
Kayla: I just think, “If it happens, it happens. It’s great.” And I’ll feel totally blessed that it does, but at the same time if it doesn’t, I have built up enough within to just be okay with just being with Kayla.
Marc: I’m with you. It sounds like your faith is very strong.
Kayla: Yes. I have been brought to my knees many, many, many times throughout my life, and there’s no other choice. There’s only two ways, and I would rather be on the way that I’m going because the other way doesn’t lead anywhere fun. So, yes. I’ve traveled a fair bit on my own as well just to be able to get that relationship strong as well as with nature. I love just spending time in nature. It makes me feel more connected to the Creator that is, I suppose, and just be okay that life is what it is right now.
Marc: Okay. I’m so happy where we are in this conversation because I feel like I’ve got a good sense of how I can contribute here.
Marc: And a good of you in a short amount of time. So what I would love to do is to start just sharing some of my thoughts with you. And I’m going to start a little bit more big picture, and then maybe drill down into more specifics. So, okay. So when I asked you the question, “If you could wave your magic wand, what do you want? What would you love to have?” I just want to remind you of this, you said, “I want to be able to cope better and manage certain stressors better.”
And I actually see how important that is for you. A lot of times when somebody makes a generalization like that, they’re actually covering for something else. There’s a something else in there. There are other things that you want, but I believe that that’s actually very important for you because you’ve identified it as, like, “Whoa, I get thrown off my horse here, and it takes me a while to get back into a groove. And then I don’t take care of myself with food, and I lose my energy.” And everything that you’ve worked to create can take a hit for a good number of days. What would you say is the longest you could go just feeling completely like, “Ugh, I don’t have myself here”? What would you say: weeks, months?
Kayla: Yeah. It’s been months in the past. I’d say right now it could be two weeks, three weeks.
Marc: Got it.
Marc: Got it. That’s a long time, but quite honestly, a lot of people live in that space for way longer. They could be in that space that you’re describing for an entire life and never get out of it. So the good news is you know when you’re on and you know when you’re off. You know when you’re on your path, and you know when you get pulled off it. That’s actually very good. It’s extremely good. Very, very helpful.
So here’s kind of my words about how I see you and what I see going on for you. When a person says to me, “I need to learn how to cope better,” one thing I hear is, “My nervous system doesn’t know how to manage certain experiences in a good way for me.” So it’s really all about how our nervous system processes information because it’s our nervous system. Nervous system does a lot. It’s how we think. It’s how we express. It’s how we move. It’s how we break things down. It’s how we absorb all the information from the world, collate it, and create an accurate, useful, helpful reaction or response. So that’s literally our nervous system.
You have a nervous system that’s extremely sensitive. It’s almost like a hair-trigger nervous system. A little thing can get you to react or respond. So I’m driving on the road. If somebody looks at me the wrong way, if it’s road rage, it really gets in. So your immune system, which is also part of what the nervous system does. We don’t always think of nervous system as immune system, but nervous system helps protect us.
So that immune function that protects you against stupid energy, energy that you don’t need, things that don’t belong to you. If somebody who doesn’t know you, insults you, that is so inconsequential, it so doesn’t belong to you, it’s so not yours. But, because of how you’ve been raised and your previous life experience, your nervous system and immune system isn’t strong enough to hold that at bay. It gets in.
It’s almost like if you were a castle—a big, beautiful castle—there’s no wall around it. And everybody can kind of walk in. And you’re a nice person, so you let them in. And you’re an understanding and caring person, so it’s not like you’re trying to fight people off. You see the good in people is my guess. And when people are not showing up in a good way, it’s a little shocking. And all of a sudden, they’re in your castle because there’s no walls. There’s no screening system.
That comes from your upbringing. So you were in a situation where as a child, and even probably as an infant, you did not have a core sense of safety. So your nervous system, your heart, your immune system, your body was never given the message, “You are safe. You are protected.” You felt unsafe and unprotected, likely even before you knew you felt that way.
So consequently, you’ve had to grow up with that slight deficiency. I came from a family that had a lot of strong people in it, and I felt very protected. And even though I had issues and challenges, there was a certain message that said, “You’re protected.” So I grow up feeling a lot safer. My nervous system is stronger than yours because you didn’t grow up with that message. It wasn’t imparted to you. It is not your job as an infant, as a child, as a teenager to protect yourself. When you’re an infant, it’s the job of your parents. When you’re a small child, it’s the job of your parents. We have to feel protected physically, emotionally, spiritually. You didn’t have that.
So consequently, when you say to me, “I react to stuff, and stuff gets in. And I have to learn how to regulate that, and that’s a trouble for me,” it makes perfect sense based on your past, based on what you’ve just described about your parents’ relationship and your father. The male figure in our life is symbolic of protection. Does the female protect? Yes, absolutely. But it’s a masculine function. When I say masculine, I’m not necessarily speaking just about men, but it’s the masculine function, often represented by the man in our life.
The first man in your life is your father. We need to feel from either the father figure or from somewhere else in our early upbringing. You are safe. You are protected. If the thing comes in to try to eat you, I will beat it up. If somebody tries to hurt you, I will hurt them first. So when you as a child have that, you feel safe, and you could develop as a healthier adult into the world. So you’re trying to catch up.
You are 37, and you’re trying to do something that you should’ve had 37 years ago—that’s not your fault—that you just didn’t have. I’m just trying to give you my interpretation of where I think you are. Does this land for you? Does it ring true? Does this sound accurate in any way? You tell me.
Marc: Okay. Great.
Kayla: It certainly does.
Marc: Great. Great. Great. Because I don’t want to make up a story and it’s just not true for you.
Marc: So, based on that, based on your upbringing, I’m going to play psychologist here for a second which is a fun thing to play. What often happens is when your opposite sex parent, in this case your father—let me say that differently. We will model our relationship after our opposite sex parent if you’re a heterosexual human. So, in other words, if you’re a heterosexual woman, you will unknowingly model your relationship with the men in your life after your relationship with your father because that’s your first male relationship.
So a lot of the qualities of your relationship with men will borrow from your relationship with your father. The things that were great about that relationship will often show up in your relationship with men. The challenges, the deficiencies, the hurts, the boo-boos in your relationship with your father will show up in your relationship with men. So therein lies your challenge, young lady. You’re going to have to deal with some interesting men as you’re catching up and learning how to create adult relationships with men.
So your previous relationship, you said, like, wow, that was kind of like your first relationship, loving relationship. You experienced a lot of the goodies, but then he ended up doing, in a strange way, the same thing that your dad did which was abandon.
Kayla: And that was actually the biggest trigger. So I was in a relationship before the last one, and it was very, very different to the most recent. The abandonment component was what actually hit home for me. That’s the one that had me on the floor in tears where I couldn’t move and totally-disabled-Kayla for a long time.
Marc: So pause there for a second. So here’s what I want to say about that. Abandonment is huge. It’s huge. There are few things in life that are more hurtful and more dangerous to our heart and our soul than abandonment, particularly… When you’re an adult, we have more ability, more strength, more resource to deal with abandonment. When we’re children, we don’t have a lot of resource. When you get abandoned when you’re a child, it’s not like, “Okay, I can take care of this myself. I’ll go out, earn a living, find a better dad, find a better…” You can’t do that.
So abandonment cuts to the core. Abandonment cuts to the core, and, as you know, it can bring us to our knees. And it can keep us depressed. It can keep us in post-traumatic stress. It can make us sick. It can make us feel hopeless. It can do every rotten and awful thing. It can have that result in the human nervous system, in the human body. So I’m just saying to you when you’re feeling abandoned, it makes perfect sense that that’s where you go because that’s where humans go when they feel deep abandonment.
A lot of people have been abandoned. They don’t even experience it because it’s so painful. They push it down. It comes back to them as symptom or disease. Physical disease, eating disorders, all kinds of challenges and problems. You actually experience your abandonment. Why? Because there’s not a lot of defense mechanism in your system. You feel things as they are. Because remember, you don’t have this big wall up.
So when you feel something, you’re actually feeling something. So when you feel abandoned, you actually feel abandoned. You feel the feeling of it. There’s a place where that’s a very good thing. There’s a place where that’s a very good thing. I know it hurts, and I know it sucks. But the truth is you’re being contemporary. You’re being current, and you’re feeling the offense that is happening. If there is an offense that happens, you’re feeling it.
Now, you have said to me in this conversation, “I’m the person to go to if somebody’s in a lot of trouble, if somebody’s… And then they talk to me and I’m like the great person, and two or three days later I collapse.” What you’re doing there is you’re actually being there for the person. You’re being there for your friend. You’re actually putting up a useful wall in that moment because you’re not going to be any help to anybody if they tell you something and you collapse into a puddle of mushy mess.
So what you do is you put up a temporary structure, so you don’t take on their stuff. You help them. And then, because that wall is actually not strong enough, two or three days later it comes rushing in for you.
Marc: Okay. So that’s just what happens. And there’s nothing wrong. I just want to tell you that makes sense, given your upbringing, given your parents, given your world. That makes sense. So you’re doing nothing wrong. And I get that you want to strengthen that.
So I want you to see the difference between this distinction. There’s nothing wrong with you. In fact, there’s everything right. In fact, given everything you’ve been through, you are probably doing 100% in terms of how well you can be doing. You follow me?
Marc: As opposed to, “Oh, I’m so messed up. I’m so screwed up. How do I fix myself?” No, you have been fixing yourself. You have been helping yourself. So I’m just trying to acknowledge to you that to my mind, given where you’ve come from and given your start in life, you’re doing pretty good. And you want to get better, and I understand. And you will get better at this.
But step one is to just let’s acknowledge, wow, the challenge of your situation. Let’s acknowledge that you’ve been given—God gives us each a road. And it’s the perfect road, I think, for each one of us. It ain’t always easy, and it’s not pretty. And it’s not necessarily what one would want. But there’s a higher wisdom going on here.
So I am going to assume that, despite all these challenges, this is what’s here to help you grow as a person. And these are the challenges that you need to find your way home. You with me?
Kayla: Yeah. Where’s that yellow brick road? Yeah.
Marc: So what I want to say is I would love for you to consider that men are going to be a very interesting place where you’re going to be learning about life and about yourself, because it was the men in your life that were supposed to help you feel safe and secure and protected, and they didn’t. So what’s going to happen is you will encounter men who are not necessarily safe. The men in your life have not proven to be long-term safe.
Chances are, if somebody’s giving you road rage, it’s probably a man. Chances are, if somebody’s cyberstalking you, I’m going to guess it’s a man. Is that true?
Kayla: They haven’t found who actually did the whole thing, but without going into the details, but it was men.
Marc: Ok. So all I’m saying is men are going to occur in your universe as not safe. So just hold that thought for a second because all I’m saying is that’s what’s been happening. So it’s likely a correct observation. I’m just trying to make the connection of why that might be. Because you’re in a process of learning how to integrate, first off, that function for yourself. So you’re learning how to be safe in you.
So when you tell me for the last bunch of years, “I’m just focusing on Kayla,” good for you. It makes perfect sense because you’re learning how to be safe with you. You’re learning how to protect yourself.
Marc: You’re learning how to have good psychic screens. You’re learning how to not let everything knock you off your horse. Now, I’m going to make a very important connection here or a connection that I think is important. And it is this: the core boo-boo, the core wound that happened with father and, to a lesser degree, with mother is that you were abandoned. You felt abandoned. Plain and simple. Abandonment is a pure feeling. It cannot be reduced anymore. It’s a terrible feeling to be a tiny human and to feel that “It’s just me. I’m all by myself. Nobody’s protecting me.”
What happens is, when you feel threatened, there’s a part of you that abandons yourself, because that’s what you know how to do because that’s what’s happened to you in your past. Things got stressful in your home environment, and then abandonment happened. Things get stressful; abandonment happens. So you actually have this little bit of wiring inside your brain. And we all have variations on this; it’s not just you. You have this wiring that goes “stressful situation – abandonment.” Because that’s how it happened at the beginning. “Oh, my God, I’m feeling stress. What should I do? Abandon myself. Why? Because that’s kind of what happened in the past.” We will repeat the offense until we heal it.
The mind has a very interesting way of growing. We will continue to repeat the offense until it’s made conscious and until we heal it. So we will continue to attract similar situations as from our distant past that bear resemblance to it so we can heal it. So we can transcend and transform it, learn something, do something that helps strengthen us.
So what I am saying is here’s the place where you can do some freaking brilliant work with yourself. I mean this. It’s a place where you abandon yourself. Are you doing it purposefully? Absolutely not. Do I think it’s automatic and unconscious? Yes. Do I strongly believe it’s happening? 100%. Why? Because you’ve told me. Because here’s Kayla. Kayla knows how to take care of herself. Kayla does all these good things for herself. Something stressful happens, and it’s like I’m on the floor.
Yes, the offense by itself hurts you. It does. So your nervous system actually gets shocked. That’s one piece of it. But then what happens is your response to your nervous system getting shocked, understandably, is that a part of you checks out. So what we’re going to start to do is notice that. And I want you to start to find Kayla when you’re on the floor. I want you to call her. I want you to call her back in because she goes far away.
The Kayla that you know that takes care of you, she goes far away. Granted, she’s really hurt in that moment because she just took a big hit. You might as well be that tiny little girl who just got abandoned by her parents. That’s where you go. That’s where you go. That’s probably what you were feeling when you were a little kid. You with me? When you were a little kid, it was that debilitating, if not more. But you couldn’t probably allow yourself to feel that because it would’ve been too much.
So now as an adult, you’re actually feeling some of those feelings that you were feeling as a kid but couldn’t really register in your system because you didn’t have a way to process it. Now, you’re an adult, so you have a way to help yourself. So what I’m saying is what’s been happening for you makes sense for your healing. For your healing journey, it makes perfect, perfect sense.
So what I’m saying to you is there’s a place where it’s not conscious. It’s not deliberate. When you get hurt and your nervous system takes in somebody else’s rage, vile, stupidity, energy, insult, which truly would hurt any human being, not only does it hurt you like it would any human being, it hurts even more because you’re an open person. And then it hurts even more because you’ve been taught from a young age that abandonment is going to happen to you. So you’ve taken on that abandonment.
So now you are learning how to not abandon yourself. I asked you before the timeframe that you stay on the floor kind of thing, meaning like the timeframe like how long does it take you to get back on the horse, weeks, months? And the reality is you’ve been cutting that time down more. That’s progress. That means you’re making it. That means you’re moving where you need to go. You’re going to get to the place where it’s going to be 20 minutes at the most that you abandon yourself, and then you’re done.
Kayla: I hope so. That’d be great.
Marc: You will. You will because you have been doing that. I’m trying to let you know that you have been collapsing that time because you told me. Years ago, it was many months, and now it could be many weeks. That’s shortening the time. So I’m saying that because I need you to acknowledge that you’re getting stronger. I really want you to own that, that you’re making progress. That’s very important. Because if you don’t own that, then you’re not honoring yourself.
Marc: And if you’re not honoring yourself, that’s a subtle form of abandoning myself.
Kayla: The questions that come up. In regards to that feeling of being protected, I really don’t know what that feels like. I’ve had to do it myself. I’ve stepped into roles in my career where I’ve defended other people, and even through childhood I remember—I left home when I was 13. I remember running away from home with friends that had domestic violence in their home. I would run away with them and go sleep over with them to keep them protected or just do these really bizarre things just to help them. I hid a friend in my wardrobe as a child.
So I’ve always had this very protective sort of heart for others. But I don’t actually know what that feels like for myself. And I get to that point where when I check out it’s because I just don’t know what else to do. And I will tell myself that. I’m just like, “Kayla, I don’t know what else I’m supposed to do. I don’t know how this is supposed to feel.” I don’t know where to go from here when I’m feeling like that.
Marc: That’s perfect. That’s actually perfect. That’s a way to protect yourself. You’re talking to yourself. You’re being honest with yourself. A way to protect yourself is to pray, is to ask for help, is to ask for guidance. That’s a way to protect yourself. So being honest with yourself about where you’re at, understanding that, “Wow, I don’t know what to do in this moment,” that’s a form of protection.
Another place to go from there is to make sure you tell yourself and Kayla, “No matter what, I’m just going to stand by you. I’m not going to abandon you.” So it’s reassuring yourself, “I don’t know what to do, and I’m still going to stand by myself even though I don’t know what to do.” Do you see what I’m saying?
Marc: So you don’t have to figure out what to do in that moment if you can’t. You don’t have to figure out how do I get out of this. It’s more of how do I get through this, and the way we get through it is we stay with ourselves. The way we get through the darkness is we make sure to not abandon ourselves or to distract ourselves, or when it’s getting real dark and it’s getting scary, to not do drugs and do alcohol and distract ourselves in that moment so we go completely numb and completely dumb. No. The way to be there is if it’s scary, be scared. If it’s frightening, be frightened. And you can be frightened and still stand by yourself.
It’s almost like you being your perfect parent. Having this voice that goes, “It’s okay, Kayla. You’re a little girl right now, and I’m with you.” Do you follow me?
Kayla: Absolutely. And there’s definitely been times where I’ve done that, and it feels very numb. And it feels—like I just think, “When is this going to end?” There’s that voice in my head it’s like, “Oh my gosh, it’s taking so long.” And I feel like I get stuck. And nothing moves. It’s become stagnant. Yeah. Nothing changes.
Marc: Yeah. So here’s what I want to suggest to you. What I want to suggest is that if you’re putting your timeframe on it, then you will feel stuck and stagnant. “Okay, I’m in a bad mood. I’m done. I don’t like this bad mood. I want it to go away now.” Bad mood’s not going away. “Damn, I’m stuck.”
Kayla: Good point.
Marc: That’s what you do. Okay. So that’s the little ego coming in there, going, “Okay! Done! Finished with this! This is okay. Not fun anymore. Finished.”
Marc: So that’s when you need to not abandon yourself. Abandoning yourself in that moment means you’re not being with yourself anymore and how you actually feel. You’re trying to pull yourself out of it, and it’s fine to want to pull yourself out of it. That’s totally fine, but it’s also important at the same time to respect the experience and respect what you need to go through.
So I guess what I’m saying is notice where you need to be more patient with yourself.
Marc: Notice just where you need to be more patient and let it be on God’s time not your time. Do you know what I’m saying?
Kayla: I hear you.
Marc: And, again, that doesn’t mean I want you to stay stuck. It means a lot of times you’re interpreting stuck as “this isn’t happening fast enough for me.” That’s very different than stuck.
Marc: Does that make sense?
Kayla: Yeah. Absolutely.
Marc: So, Miss Kayla, what you’re up to is not an easy fix. It’s not just like, “Oh, take this pill. Take this supplement. And everything’s going to be okay.” I think what you’re being faced with is a powerful life challenge, what I call a soul lesson. It’s something that you came here to learn in this life that transcends a lot of other things that you’re here to do. And you’re here to learn how to protect yourself and how to find home base in yourself. And from there, you’re going to start attracting it more and more from the outer world. And the people in your life and the men in your life will start to show up differently, as you learn to stand by yourself no matter what.
Because when you go, “Wait a second. This isn’t happening fast enough. I’m stuck,” that’s a subtle form of abandonment. You are not being with your experience. There’s a little bit more experience to have happen. I get that you feel stuck sometimes. I get that you want to move it along faster. I think you push yourself a—you might be pushing yourself a little too hard there. You might be expecting too much too soon, because what you’re doing is not easy work and it takes time. And I want you to give yourself the luxury when you can of just when you’re down on the floor, hug yourself and love yourself there. Have a moment where you’re not even trying to get yourself out of it.
Because you know there’s moments when you’re helping your friend who’s in breakdown, you’re not saying to them, “Okay, you’re in breakdown, but I need you to get out of breakdown right now. Come on! You can do it! You can get out of breakdown.” No. You probably ease into them. You acknowledge where they’re at. You kind of join them. You don’t try to take them out of it. You recognize it. You understand why they’re hurt. You understand why they’re in breakdown. And when we’re understanding that person, they feel that you’re with them. And then it’s easier to shift.
When I feel you’re really with me, I’m willing to listen to your advice. If I feel you’re trying to take me out of my experience before you actually know what I’m going through, I’m not going to listen to your advice.
Marc: So that’s why I’m saying to you hug yourself, be with yourself, love yourself, embrace yourself, not abandon yourself, then you’re going to be more trustworthy to yourself because you’re not abandoning you. So now when you start to pull yourself out of it, you could actually better pull yourself out of it. Do you see the little distinction in there?
Kayla: Yeah, I do.
Marc: So, Miss Kayla, this was a lot. This was a lot. This was a big conversation. And you really laid it out there. You really opened up and shared about your life and what has shaped you in a very real way. And I so appreciate that. And, again, I want to leave you with your—you’re moving fast there, young lady. You really are.
And I think you are progressing as fast as a human could in your circumstance. You really are. You’re not lagging behind. You’re not behind schedule. You’re right on schedule. Divine time is different from human time. You are right on divine time’s schedule, as far as I’m concerned. And I feel like you’re very guided in this experience and that your faith and your understanding is helping guide you.
Marc: And I think you’re going to get where you want to go and probably sooner than you think.
Kayla: I hope so.
Marc: Me too.
Kayla: Thank you.
Marc: Kayla, thank you so much. Thank you for sharing so, so sweetly.
Marc: Yeah. I really appreciate it.
Kayla: Thank you very much. I can’t say. I was really looking forward to this, and it’s gone in a way that I didn’t expect it to go. And I’ve learned a lot. And the things that I was thinking, you just covered. I just didn’t have to say a lot of it. So I really appreciate the connection that you make.
Marc: Thank you so much, Kayla.
Kayla: Okay, thank you.
Marc: Yeah. And thanks, everybody, for tuning in. Once again, I’m Marc David on behalf of the Psychology of Eating podcast. Lots more to come, my friends. Take care.
I hope this was helpful. Thanks for listening to the Psychology of Eating podcast. To learn more about the breakthrough body of work we teach here at the Institute for the Psychology of Eating, please sign up for our free video series at IPE.tips. That’s I for Institute, P for Psychology, E for Eating.tips. T-i-p-s. You’ll learn about the cutting-edge principles of dynamic eating psychology and mind/body nutrition that have helped millions of people forever transform their relationship with food, body, and health.
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