I am obsessed with feelings. I have always been obsessed with feelings. But in the past 5-10 years, I have come to understand a lot about the reality of that.
What I mean is, when I was eating compulsively I wanted feelings. But I only wanted the feelings I wanted. Comfortable feelings. And when I say comfortable, I don’t mean pleasant, I mean any feelings I wanted to feel. Feelings with a payoff.
When I was a kid, I watched the same movies over and over again. I know that this is not unusual for kids. For the most part all kids do this. But I also did it well into my twenties. And not just with movies. When learned to read and I got into books, I read the same books over and over again. For many years I read all of Jane Austen’s novels at least once a year. And sometimes more often than that. And I had other books that I would keep going back to. I think it was easier for me to pick up an old familiar book or movie than to delve into a new one. Especially if the familiar one gave me the kinds of feelings I wanted. The feelings I already knew I loved. Revelatory relief, vindication and victory after deep humiliation, love against all odds, and selfless sacrifice, to name a few.
There were also in-real-life feelings that I cultivated over others. I still loved vindication, but also hilarity and pride. I was good at despair, resignation and righteous indignation too. I was comfortable with these. I knew what I would get from these emotions.
But when I got my eating under control, this particular skill set, the ability to curate my emotions, especially through media, was a solution to a problem. I have mentioned before that when I first put boundaries around my eating, I watched the same anime series over and over again. (It’s called Fushigi Yuugi, in case you are curious. People have asked in the past.) I would play the 3 dvds in order from the first episode to the last, and then just put the first episode right back on. By the end of that first two years, I wasn’t even having the feelings anymore. The sad parts didn’t make me cry. The romantic parts didn’t make me flutter. The funny parts didn’t make me laugh. But I still got the echo of those familiar, comfortable, desirable feelings.
I’ll tell you what that did for me, though. It quelled the cravings for sugar. It got me high without getting high. It helped me manage my feelings until my feelings were more manageable.
Now I only occasionally go back to reread books, or rewatch movies or shows. (With a Goodreads goal of 100 books a year, there is no time for slacking!) Though when I do, it is always because they offer the kinds of feelings I want to cultivate.
But I am no longer afraid of new feelings. I have learned that what I feel doesn’t have to mean anything to anyone but me. I don’t have to act out in my rage or my fear or my sadness. I can feel what I feel, and still act according to my values. And if I want to manage my difficult feelings, I have tools for that too.
I got the opportunity to understand all of this because I am not eating compulsively. Eating did things to my feelings; changed them, muted them, buried them, warped them, but never let me move past them. In having my eating under control, I can feel my naked, real feelings. And then I can let them go. Unless they are worth keeping, and then I can hold them dear.