Freedom from stress and anxiety
Fear: a vital emotion…
When we are afraid, the body goes into a state of alert: our heart beats faster, our muscles contract, our breathing accelerates, our alertness increases… We become more efficient at reacting to danger. Without this vital emotion, we would no longer be in this world. Fear allows us to better adapt to our environment. It becomes pathological when it lasts too long and occurs in the absence of a really dangerous event. This is called anxiety. Fear is linked to a real danger, whereas anxiety is linked to a mainly imaginary danger. It is a product of our imagination. Imagination is worked on in therapy.
There are three types of strategies for dealing with fear
- Reassurance (trying to be reassured by the other person)
- avoidance (avoiding what is frightening)
These three strategies only provide temporary relief. In the long term, they reinforce the fear.
The longer you let fear rule you, the more powerful it becomes. The solution is not to avoid feeling fear but to face it. Although it is far from a pleasant experience, facing your fear is often more bearable than you think.
How can we free ourselves from anxiety?
This involves working on our personal history. The way we perceive reality is related to our childhood experiences. We tend to repeat situations from childhood.
For example, a person who was overprotected as a child will tend to see the world as dangerous and not take certain risks. An abused child will tend, as an adult, to see anyone who takes an interest in them as a potential abuser. A child who is criticised, insulted or mistreated will feel sensitive…
Throughout childhood we have developed beliefs about ourselves and the world around us. We can identify inherited beliefs from childhood and through psychotherapy and self-help, free ourselves from some of the limitations of the past. While our imagination can create disaster movies for us, it can also generate a beneficial representation of reality, one that helps us to feel at peace, to make sense of what we are experiencing and to achieve our goals.
Developing confidence and self-esteem
It is not easy to value yourself. Some people overestimate themselves. Others constantly doubt themselves, see themselves as ugly, or lacking in intelligence, in this or that ability, …or with an unbearable flaw…
Knowing more about how I value myself allows me to change the way I look at myself. On what criteria is my judgement based? Socio-economic level, ethnic origin, family history, level of education, physical appearance, real or supposed defects, productivity…?
Is my judgement changeable? Does it vary according to my fears? Does it sometimes become ruthless? What is my relationship with myself? Am I my own bully or do I show self-care?
The way I see and treat myself is largely determined by the way I was loved and regarded as a child. People often develop false ideas about themselves, based on upbringing, family history and the messages instilled by their parents and other authority figures…
I can change my outlook, move towards a more realistic vision of myself, towards an acceptance of my limits and my unique sensitivity inherited from childhood. This is done through therapeutic work on my self-image.
Freedom from binge eating and bulimia
Etymologically, bulimia means “beef hunger” or “hunger to the point of eating a whole beef”. The person feels the irrepressible need to fill up on food. Willpower is of no help. Despite their relentless efforts to control themselves, they overeat, unable to stop… Although bulimia brings momentary relief, it causes a lot of suffering: shame, self-disgust…
These repeated and compulsive attacks reinforce a deep feeling of worthlessness. They give rise to “compensatory behaviours” (vomiting manoeuvres, sport, obsessive rumination of new diet plans…).
Obsessive eating, attempts to control one’s diet, all-or-nothing thinking, idealisation of thinness and identity problems (the person conceives his or her identity only through the external image) are characteristic of bulimia.
Bulimia is a condition linked to the Western lifestyle and consumer society.
Binge eating is the act of overeating, beyond the point of hunger. Unlike bulimia, the person has no “compensatory behaviours”. As a result, they tend to be overweight.
Binge eating can occur in the form of binges as in bulimia. Or it may manifest itself as snacking or overeating during meals…
People with eating disorders do not recognise hunger and satiety. They do not eat according to their real hunger but rather are driven by emotional motivations or by convention, “because it is mealtime”, etc. Learning to better identify and respect your body’s signals (hunger and satiety but also emotions and everything that pushes you to eat) is part of the therapy.
It is often said that to lose weight or to free oneself from eating disorders, all that is needed is a little willpower! This is not true. Compulsions do exist! These are emotional forces that drive a person to actions that he or she considers to be senseless. Whether it’s overeating to the point of pain when you already think you’re overweight. Or performing washing and checking rituals as in obsessive compulsive disorder… These forces are irrepressible.
You don’t cure yourself of compulsions by using force. You can free yourself from them by doing emotional work.
Several studies have shown that diets are ineffective in the long term. Most people do not manage to stabilise their weight loss. Diets often create or reinforce eating disorders. The GROS movement (Groupe de Réflexion sur l’Obésité et le Surpoids) has dealt with this issue very well and refers to the ‘cognitive restriction theory’. According to this theory, by listening more to one’s diet plan than to one’s body signals, one ends up not listening to and respecting hunger and satiety. This leads to OCD.
Obesity is a complex disorder, a social (linked to the sedentary nature of our societies), psychological and physiological phenomenon. Its management must be multidisciplinary.
Bariatric surgery helps many people suffering from obesity to lose weight. As the video from the EUROBESITY obesity clinic explains, there are physiological resistance mechanisms to slimming. Diets are often counterproductive. Unfortunately, obese people are still too often judged. They are often given simplistic solutions (“Eat less and move more!”). Although obese people often suffer from overeating, there are also physiological mechanisms and genetic determinants that must be taken into consideration if you want to lose weight and regain your health.