Many times overeating is linked to a numbing that results from psychological pain or trauma. Eating becomes a way of dealing with everything without feeling painful memories.
In one case documented in an article, a female patient was asked to visualize her overeating during her third therapy session. A technique known as “empty chair,” a gestalt therapy technique, was used while the client wore a headset producing a bilateral beep-beep sound.
This sound is presumed to assist the brain in processing information. The basis for this alternative technique is that bilateral stimulation adds to the therapy’s effectiveness by evoking neurological and psychological changes to aid in the reprocessing of the traumatic memories.
The woman visualized the overeating as a smiling cupcake that wanted to make her happy and not let her feel anything hurtful by eating sweets. She was encouraged by the therapist to talk to the cupcake across from her.
According to an article on changingminds.org, “when the client expresses a conflict with another person, through this technique, the client is directed to talk to that another person who is imagined to be sitting in an empty chair beside or across the client. This helps the client to experience and understand the feeling more fully. Thus, it stimulates your thinking, highlighting your emotions and attitudes.”
By experiencing this, the female patient understood that the purpose of the cupcake was to be happy, to make her happy, to have no real feelings or no real emotions but to be numb with sugar. When she was encouraged to have a conversation with the smiling cupcake she told it that she was not happy, but numb with sugar and overeating. She did not want the cupcake to make her happy anymore. In fact, she told it that it was making her more unhappy because she was obese, did not like herself, and felt numb from daily pleasures.
She described the cupcakes’ response as sad and defeated. It turned and walked away. The female patient was surprised how the mind works. How could she have been unaware of that cupcake encouraging her to be happy with sweets?
After her therapy session, she developed new behaviors. She started taking a stand on this critical issue and made choices that resulted in getting what she wants. She went on a two week juicing diet, exercised, and felt much more energetic. Her feelings had been suppressed for many years, since her early years of abuse, but now she was free of them as a restraint to her making healthy choices about eating.
There was no longer resistance to her real happiness, so she was feeling emotions and her relationships improved. She laughed when thinking of how much control the “smiling cupcake” had on her life and how it was trying to protect her but was really making her more unhappy.
If you have a conflict with overeating, this method may work for you. Contact Innovative Counseling Services to learn more about our therapeutic support to your health.
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