Cravings can be scary. And when they happen we can automatically brace ourselves against them. But what if there was another way to deal with cravings that encouraged them to dissolve on their own?
- How are food cravings similar to riding a horse?
- What to do when a craving shows up inside you
- How are cravings part of our innate wisdom?
Resources Mentioned in this Episode
Transcript of episode
Hello explorers and welcome to Q&A episode 38 of Unbroken. I’m Alexandra Amor.
Today our question is, what if we weren’t afraid of our cravings?
I’ve been mulling this over for a few days. And this question in this q&a episode is inspired by the famous Sydney Banks quote:
If the only thing people learned was to not be afraid of their experience, that alone would change the world.
Now, of course, this is a really deep quote, and we could explore it for days and weeks. And of course, Sydney Banks isn’t here to expand on what he meant by that, and all the different areas or threads that might come from that quote. It is really, really deep. I think one of the nice things about it is that it probably has different meaning for all of us, and our own interpretation, and some universality about it, which is what, all great quotes, that’s what they speak to in us, I think.
So what I’m going to explore today is one example, or possible interpretation of that quote, and I’m going to use a personal story from my personal life. And then we’re going to go into talking about cravings.
When I was a little kid, my dad got me started riding horses when I was pretty young, I think four years old or something like that. And along the way, we were mostly learning to ride in a riding arena. So an enclosed arena, quite big. And so a very pretty controlled environment. It’s not like we were out in the wilderness or anything.
Every once in a while, one of the horses would get spooked by something that happened.
And it could be the horse that I was on, it could be somebody else’s horse, and there tended to be a chain reaction to with horses. When one of them get spooked, they all tend to get a bit spooked, because they’re herd animals, and they communicate so clearly with one another. And being part of the herd is what keeps them safe.
When a horse spooks, it can do a number of things; bucking with its back end, their legs can get kind of stiff, and they can do that sort of sideways bounce. Like you’ll often see kittens do when they’re feeling kind of frisky horses can do that, too. They’ll throw their head up and down. I’m sure you’ve seen bucking bronco videos from rodeos. And it wouldn’t necessarily be that dramatic, but it could be sometimes it would just be a little bit of jumping up and down.
Initially, when I was learning to ride, the reflexive action that I would take, the automatic response that I would take to if my horse was spooking, and jumping up and down, would be to stiffen up. So it’s frightening, you’re scared. And there you are five feet off the ground. I could be six years old or whatever.
This horse is spazzing out and you don’t have any control over it.
The automatic response to that, when that happens, is to is to get really stiff, to brace yourself against what is happening. And I learned pretty quickly that that doesn’t work. So what happens is, when I get really stiff in the saddle, and my back gets really stiff and my arms get stiff on the reins and my legs are kind of braced against what’s happening, it’s like then that two hard forces meet each other. And what automatically would happen was that I would just get bounced out of the saddle and land on my back or my head on the floor of the writing arena. So I learned that that didn’t work.
I don’t remember if someone instructed me to do this, or if I just figured it out, that the better response when a horse is having a little spooky moment, is to actually get really soft. So the horse could be bouncing up and down, throwing its head around kicking its back legs out, whatever it’s doing, and it’s counterintuitive but the thing that worked better than bracing myself was to, like I say, get really soft.
What I mean by that is I would sit even deeper in the saddle, and get really kind of marshmallowy – I don’t know what word to use to describe it – in my pelvic area, in my bum, in my thighs, and in my back, and almost melt into the saddle. Riders tend to call that sitting really deep in your seat. And what that would mean was that as the horses jumping around and spazzing out, I would be melted into the horse’s back and would just ride the waves. Like you would ride a wave on the ocean, if you were on a surfboard, or on a river, or whatever it is.
And, like I say, that response, it was a learned response. It’s something that took time and practice. And of course, I don’t remember how long it took me to figure this out. Or, like I say, if somebody explained it to me, and then it took some practice, once that happened, because when, especially when you’re a kid, when a horse is having a little spooky moment, it’s scary. That horse is really big, and I wasn’t very big. And it takes a leap of faith. Or it took a leap of faith in me, a willingness to try something different, to really do that to sit really deep in my saddle, to not brace myself against what was happening.
I bring that up today, because the question is, what if we weren’t afraid of our cravings?
When it comes to an overeating habit, and dealing with some cravings, the same is actually true. And here’s what that looks like.
What we’re usually taught, when we experience a craving for anything, doesn’t have to be food. But in our case, it probably is. The natural response, the automatic, innocent response to that craving, is to brace yourself against it, to try to get away from it, to try to manage it, control it, tamp it down, and really push back against it, I guess, is a good way to say that. What my experience has been, since coming into this understanding has been that if instead, I do the counterintuitive thing, if instead, I don’t brace myself against cravings, that has been what has started the process of clearing them up of them falling away.
What that looks like is that when we tend to brace ourselves against a craving, innocently, what’s happening is we’re adding a whole bunch of thinking to what’s already there.
The craving is trying to communicate something to us, it’s trying to let us know that we have a lot of insecure and sped up thinking not just about food, but in general. And then we brace ourselves against that craving. And now we add a whole bunch more thought to what’s already there in our heads. So thinking like, why is this happening? Why do I have so little willpower? Why can’t I control myself more? This is going to make me really fat. I’ve already gained 10 pounds and I don’t want to gain anymore so This craving is only going to make that situation worse. I mean, you know, all that kind of thinking now gets layered on top of what was already there in the first place, what the craving was trying to alert us to in the first place.
So resisting a craving, just like with the example from the horse riding stuff actually makes the situation worse. And like I say, when I did that, when I was on the horse, I would automatically just get bounced out of the saddle, and land on the dirt floor of the arena.
When it comes to cravings, it becomes this vicious cycle, because we’re experiencing a lot of insecure, sped up thinking the craving is trying to alert us to that, then we add a whole bunch more thinking to it.
Now the craving gets louder and stronger, because again, it’s trying to alert us to all this thinking that’s going on. And we add more thinking to that and get more upset about what’s happening and down on ourselves. And being really critical. And whatever it is, the thoughts that you have about when you experience a craving. So that cycle is what we ended up getting caught in. I know I was caught in it for decades, and it and trying to suppress those cravings, manage them, control them, make them go away, wasn’t the thing that that worked. It didn’t work it, it just kept me caught in that cycle.
I will say to that, just like with the horse riding example, doing the counterintuitive thing of not bracing yourself against a craving takes a bit of a leap of faith. It’s scary. And we talked about courage last week on the q&a episode. And it definitely takes some courage to not have that kind of knee jerk reaction to our cravings, especially given that culturally, there are so many messages about how cravings are bad and wrong, and how overeating is a problem. And that it’s something that we need to fix and change and all that stuff. So it does take courage to try to remember to relax and to notice the craving and to not add any more thinking to the situation than what is already there.
Now, I don’t know what it’s going to look like, if you try this approach.
And I don’t have any recommendations really about what specifically to do in order to…I don’t want to say lean into the craving, but to not brace yourself against it. That experience, of course is yours alone. And your wisdom will guide you about what that might look like how it might feel within your body. But I will give you a quick example of something that’s going on with me right now. And some cravings that I’m experiencing.
About a week ago or something, I felt some cravings rise up in me that had been gone for a very long time. And again, automatically, my initial reaction was going to be to panic, to push them away and do all those regular things. And instead, I remembered that I don’t have to do that, that I can sit deep in my saddle and really lean into what’s going on.
For me the craving has to do specifically with potatoes, which are something that I tend to avoid lately because I think I’ve mentioned this before, I have arthritis in my knees and in in my in one of my index fingers. And when I avoid potatoes and rice that inflammation goes away and it’s great and I don’t have the same kind of pain and discomfort that I have when I eat them. But lately my craving has been for potatoes and rice. So what I’ve been doing is noticing that, and having those foods anyway, even though my finger is quite sore, my knees aren’t quite as simple as they have been.
I’m really making a practice of not beating myself about what’s going on. Not being hard on myself about eating those foods, not judging my you know, quote, unquote, progress or lack of progress, just letting the situation be what it is.
What I know for sure, is that those cravings are wisdom, and they are information.
And therefore there will be an insight at some point about my true nature, our true nature, and it will then reduce the amount of insecure thinking that I tend to walk around with. There will be a shift in my consciousness, and that craving will drop away. And the thing not to do is to fight what’s happening right now when I’m feeling those cravings, to brace myself against them. Because that just makes the whole situation so much messier.
If I get in there with my thinking, and start beating myself up about potatoes and rice, and giving myself a really hard time and worrying about my weight, and freaking out about my progress, quote, unquote, that really, really muddies the waters of what the craving is trying to move me toward. And so yeah, so that’s what’s been going on with me lately, in terms of cravings.
I thought that this was a really good couple of things I wanted to share, and that story about relaxing into the saddle, because I think it’s just the perfect analogy when it comes to dealing with our cravings, particularly because it is counterintuitive. It’s not the thing that we automatically want to do. And that doing that does take some courage.
I hope that’s been helpful for you. If you have any follow up questions about that or if anything I’ve said hasn’t made sense, please let me know.
You can go to Alexandraamor.com/question and fill out the little form there and I’ll be happy to answer your question on a future show.
So that’s it for today. I hope you are well and taking care and I will talk to you soon. Bye.