After receiving some confounding news the other day, my head filled with a very insistent voice that kept repeating, "Eat a cookie, eat a cookie, eat a cookie."
That voice was doing a darn good job convincing me that everything would be better once I ate a giant cookie.
I was struck by the intensity of my desire as it's been years since I've had such a strong emotion-fueled food craving.
I was also fascinated by how single-minded I immediately became. Strategizing my cookie-eating mission as I drove, I determined where the closest bakery was to my office, what kind of cookie I wanted, whether I had a few bucks in my wallet, and on and on.
I parked my car up the street from the bakery and then...
I didn't move.
I sat in my seat and got very still.
Crumbling My Craving
With compassion and curiosity, I deconstructed my craving by investigating its source: discomfort.
I was uncomfortable with the feelings--confusion, anger, sadness--I was experiencing about the news I received. A cookie seemed like the perfect distraction, an easy escape, the ideal way to numb my feelings.
After pausing, I concluded what I knew all along--that the cookie would make me feel good for about three minutes. After that, I would feel like total crap not only from the sugar overload but also from the guilt, disappointment and anger I would feel for turning to a cookie to solve my problems.
I realized what I really needed to alleviate my discomfort was a willingness to be with the emotions I was feeling and a friend to talk to about them.
Although yummy occasional treats, cookies don't make good problem solvers or friends.
My cookie craving started to crumble.
The Power of Pausing
This experience reminded me a of quote by Holocaust survivor and author Viktor Frankl:
"Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and freedom."
The key is to pause between whatever triggers you (an annoying coworker, a forgetful partner, an unexpected bill), and your response. And then feel and honor what wants to be felt.
There is tremendous power in this sacred pause.
Of course, the pause works wonders in all areas of your life, not just emotional eating.
Remembering to pause takes practice. But when you allow yourself to dwell in that quiet space, you empower yourself to live a lighter, brighter life.