Susan Stornetta: The gifts in your life
Many people in the United States have issues about food, including one of my grandchildren. I’ve offered the following grandmotherly comments, developed during a lifetime of trying to understand how our bodies and minds interact to create our lives.
Our complex, unconscious systems of behavior begin at birth as we respond to our environment, changing our behavior as we learn how our actions affect our environment, including caregivers, siblings and other family members, and the wider world as we grow. We build a mental story about who we are: what we want, what or whom we like, hate, or fear: perhaps someone who’s afraid of dogs, or loves TV and parties, can’t eat anything but brown or white foods. When people disparage our choices, we feel emotional trauma, which causes inflammation, structural changes, and even cell death, as the stinging, toxic words hit home. The pain is encapsulated in our body, sapping our energy, constantly reminding us of itself, reinforcing our behavior.
When deciding what not to eat, the child — you lacked the ability and experience to evaluate choices — our prefrontal cortex matures in our 20s. This central command post organizes and evaluates sensory input, links past experiences with present day situations, and makes a vast array of decisions. But by our 20s, our innocent choices have already become automatic, so although you now know more about food than just its taste, you still feel controlled by your habitual choices. One trick is to release your response to the habit.
Your environment gave you plenty of evidence that sweets were favored foods. When you were about 2, your mom was going out and I was tending you while she was gone. You kept crying, and this inexperienced and not particularly clever grandmother distracted you with a spoonful of whipped cream. Come potty training time, mom rewarded successful activity with candy. Then there’s Halloween, birthday cakes, and dessert. You may even remember incidents from your childhood that significantly influenced your dietary decisions.
Releasing your response to this habitual pattern, that’s the tricky part. I struggle with behavioral traits myself, and it’s an ongoing learning process using visualization and dialogue for short thought exercises.
Calming yourself, acknowledge you’ll never know what combination of events, behaviors, comments and traumas caused this behavior. Visualize infected cells containing tiny fragments of ideas, comments or decisions, along with a trace of the individual, even you, associated with the fragment, and a bit of energy maintaining it.
Establish a mental dialogue. Think, “Even though I cannot imagine life without this habit, I know that I am stronger than it.” “Even though this problem seems permanent, I know I am learning to live differently” “Regardless of what my reality seems to be, I know that positive changes are entering my life.” Be creative with your thoughts. Generate a steady, sincere gratitude for the universal healing energy that inhabits your body.
Now invite each prisoner to leave. Imagine a movie. See the cell doors swing open, and a swarm of figures flow gleefully through my neural passageways and out of my body. Tell them they’re free, and hear them cheer as they leave. Let a surge of joy well up inside as they reintegrate with traces of their self still existing in the universe. Then, visualize that newly-open cellular space refilling with energy-producing mitochondria that create a new set of neural pathways reinforcing the ability to change the behavior.
Your scenario is your own. Use both dialogue and visualization, and the more sincere emotion you feel the more effective your work will be. Above all, don’t fret about it; let the universe take over, and cultivate gratitude for the abundance of love and other gifts in your life.
Susan Stornetta is a retired archaeologist and a longtime Comstock resident.