What’s really going on when we ‘fall off the wagon’? When we revert to the behaviour associated with an unwanted habit like overeating should we refer to that as a relapse? Or is it something else? Something less scary, less serious, and more natural.
Listen to Part 2 of this episode here.
- How we are only ever more or less caught up in our thinking
- What happens when we innocently pile a bunch of thinking onto what’s already there?
- How our thinking is like a river, always moving, always changing
Resources Mentioned in this Episode
Transcript of Episode
Hello explorers, and welcome to Q&A episode 28 of Unbroken. I’m Alexandra Amor.
Today I want to talk about why there is no such thing as relapse when it comes to overeating or any other kind of unwanted habit.
This came to mind for me, because recently I had…I’ll go back a little bit and say that since I discovered this understanding, and especially in the last, I don’t know, six or eight months, maybe a little more than that, I’ve been eating really well. Eating really differently, not feeling caught up in my unwanted over eating habit because of the exploration of this understanding, which has been really, really nice. And not getting too rigid with myself about the rules of what that looks like.
So then recently, I had a period of time where there was a bunch of different things going on. One was, I was away with a girlfriend, we went on a little road trip. And then almost immediately after that I came home and I had some guests here for several days. And then almost immediately after that, it was my birthday, at which you know, requires chocolate cake.
Through all of those circumstances, I wasn’t necessarily eating as well as I normally have been lately. That’s what led me to this subject about whether or not I had had a “relapse”. I absolutely wasn’t thinking about it that way. So I want to share with you what I see about what happens when we’re eating one way, and then we shift to eating a different way and why that isn’t really a relapse.
The first thing I want to say about that is that we need to remember that whatever’s going on, we are either more or less caught up in our thinking.
And that’s really what it boils down to. In the case of the events that were going on with me for a month or so, all that was happening was I was a little bit more caught up in my thinking than I normally am. And the reason is that those circumstances like having guests and having a birthday, and being on a road trip with my friend, made my thinking sound like that the rules were different or that I should treat myself because of these things that were going on that kind of thing.
I saw it as it was happening. And I decided that that was okay, that that was that was what was going on in that moment and I wasn’t going to add a whole bunch more thinking onto what was already happening by beating myself up and being kind of down on myself about what was going on and holding really tightly to any kind of rules that I had set up for myself.
So then, when all those circumstances were over, what I noticed was that I just bounced right back to eating in the sort of more healthy way that I’ve been doing. For the last like I said 9, 10, 12 months and it was really easy to come back to that place and it didn’t feel like it didn’t feel like that on the wagon off the wagon situation that we so often get ourselves into.
That brings us to another really important point about this conversation is that when we do hold ourselves really strictly and rigidly to an on-the-wagon or off-the-wagon situation.
I see now looking back that we’re layering a whole bunch of thinking on to what’s already there about our overeating habit or other unwanted habit. And that doesn’t help.
In a recent episode I talked about the metaphor of a snowball and having it rolled downhill, and how it gathers up more snow as it goes and talked about how that’s a metaphor for our thinking. This is a perfect example of that metaphor, in real life, in a real circumstance, and something that was going on for me around eating.
So the choice that I made, I could see that the snowball, for me, the thinking about what I was eating and what I wasn’t eating, and that kind of thing was there. And it was definitely present for me during those circumstances that I mentioned. What I consciously chose to do was not roll that snowball downhill. I didn’t think of what was happening as though it was a relapse, as though I was doing something wrong. And I had failed. And I was disappointing myself, or all that thinking that we that we can participate in, when something like that happens.
I really consciously just left the snowball alone and thought, well, this is what’s happening right now. And that’s okay. And probably when I get back to my normal life, and things have settled down a little bit, and I’m a little bit more in control of what I can eat, and what’s happening, then I’ll shift back to the way that I prefer to eat now, which is much healthier way. And that did turn out to be the case, which was really nice.
In other words, I didn’t add any relapse language to what was already happening.
For me, I held everything really gently, and just noticed what was going on and tried to be not to be too judgmental about it. And I can do this, or I was able to do that because I’ve been in this understanding for a while. And I’ve been practicing and noticing, and deepening my exploration and having insights about what thought is, and how it affects us every day, all the time. So I’m sharing this as an exploration for you with the intention that hopefully you can see something in that.
The other thing I want to say too, is though, it’s different than what happened to me while those circumstances were going on, and I was eating a little bit worse than I normally do. It wasn’t that kind of permissive, “Oh, screw it, I’m just going to do whatever I want.” That kind of reaction that we sometimes have when we’ve been holding ourselves on, I could say quite a tight leash, about eating. And then we let go a little bit and there is that, that sudden permissiveness that, in the moment, it feels good. We have regret afterwards but as it’s happening it can feel like quite a relief. So there wasn’t that.
I often describe it as like holding an elastic band really tightly. And when we’re trying to eat well, and we don’t understand the nature of our thinking, because nobody’s told us about it. And we’re battling all that thought that’s going on, and we’re holding that elastic band really tight. And then eventually you just have to let go.
What I’m describing that happened with me, during that those few weeks, wasn’t like that. It was much gentler, and I guess this is an important thing to point out as well. Is the difference in the quality of my experience. I think that has to do with the awareness of what’s going on, the awareness that I had about my thinking and about what was happening, and therefore there wasn’t that kind of battle going on within me. I wasn’t holding the elastic really tight.
Then when I went on vacation, just letting it go and hoovering in whatever I could, while I was in this permissive state. It wasn’t like that at all.
I think when we talk about relapse, that’s what we’re pointing to, is that extreme reaction to something.
And instead, this was just a very gentle shift, I guess I would say, I’m not quite sure how to describe it. But there was definitely a very different quality to what was going on for me. And again, it just all boils down to the fact that I was, and am, aware of my thinking, and aware of the nature of thought, and aware that I am not my thinking, and all the things that we talk about on this podcast, and throughout this understanding.
There’s one other thing that I want to mention. And that is this metaphor that I first heard from Dr. Amy Johnson. I’m going to add that to this discussion, because I think it might be really helpful to see this, what I’ve talked about in a slightly different way, as well.
In the introduction to Amanda Jones’s book, Uncovery, Dr. Amy Johnson did the introduction.
It was there that I first heard her describe our thinking like a river.
When we get really caught up in our thinking, it’s like we go down to that river that’s flowing through us all the time. Sometimes the river’s clear, sometimes it’s murky, sometimes there’s stuff floating through it, sometimes there isn’t. And when we’re really caught up on our thinking, we go down to that river with a bucket, and we scoop some of the water out. And then we carry that around with us all day long. And in that bucket, there could be leaves and sticks, and all kinds of all kinds of stuff. So we get caught up in the content of what’s in that bucket. That’s where our focus goes.
Whereas when we’re able to take a step back and see the nature of thought as a whole, what we see is that river, and we don’t need to get caught up in any of it at any given moment. Like I said, it’s moving and flowing all the time. And it’s changing. Sometimes it’s a rushing river, really going fast and there’s lots of spray being churned up and lots of white caps on the water and all that kind of stuff. And then other times, it’s really calm and peaceful, and there’s not a lot going on.
That’s the difference between when we’re caught up in our thinking and when we’re not.
I love that metaphor. I personally found it so helpful when I was in the initial stages of this journey of understanding how it is that we work. So I wanted to share that again, because that’s a really good way to look at what’s happening maybe we have been eating really well and then that falls away and we’re eating in a way that’s not quite as ideal for us. All that’s happened is that we’re carrying around that bucket of water, we’ve lost sight of the river itself.
I hope that one of those metaphors in there that I’ve shared today is helpful for you, and that you’re doing well. I will see you again next week. Take care and I will talk to you soon. Bye.