We teach our children—especially young girls—to be people pleasers from a very young age, choosing emotional responses that are agreeable rather than authentic.
Without proper modeling, it becomes impossible for us to navigate the difficulties of our adult lives—divorce, job loss, quoteillness, or the death of a loved one. We can’t apply compassion, empathy, understanding, and non-judgment toward ourselves because we never learned how. Sure, we can stuff our emotions down and get on with life, but we still carry the emotional charge that’s poisoning the soil of our soul. Eventually, unresolved traumas deplete our soul’s nutrients—like innocence and understanding—and we end up living in a spiritual dustbowl of self-judgment, hopelessness, and cynicism.
Renowned psychologist Wilfred Bion called this kind of existence living in an uncontained state. Bion believed that elements of thought or emotion carry projective (male) or receptive (female) functions. If someone is projecting a powerful emotion like anger, his state is uncontained. He’s in need of someone who understands—who can receive that energy and contain it, completing an emotional cycle where each cancels the other out and equilibrium is restored. For Bion, the crux of his famous Container-Contained Theory is that psychic growth only happens when we can integrate this process within ourselves.
As adults, tens of millions of Americans are living in a perpetual state of uncontained emotion. Their soul-scape is completely barren and because they can’t nourish themselves internally, they rely on external sources—illicit drugs, psychotropic medications, food addictions, crime—to do it for them. It doesn’t matter what the mechanism is: It’s always false and its effect, temporary.
I believe it is uncontained emotion that holds the secret to healing all chronic diseases, especially for women. From an early age, parents inadvertently teach girls to deny their feelings in order to please others, and then the media convinces them to hate their bodies in subtle and insidious ways.
Later in life, we put them in a catch-22: If they stay home to raise their children, they’re holding themselves back, but if they choose work, they’re absentee mothers. We’re constantly putting women up against standards they can’t possibly meet. When you can’t be the ideal wife, mother, girlfriend, teacher, cook, church volunteer, corporate executive and activist at 20 pounds below your healthy body weight, what’s left but to silently (and subconsciously) hate yourself because you’re not perfect?I believe that this subtle, relentless, uncontained self-hatred is at the root of the autoimmune disease epidemic in women. How else would you personify a body that’s attacking itself as the enemy? The National Institute of Health estimates that 23.5 million Americans suffer from autoimmune disease. Even more shocking is the fact that 75% of them are women. The disparity between men and women is even worse when you look at specific kinds of autoimmune disease like Hashimoto’s thyroiditis (10:1); Grave’s disease (7:1); lupus (9:1). The occurrence of autoimmune disease is so prevalent among women that a study published in the American Journal of Public Health in 2000 declared that total cases exceeded the 10th leading cause of death for all women, across all categories, between the ages of 15 and 64.
Bion and I would agree that the uncontained self-hatred that gives rise to autoimmune disease needs to be contained with self-love. The problem is that most of us were never taught how to love ourselves, or we have a distorted understanding of what it means. Love affects the body in profound ways, but it’s not enough just to receive it: We must be able to generate that energy within ourselves if we are to maintain our health.
To achieve this, we can’t begin at self-love but at self-forgiveness—forgiveness for not being a certain body weight, beauty type, Mother of the Year, the perfect daughter, wife, or anything else. When women let themselves off the hook, they will acquiesce into a place of self-acceptance. It is only in acceptance that we learn what love is. When love is the nourishment we’re using to seed our soul, our lives become fertile in all areas again. There’s no need to fear the future because we know that so long as constant change is life’s nature, survival doesn’t go to the fittest, but to the most resilient—and resiliency always resides in the richest soil.”
Dr. Habib Sadeghi on Emotional Erosion
This is important. Also, I have Grave’s disease and my mom has Hashimoto’s and we are two of the biggest people pleasers. We talk about this idea of not knowing how to direct those automatic impulses of empathy and compassion toward ourselves and our own emotions a lot.(via electrichoney)