In the disordered eating recovery world, there’s a lot of talk about identifying your triggers to avoid falling into a binge. To be honest this work never really helped me because it was again focused on the symptom and didn’t go deep enough. It kept me focused on the surface triggers that led to me binge eating like not drinking enough water, not getting enough sleep, starting the day with sugar, being bored, feeling sad, etc. Once I knew my triggers I was then supposed to make plans to prevent those triggers from leading to a binge. Plans like calling a friend, going for a walk, drinking a glass of water, etc. All of this just kept me at surface level, never really dealing with the deeper, underlying issues.
By the way, there’s no such thing as boredom eating. What’s happening is we’re numbing ourselves to not feel painful or uncomfortable emotions and then we turn to food to shift our state because numb also does not feel good. Anyways I digress. I’ve learned to see triggers in a different, much deeper light. My body tells me when I feel triggered. I get a visceral response and hit of intense emotion follows.
When I want to defend, shut down, get aggressive, freeze, or run I know I’ve been triggered.
More often than not, it’s actually my inner child who’s been triggered. This shows me where I have an opportunity to do more healing. Often when I feel triggered I can see that my inner child just needs more love from my adult self. If I’m feeling left out, it’s because my inner child feels that I have been leaving her out. If I’m feeling unloved or not accepted, my inner child is feeling that I don’t love her or accept her.
If you haven’t heard of the concept of an inner child, this might sound a bit strange to you. Essentially we all have an inner child and the neat thing is that she knows us best, even better than our adult self knows us. This is because she’s been with us longer. She’s been with us since childhood so she knows who we are before the conditioning sets it. Before we develop masks, protectors, fears and beliefs that prevent us from being our true self. We can experience triggers that affect our inner child at different ages as well. We might experience a trigger around anger from our 3-year-old inner child, while a trigger around bullying can come from our 10-year-old inner child.
We develop wounds in childhood that continue to affect us in our adult lives until we do the work to heal them.
All of our parents did the best they could, with what they knew to raise us but we all experience wounding in some way or another. No one is immune to it. I’ve learned this year that there can be a difference in how inner child work is done having worked with both a psychologist and a coach in this area.
I uncovered some really interesting things that helped me understand more of why I am the way I am in working with the psychologist. At the same time, I stayed stuck in a victim mentality while working with this psychologist. In the coaching certification I’m taking, the inner child work has been much more empowering and took me out of victim mentality. It put the power back in my hands to do my own work and not be attached to others changing their ways. Instead, I get to reparent my inner child because essentially all the love I need must come from within. We can never expect to get the love and validation we need externally, or we’ll always be seeking it and never be fulfilled. This has been a powerful shift for me and has allowed me to also feel compassion for my own parents and their parents, and so on. They didn’t know what they didn’t know and I believe I chose them as my parents because of specific lessons I needed to learn in this lifetime.
Now when I feel triggered I am able to step back and observe it. I’m not perfect and still working on this. If I do react in the moment, I can switch gears more quickly as I recognize what’s really going on underneath. I can feel and acknowledge the pain and then I get to step up and provide for my inner child’s needs. Sometimes she just needs that connection, other times she wants to play. There are times when she feels not listened to or loved and my conscious adult self gets to parent her.
In doing this work, I no longer need to reach for food to change my state.
This is one of those layers I talk about. Uncovering our inner child’s needs and providing for her is a layer and we reap the benefits when something that used to trigger us, no longer does and we stop using food as a coping mechanism for dealing with our pain. The next time you feel triggered can you step back and look at what your inner child might be needing in that moment?