“I can’t stop eating brownies, it’s all I want to eat”
“I’ve been eating all the stuff I know makes me feel bad and now I feel like crap and I’m sick!”
“I’ve completely stopped working on all the goals we set up and I feel like a failure”
“I completely fell off the wagon and I can’t stop.”
Have you ever said any of these things?
Well if you’re human, you probably have.
Just last week I was talking with a private client who was incredibly frustrated with herself. She’d been doing great for the past month, had been achieving all of the goals we set out at the end of every session and had just had a huge breakthrough where she no longer felt the daily anxiety she had felt for the past several years.
Then she fell off the wagon. Hard.
By the time she and I got to talking, she had been beating herself up for a week. She’d been eating things that made her feel terrible. She had missed an important deadline for the business that she’s currently building, had stopped doing all of the things that she was passionate about, was no longer doing her morning and evening self-care rituals which brought her so much pleasure and had gained five pounds.
“Lisa, help!”, she cried to me on the phone, “I can see what I’m doing to myself, I can see how crappy I feel because of it, but I can’t seem to stop it! What do I do?”
I told her that this is a classic breakdown.
She had all the tell-tale signs of it.
1. She had just had a huge breakthrough the week before–you see, the “old you” sometimes freaks out when you take a big leap forward into the “new you” and self-sabotage kicks in hard core. Growth is scary to the primitive part of your brain because growth could mean you get kicked out of your tribe or that you might put yourself in a situation where you might die. Your rational brain knows this is silly, but the part of your brain that is responsible for keeping you alive through the fight, flight or freeze mechanism just views anything new and unknown as a threat. So if you’re having a breakdown, most likely you’re just coming off of a breakthrough that pushed you into new, unknown territory.
2. She was seemingly reverting back to old patterns she thought she had “gotten over” months ago
Even though she’d been sticking with her pleasure practice, her morning rituals, her way of eating that worked for her, was advancing in her business goals, had lost weight & was feeling better than ever, suddenly she seemed to go back to the way she had been feeling before she even started working with me. This is another huge sign that you’re about to have a breakthrough. When the primitive part of your brain can sense a big change is about to come, no matter how positive, it once again, will freak out and try to stop you from making that change.
So now that I know this is a breakdown,
what the heck do I do?, my client asked me.
What I told her will probably feel counter-intuitive to you.
But it works.
1. Ride the breakdown wagon until it’s out of gas
Very often when we start to have a breakdown, the first thought we have is “what is wrong with me?”. Apparently, there is something wrong with you for not being perfect all the time and doing everything perfectly. 😉 Sometimes we panic because it looks like we’re going back to old behavioral patterns that we thought we’d gotten over.
Assuming there’s something wrong with you, beating yourself up for falling off the wagon and panicking will only prolong the breakdown.
Beating yourself up makes you feel worse.
Instead of sitting with your real feelings about how this breakdown is affecting you so that you can move on, beating yourself up and panicking is the perfect distraction to keep you from moving forward. It only continues the cycle because you are avoiding your real feelings, making yourself feel worse and when you feel worse, you’re most likely to do things like eat more brownies, which only make you feel worse…and the cycle continues.
Instead, acknowledge that your’e in the middle of a breakdown. Take a deep breath. Close your eyes.
Ask yourself “why am I doing this, what’s REALLY going on?”
Let your body, mind & soul speak to you and feel your feelings.
Be gentle with yourself.
Ditch the self-abuse and the perfectionism–it’s only going to make the breakdown last much longer.
2. Pick one thing you can do to love yourself up
Because self-sabotage and self-hatred are part of the vicious cycle of a prolonged breakdown, the best way to start the process of getting back on the wagon is to engage in self love.
Now I know how it feels to be in the middle of the breakdown where you’ve been beating yourself up and feeling like a failure. The last thing you want to do is love yourself–in fact punishing yourself probably seems like the best thing to do.
But, let’s get real for a moment–when has punishing yourself for a breakdown EVER actually helped you get out of the breakdown faster? We have this totally erroneous idea that treating ourselves in an overly-masculine, hard-driving, punishing manner is the only way to achieve things.
In fact, it does the opposite.
What you most need during a breakdown is love.
You’ve already got your brain telling you you’re a failure and you’re already beating yourself up enough as it is.
Instead of continuing the vicious cycle of self-punishment,
pick one little thing you can do for yourself out of love.
For my client it was just to make herself one green smoothie every day. She didn’t have to change anything else. She didn’t have to try to “stop” the breakdown. In fact, she gave herself permission to keep eating brownies and doing all the other stuff that was making her feel crappy–and she ADDED one loving thing a day with her green smoothie. That was it.
Wouldn’t you know it, within 2 weeks she was adding in more self-love and was no longer self-sabotaging.
This is the feminine way to approach a breakdown.
Try it. It’s MUCH more efficient than the traditional beat-yourself-up-until-you-get-more-willpower scheme.
Remember: Life will never be a constant stream of breakthroughs. The breakdowns are the times when we learn a lot about ourselves–we get to see our dark side and how it operates, we get to see our deepest fears come up and we can even see the patterns of how we self-sabotage. We wouldn’t be able to see any of this if we were just in a constant stream of breakthroughs (and we wouldn’t appreciate the breakthroughs either). Understanding how our shadow side operates, being present when the breakdown is happening, helps us to begin to understand the patterns that lead up to a breakdown, so that when we’re in it, we can gracefully navigate our way out, the feminine way.
The goal isn’t to avoid the breakdowns, but instead, to embrace them and navigate them like a Goddess.
With profound devotion,
Life Detox for women on the edge of liberation