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Professor of Psychiatry, Boston University School of Medicine
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Author of The Biology of Belief.
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How Mary's Self-Sabotage Kept Her Overweight
Dear EFT Community,
This account from weight loss specialist Carol Solomon shows us how early childhood experiences can anchor adult behaviors. When we let go, surprising horizons open up; in her client's case, having her book published.
Mary wanted to lose weight, but she kept sabotaging herself. Being a gifted and highly skilled therapist, Mary understood the reasons. When she was a child, Mary's mother saw Mary as a competitor. Her mother was constantly obsessed with Mary's body, pressuring her to eat and then hounding her to lose weight. By age 9, Mary was compulsively overeating and afraid to lose her mother's approval. Mary's mother scrutinized everything she ate and began bringing her to diet doctors by age 11, even though she was never grossly overweight.
Mary was constantly criticized. By age 16, her mother would say things to her, like "you look like an oak tree - your legs look like tree trunks. Obsessed with her own weight, her mother was full of rage and envy toward Mary anytime she would achieve success. Mary feared for her life.
Even though Mary understood that it was her mother's issue, it still affected her well into adulthood. Mary was afraid of losing her mother's love, afraid to be successful and afraid to lose weight. Pleasing mom meant staying heavier than her. She tried to avoid compliments or praise, and sabotaged her own success because it didn't feel safe. Her mother continually gave her intense mixed messages about food, weight and success.
"If I lost weight, she would stuff me with food and then scream at me for eating. If I didn't eat, she'd say - you didn't like my food!" It wasn't ok to be thinner or smarter or to outshine her mother in any way. As a result, if Mary did lose weight or if anything was going well, she would feel guilty and undo it. If she had a perfect eating day, for instance, she would "overeat at night to wipe out the goodness of the day.
Even now as an adult, if something goes well, she expects an onslaught of criticism and punishment to follow success.
Even though it's not OK to lose weight...
Even though it's not safe to change...
Even though it's not OK with mom and it doesn't feel safe to me...
Eyebrow: It's really scary to change
Side of Eye: it's too scary to lose weight
Under the Eye: I'd lose my mom
Under the Nose: She'd be angry
Chin: I can see by the look on her face
Collarbone: It would be too scary
Under the Arm: It's dangerous
Top of Head: I'm afraid she'll kill me
Eyebrow: It's not ok to outshine her or any other woman
Side of Eye: It's too scary to get thin
Under the Eye: She wants me to get thin
Under the Nose: But not really
Chin: It keeps me stuck
Collarbone: And I'm sabotaging myself
Under the Arm: It's too scary to be successful
Top of Head: It holds me back
Eyebrow: I'm not supposed to look good
Side of Eye: I like the attention and I don't like the attention (she laughs)
Under the Eye: I want to lose weight and I don't want to lose weight
Under the Nose: Isn't that the truth?
Chin: I hate admitting that!
Collarbone: I feel stupid and it's not ok to be smart
Under the Arm: It's not ok to be in the limelight
Top of Head: It's not ok to get attention
Note: It's often helpful to tap on the specific words that were said.
Eyebrow: She said I look like an oak tree
Side of Eye: She said my legs look like tree trunks
Under the Eye: That hurt
Under the Nose: I know that she had her own problems
Chin: And it's time to let this heal
Collarbone: I'm ready to let go of all this ... all of these issues ... all of these emotions ... all of this stuckness ... all of this sabotage
Under the Arm: It might even be ok to lose a little weight
Top of Head: What if it was ok to look good and be smart, even if mom didn't approve?
Eyebrow: She could criticize me and that's her issue
Side of Eye: I've decided not to compete
Under the Eye: I've decided to remove myself from competition
Under the Nose: I don't want to take anything away from her
Chin: It's all she has
Collarbone: Maybe it's not such a big issue anymore
Under the Arm: I want to lose weight for my health and for my self-confidence and not sabotage it ... not be worried about mom.
Top of Head: I'm ready to release this weight
Eyebrow: I'm tired of being stuck
Side of Eye: I'm ready to allow my success
Under the Eye: I deserve to allow my success
Under the Nose: I want to feel safe around other women
Chin: Even if I show my smarts
Collarbone: Even if I look darned good
Under the Arm: I can just enjoy it and not have to worry about them
Top of Head: I give myself permission
Eyebrow: It's ok to look good
Side of Eye: It's ok to BE good
Under the Eye: It's ok to be smart
Under the Nose: I can allow my success
Chin: I have decided to enjoy feeling successful
Collarbone: I deserve success
Under the Arm: I deserve to feel safe
Top of Head: I have decided to allow myself to be successful
At this point, Mary recalled memories of feeling very uncomfortable if she didn't eat. Her mom would become enraged and sharply criticize her.
Even though I undo my success in order to please mom...
Even though it doesn't feel safe to have a good eating day, I deeply and completely accept myself anyway and I'm open to forgiveness.
Even though I feel like I have to eat or mom will be mad...
Eyebrow: I have to eat
Side of Eye: I have to get something
Under the Eye: Or mom will be mad
Under the Nose: I don't want to be criticized
Chin: I feel like I have to eat
Collarbone: It's uncomfortable if I don't eat
Under the Arm: I have to please mom
Top of Head: She's be mad if I lose weight
Eyebrow: I can't let that happen
Side of Eye: I have to undo it
Under the Eye: I have to get something to eat even if I'm not hungry
Under the Nose: I am open to creating a new story
Chin: Mom can't even see me now
Collarbone: She doesn't even know if I'm eating or not
Under the Arm: I can now start to see myself as being successful AND feeling good
Top of Head: It's ok to be successful without feeling guilty
What occurred to me during this session is how important it is to love and accept ourselves, and how hard it can be if the key people in our lives aren't accepting us the way we are. The opposite of self-sabotage is - allowing,' and in order to be successful, we need to - allow' it. It seems simple and makes sense logically, but the "writing on our walls" often gets in the way. EFT can clear these stubborn blocks, which can thwart people for decades.
After this one session, Mary began to steadily lose weight; she went from a size 16 to a size 10 over the next 3 months. She noticed other significant changes as well. Mary had always felt guilty for the ease in which she filled her therapy practice. She had been giving away her best referrals to her female colleagues "to make it up to them." After this session, she no longer felt she had to take care of them. She stopped giving away her best referrals, and began to enjoy her well-deserved success without feeling guilty. She also received an unexpected acknowledgment in the forward of a book that was published. She was pleasantly surprised that she was able to take pride in and enjoy her work being recognized.
With love and gratitude,
Carol Solomon, Ph.D. MCC