What Are We Hungry For?

As we make friends with our feelings, we can discover that they can be allies and guides in this journey we call life. They can lead us to a place of deep understanding about who we really are and what we truly want, a place we might not otherwise be able to reach.” ~ Eating in the Light of the Moon by Anita Johnston, PhD

We eat for many reasons. The most obvious is physical hunger. But once you tune into your body and ask yourself, “what am I really hungry for?,” you might find you are eating for other reasons.

If it’s physical hunger you’re feeling, as you eat you will start to feel better. You’ll lose the desire to continue to eat. If the desire does not seem to be going away, perhaps it’s some other type of hunger. The other types of hunger could be an attempt to fill an emptiness. This emptiness could come from an emotional hunger, or a spiritual or creative emptiness.

What is the emptiness about?

This emptiness can feel like a hole inside. Often we use food to try to fill it up. In order to truly satisfy such hunger, however, we need to dig a little deeper to figure out where it really comes from.

A few questions that might shed light on the situation are:

  • Am I not dealing with the frustration and resentment in some of my relationships?
  • Am I grieving the loss of the dream of how my life or my body or my hopes should be?
  • Am I missing intellectual stimulation?
  • Do I have a connection with something greater than me?
  • Have I ignored my creative side by putting the busyness of life always before activities I enjoy?
  • When is the last time I had a good laugh and really enjoyed myself without food?
  • In my caretaking of others, have I forgotten to take care of myself and make time for me?
  • Have I been avoiding social plans or withdrawing from reaching out to others?
  • Is my life full of people and experiences that I give to, but I am missing reciprocity in relationships?

Asking these and other questions can help you to start articulating the emptiness.  But it can be a scary and painful process.

Sometimes when we are confronting the scary stories in our heads and hearts, it can help to remember that we have already lived through the experience once. If we haven’t lived through it yet, we might be creating anticipatory anxiety for ourselves as we ruminate about it.

Strategies for exploring emptiness

This set of tools along with some space in your head to ask the tougher questions of yourself are the first steps to exploring emptiness.

  • Coffee: Now of course this can be tea
  • Paper: This could be a computer.
  • Time: About 10 or 15 minutes

Sit with your coffee or tea in a mindful way.
Mindfully look at the cup and the liquid, smell the aroma, sip with anticipation and feel the warmth fill your body. These steps can put you in a space for connecting with your feelings. Busyness, unconscious eating, ruminating, work and other distractors help us to disconnect from our feelings or yearnings.

Paper or a computer can be a way to access unacknowledged emptiness.
At the top of the page write: What is my emptiness about? Then start writing in a sloppy copy kind of way. No judging, correcting, grammar or punctuation. Just let it flow out as much as possible without thinking about it. Don’t even read it at that time. Wait for another day and another cup of coffee/tea.

Time can be the easiest part of this process.
The coffee/tea has to be made, the paper and pencil have to be found, but the time you just have to grab. On the other hand, it may be the hardest part of this process. Creating space in our schedules can be a challenge for all of us. Some possible strategies might include:

  • Writing your CPT (coffee paper time) in your appointment book.
  • Grabbing a little time in the morning on the weekend.
  • Saying an affirmation such as “Coffee Paper Time can unlock my emptiness.”

By consciously deciding to ask yourself some of the more difficult questions about feeling and emptiness and being ready to listen to your answers, you can start the process of connecting with your emptiness and strategizing about how to start filling it.

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