Traditionally, when we tackle an overeating habit with diets and white-knuckling and other strategies like that, we’re innocently focusing on the wrong thing. Using this horse-and-cart analogy, today we explore where to instead place our focus and how that leads to lasting change and the resolution of unwanted habits.
Resources Mentioned in this Episode
- My book: It’s Not About the Food
- Online course: Freedom From Overeating
- Dr. Amy Johnson
- Dr. Bill Pettit
Transcript of Episode
Hello Explorers and welcome to Ubroken podcast. This is Q&A episode number 21. I’m your host, Alexandra Amor. Thank you so much for being here with me today, I really appreciate it.
The other day this expression popped into my head, it goes like you’ve like this: you’re put the cart before the horse.
I was thinking about that in terms of unwanted habits like overeating and realize that it’s a really good metaphor or analogy for the two different approaches to dealing with an unwanted habit. So that’s what we’re going to explore today.
As I’m speaking in this episode, the cart that I’m talking about represents the unwanted habit itself. And the horse is the healing or the recovery or the changes that occur about that unwanted habit. And so culturally, what we tend to do, when we’re trying to fix an unwanted habit is, first of all, innocently, we don’t see the wisdom in the habit, we don’t see that it’s a solution, it’s not a problem.
And we don’t see that we’re always simply very simply and innocently, trying to feel better, trying to get back in touch with our innate mental health. If we’ve temporarily forgotten about that, or if we’re even unaware that it exists. That’s what unwanted habits are doing for us. They’re a sign of our mental health, actually, because they’re trying to get us to a good feeling, the good feeling that we instinctively know exists within us. But given all the thinking that we have about our lives, and about our unwanted habits, we’ve maybe fallen out of touch with that.
So the cart is all the techniques that we try to try to heal that unwanted habit or resolve it. In the case of overeating, it would be things like dieting, it would be whatever the strategies are that we try to resolve that unwanted habit. So things like bribing ourselves, maybe white knuckling it through the discomfort of sort of quitting something cold turkey. I’m thinking back to a lot of the self-help strategies that I used things like talk therapy, digging up the past, cognitive behavioral therapy, mindfulness. So these are really you can think of them as strategies, or tactics that we’re applying to try to manage the unwanted habit or control it. And ultimately, to get rid of it. I mean, really, that’s, of course, the aim, when we’re doing anything like that.
So that’s the cart in this cart and horse scenario. And as the expression goes, when we put that first things don’t work out so well.
I’m a perfect example of someone who did all those things, who spent a lot of time and energy and effort and money, trying to fix the cart.
Really trying to put the cart back together, make sure that the cart was doing well or I’m trying to fix what I interpreted as the broken pieces of the cart. And instead, what I see now is that my attention should have been put on the horse. Because when I put the cart first, it just doesn’t work. The horse can’t push the cart. The horse needs to pull the cart.
The horse to me now represents insight. It represents the exploration of our innate well-being and resourcefulness and resilience. It represents how that our mental health is always they’re always with us that as Dr. Bill Pettit said, There’s nothing broken and nothing needs fixing. And that was the stuff that I really missed in my 30 plus year exploration trying to heal my overeating habit. So as I say, all my attention was focused on the cart. And taping that back together.
Mistakenly believing that the cart was broken.
What I’m picturing in my mind is a little wooden cart with metal wheels. And there’s duct tape and twine all over it. I was really trying to just pull all those pieces together with a lot of mental effort. And it never worked. It never worked, because it’s the horse that we need to focus on. So that’s where our attention needs to be.
When we dive deeply into this exploration, and when we begin to have insights about our innate well-being, then the cart just follows the horse naturally. And that’s definitely what I’ve been experiencing.
I’ve had, as Dr. Amy Johnson says, a cascading series of insights, I love that expression so much. So once I had had a cascading series of insights about my well-being about my true nature, about the fact that I wasn’t broken at all about the fact that my unwanted habit was a solution, not a problem. It was part of the beautiful human design that we’re all made of. It was giving me feedback about the fact that I had forgotten and never really known in my case, who I truly am, which is someone who is well and whole and resourceful, and who has access to the ocean of universal wisdom and intelligence that we swim in all the time, that I wasn’t alone in my life, trying to solve my problems at all, that there was all this intelligence, and wisdom surrounding me in every direction at all times.
Once I began to focus on that on the horse, and have that cascading series of insights, that’s when the unwanted overeating habits started to fall away.
And when that happens, then the cart just as I said, a few minutes ago, just begins to follow the horse naturally. So our habits fall away.
I have found, I’m not focused on food as much as I was in the past. And I’ve had situations where I talk about this in my book, It’s Not About the Food, were a habit that I might have had for 25 years I talk about a soda habit that I had for years, just suddenly stops appealing to me. And that wasn’t because I had fixed the soda section of the cart, that I had bandaged it up or cut it out of the wooden structure of the cart, or that I pretended it wasn’t there or made a rule about how I was never allowed to have that kind of beverage again. It wasn’t that at all. It was that I was focused on the horse. As I said, the innate wisdom and well-being.
So I wanted to bring that up once it occurred to me, and one reason is that I think, I certainly was at the beginning, I didn’t really understand how this exploration was different from anything else that I had tried before. This horse and cart analogy to me makes it really clear that we’re or that I had been really focused on one area for years and years and years, and shifting my focus to something entirely different, which even in the in the beginning can look like it doesn’t make a lot of sense. Like how is me exploring my innate well-being going to work? That all sounds very nice and good, but I just didn’t see how that could have an impact on this habit that I was struggling with.
With so much energy and had been doing so for so long, three decades plus. But what I found, and I’m a testament to the fact that focusing on the horse is really the thing that brought the change about in my life.
I thought this analogy was kind of interesting when it popped into my head and I thought it might be helpful for you to see the difference between what we’re exploring in this understanding and kind of a visual way to imagine what we’re focusing on. So I hope that’s been helpful for you and I look forward to talking to you again next week. Take care bye