It is 1989 and ten past eight, one of many mornings. When I leave the sweat shop at Skanstull in Stockholm, there is slightly more than 200 grams of mixed sweets hidden in my backpack. That doesn’t stop me from letting my hand now and then find its way down in the backpack to pick up a marshmallow, even before entering the bus to work.
Sometimes I put in my mouth the piece that first touches my hand. Other times I systematically finish one sort at a time. In the beginning of the bag of sweets I experience feelings of exhilaration, freedom and pleasure. With the last pieces come instead the nausea, self-contempt and the sad feeling of emptiness and loneliness. I do choose to be alone with my eating and that is why, for instance, it is important to throw away the empty bag of sweets, by latest in the litterbin in the bus, before walking home.
At this time, I eat because it hurts to live and I therefore bury my feelings with sweets, cookies, ice-cream and pastry.
With the ”help” of sugar, I escape to the taste experience in my mouth and the brief kick of increased blood sugar level. Thus I close the door to myself, to my dreams and hopes, to what is authentic within me. And as long as I numb my soul and avoid listen to the inner me, I remain incapable of fulfilling what I, in my heart of hearts, am longing to do.
What I would have needed those mornings and many other days was to be heard, to tell someone else, or myself, of the hurt. It helps me to freedom and serenity when I experience trust, acceptance and respect in a talk, to be able to be who I really am in that very moment with the person listening. To hear myself put in words what is inside of me makes me well-defined to myself and it also helps me to find my own way and have the courage to follow it. That is to me, among others, what empathy is about.
Empathy, I have thought for some time now, is something in short supply today. Instead, we have learned to come up with ideas of how the other person could change his or her situation. I have done it myself and still do it sometimes. My goal however has become to try to listen so the other person can hear himself or herself finding their own solutions.
By learning Nonviolent Communication, I have become more sensitive to my feelings instead of trying to numb them and that is what most of all has helped me to treat my craving for sugar. The feelings are like an instrument that I can listen to as they point out to my needs. If I need consolation, it will not come through 200 grams of sweets. Maybe I need to call a friend or sit down to write and to put in words what I feel and need. One of the strategies that I have started to use to care for myself in the last few years is to buy me a bouquet of flowers.
Something I also missed during those years was my own confidence in that my body actually tells me when I need nourishing and when it is, or begins to be, satisfied. A book I wish would have existed already in 1989 is Needbased Eating by Liv Larsson. One of the three practical tools, a hunger- and Satiation scale, has in later years helped me to increased consciousness about my body announcing to me when it is time to eat or when it is satisfied.
Thus, I nowadays ask myself if it is my body or my soul that needs nourishing and then I give to myself what I need.