Overcoming Emotional Handicaps That Sabotage Weight Loss

Introduction

Here’s an interesting tidbit on the placebo effect from New Scientist – a great website full of info of great nerditude:

Several times a day, for several days, you induce pain in someone. You control the pain with morphine until the final day of the experiment, when you replace the morphine with saline solution. Guess what? The saline takes the pain away.

This is the placebo effect: somehow, sometimes, a whole lot of nothing can be very powerful. Except it’s not quite nothing. When Fabrizio Benedetti of the University of Turin in Italy carried out the above experiment, he added a final twist by adding naloxone, a drug that blocks the effects of morphine, to the saline. The shocking result? The pain-relieving power of saline solution disappeared.

It’s the last two sentences that are truly revealing. What it tells me is this: what we think can change our body chemistry in a measurable way.

Now, we know that, but the above experiment shows just how powerful that can be.

Since I started doing low carb almost 6 years ago, I’ve always thought that your mental outlook plays a critical role in weight loss. I’m vulnerable to emotional eating – pigging out because I’m stressed – so that’s at least one easy to see way that mind affects diet.

But can it be even more profoundly true than that simple and obvious correlation?

Check out this link: http://www.jongabriel.com.au/

This fellow believes that you can think yourself thin. Sounds like another snake oil sales pitch to separate fat folks from their hard-earned money.

I can’t comment either way – I haven’t done a smidgen of research on this fellow, except to breeze through his home page. One correspondent who reads Low Carb Confidential is going to try this – I asked them to keep me posted on how it goes. My guess is it won’t work, but living low carb has taught me to have an open mind, at least.

I think Aristotle said: It is the mark of an educated mind to entertain a thought without embracing it.

Or something like that.

This leads me to my own drivel on what I call ’emotional handicaps’. I wrote the following a few months back, for no particular reason – it wasn’t intended for this blog – but heck – why not?

Mindset is important – perhaps even more important than I ever realized – so maybe there some insights here that can help make you happier and thinner at the same time. Maybe not.

Emotionally Handicapped

To be handicapped means not having the capabilities of others around you. To be handicapped does not mean that you can’t function, but it does mean that there are many more situations that will prove difficult for you than for other people.

A physical handicap is easy to spot, usually. A person who is wheelchair-bound has an obvious handicap and it is fairly easy to determine what will prove difficult, and how to overcome these difficulties.

Being emotionally handicapped is harder to spot – both for the person with the handicap and for others around them. Usually, there is just a feeling that ‘something’s wrong’, but it is hard to articulate. There is also the issue surrounding the ability to perceive that a handicap exists. You can’t miss what you’ve never had, so a person blind from birth doesn’t miss having eyesight, as they never had it in the first place.

Here are some capabilities that can go missing in some people. If you don’t possess these abilities, you might find day-to-day life to be much harder than people who have these skills:

  • The Ability to Laugh at Oneself. The ability to laugh at oneself can help diffuse potential conflict. Yes, there are times when there is a need for absolute seriousness, but when a seriousness about oneself becomes a constant occurrence, it means that you ‘can’t take a joke’ – and like a physically-handicapped individual, this handicap is readily apparent to others around you. You will be treated differently because of this. If you feel isolated from others, it might be an indication of this.
  • The Ability to Make Mistakes. Making mistakes is an inevitable occurrence when doing anything. To succeed, you need to be able to get beyond a mistake, learn from it, and continue on. People who don’t allow themselves to make mistakes can never learn for their mistakes, since they deny they exist. They also spend an enormous amount of energy defending their actions, bending and twisting reality to fit the situation. This is usually a monumental waste of time because, while the person who made the mistake thinks that they have successfully explained away the error, those around them see through this tortured display, and rarely call them on it – it is not worth the trouble. If they understood how others saw them, they would be embarrassed.
  • The Ability to Forgive. People who do not have the ability to forgive don’t realize that forgiveness does not benefit the forgiven as much as the forgiver. Holding a grudge takes enormous energy, and a lifetime of grudges gradually accumulating as one goes though life becomes an unbearable burden. Forgiveness is sometimes thought of as weakness to these people, but forgiveness does not mean forgetting – it means having a greater understanding of what could happen in the future – but without the emotional attachment that clouds thinking.
  • The Ability to Manage Conflict without Denigration. Conflict is part of life – there is no way that humans can interact without disagreement. We each are unique and were born into unique circumstances, the things shaping our perceptions so different that it is amazing that there isn’t more conflict. Some people can’t fathom that there might be more than one way to look at a situation, and this leads to a simple ‘right-wrong’ thinking where there is no room for the other person’s viewpoint, which means that no learning and no growth can occur. When managing conflict without the tools that an emotionally healthy person has, there is no way to respond to the conflict except through personal attack. Once this occurs, the conflict stops being one of ideas and instead becomes an attack on the other person’s spirit. At this point, people involved in a conflict either descend to the attacker’s level, or retreat, leaving the attacker to think they ‘won’ – but what they have really done is exposed themselves for what they are, and future interactions between the two will be less authentic – the one attacked will ‘manage’ the relationship as they will have learned that no real communication is possible.
  • The Ability to Take Responsibility. Closely related to the ability to make mistakes is that ability to take responsibility for them. Many people spend enormous energy to try and deflect blame for a situation gone bad. This is perhaps one of the most prevalent emotional handicaps, and the most transparent. It is tiring to watch a person go though the tortured gyrations necessary for them to extricate themselves from any part in a bad situation – even if they are central to the event. The fact that taking responsibility is the first step in finding a solution is lost on them.
  • The Ability to Absorb an Attack. Many people who have a high degree of emotional capabilities fall short when they are under attack. Once attacked, they descend to the attacker’s level and often follow their attacker blindly into territory where nothing good will come from all the anger and effort. This is usually because they were caught off-guard, or they were feeling tired, or ill. It is critical to remember to ‘choose one’s battles’ carefully, and that there are times when an attack should go unanswered. Many attacks are simply not worthy of the time and effort, and while people who respond to every attack with a counterattack believe this a show of strength, to many other people, it betrays a sign of weakness.
  • ‘Bounce Back’. Related to the ability to forgive, but it is more a short-term phenomenon. We are human and even the most emotionally capable can fall prey to being angered by situations great and small. But the question is: how quickly can you let these situations dissipate? If you are angered by someone cutting in front of you in traffic, does this anger last a minute, 10 minutes, an hour, a day? A situation like this has no action to follow – it was transient, it’s over, and a moment’s energy beyond avoiding an accident is wasted energy.
  • The Ability to Avoid a Punishment Mentality. When you are wronged, an enormous amount of energy can be spent absorbed in a ‘punishment mentality’. The fallacy that lies in this is that nothing can undo a wrong, especially if the thinking is to ‘even the score’. There is real benefit in fixing an error – if someone were to state something incorrect about you to another it is healthy and right to speak up for oneself and correct the situation. But to respond in kind, and say something incorrect about that person, for example, is again abandoning emotional health and descending to the level of handicap the other possesses. This not only is a waste of energy, but can be dangerous to one’s health. The desire to punish another can lead to criminal acts – there are many people in prison because they gave another person ‘what they deserved’.
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