I didn’t even know what buffering was. I thought people who engaged in buffering were people who had unhealthy addictions to things like drinking, drugs or pornography. It wasn’t until I learned more about this topic that I realized everybody, no matter how self-controlled or healthy, engages in buffering at times, and the impact it has on our overall well-being.
What is buffering you ask? It is trying to escape an internal feeling with something external.
Some examples of buffering behaviors that are more commonly acceptable and even encouraged among single women who love Jesus are: eating, working, exercising, instagramming/facebooking/pinning, gaming, male attention getting, netflixing, shopping, reading/podcasting, cleaning, being too busy, ok a lot of those are made up words but you get it.
Wait a minute, I do all of those…. I’m not saying you should not be doing the things listed above. What is key is that we notice why we are doing them. Are you doing them to escape a negative emotion? Do you hang up the phone from a hard conversation and immediately scrub the apartment from floor to ceiling? You may be cleaning to avoid the feelings of discomfort, but really you are just practicing not feeling the negative emotion and escaping from it with a buffer of choice. You get good at doing that, and you reinforce the concept of: do something to feel better, which over time, can cause you to lose the natural pleasure from everyday life as we chase for more pleasure to avoid the negative feelings.
I lived there, completely unaware of what I was doing. Then when I realized it, my awareness became full on. I thought eating ice cream or grabbing a snack or coffee was just a part of my life, but what I began to realize is that they were my life. I was so used to eating away my emotions it had become a full-on habit. I was getting most of my joy from it. The joy I was getting from relationships, and even simple pleasure was really not available because the “good” feelings came with the food. It was really out of control, but I didn’t even know it.
So how do you know if you are doing this too? Pay attention to yourself. Feel your feeling by naming the emotion, acknowledge it and sit with it. Rather than avoiding it or distracting yourself from it, or pretending it is not there. Lean into it, welcome it.
So, plans get cancelled and you are now all alone, all of the sudden you are hit with an emotion.
1. Name the emotion.
“Rejection, this is rejection.
I like to talk to it and say, “Hello their rejection, I see you, I feel you.”
2. Be curious with it and describe it completely.
“You make my chest heavy and my heart rate rise. I also feel you in my stomach. You make me queasy and not hungry. You are red and hot and you move slow through me.”
This step is important because you need to connect with what emotions feel like to YOU as we are all different. It also gives you practice with noticing and allowing feelings again.
3. Connect it to the thoughts that are causing it.
“I know you’re here because I just got off the phone and plans for tonight are cancelled. I am alone and I feel rejection. My mind is running wild about what it might mean. I’m subconsciously thinking that I am not wanted, that I did something wrong, that others don’t want to be around me, that I am weird, that I am not enough, if I was enough, I would not be alone all the time.”
Wow! Look what was under all that. I am amazed at what my brain throws at me. Once you have stopped and acknowledged the thoughts that are connected to the feelings and you still want to eat, then eat, but know your why. Know you are choosing to buffer to feel better. Whatever is there connect it to the thought and the feeling and begin to create an awareness, this is key.
I do this, and practice this regularly, and what is amazing is that once I have given my negative emotion some attention it is like it lets up. It sometimes likes to come up again, but typically it is less powerful. And feelings I have been trying so hard to avoid, once I do this, I am not afraid of them anymore. Rejection, I can do that, failure, got you, disappointment, bring it on!
Added benefit to all of this was, I was exchanging false pleasure for long term health. But I don’t have to do that anymore. I can eat and have the appropriate amount of pleasure and feel truly healthy. The pleasure I have from taking care of myself and fueling myself has increased and the pleasure I get from sugar has drastically decreased. I never thought that was possible. I remember one day thinking I will struggle with my weight for the rest of my life, because I have just been born with a strong desire for sweets. There must be something wrong with me. You may feel that way too. You may think I will never be able to kick this pornography habit, or Netflix habit, or exercising habit. But, now I know there is another way. And it all began with awareness and that is available for you too; name it, be curious, connect thoughts to feelings and slowly you too can take back control of your buffers.
I can’t wait for you to experience this too!