Our Formative Years

We never forget our younger years do we? No matter how much time passes, those early moments that make us never seem far away.

My Dad compares it to a helta skelta – the longer you’re on it, the faster it goes, until you reach the bit at the bottom…. and then, well. Cheery way of looking at it, I know. But, he’s right!

Anyway, I digress – not unusual. What I wanted to talk about was how much our formative years affect us. Take the girl in the photo. Not very happy is she? No, I wasn’t! It was a horrible time. I comfort ate, a lot. Didn’t realise it at the time. How’s an eight year old supposed to know anything about comfort eating? I just knew I liked it and looked forward to it. Nobody told me “no, you can’t have another round of toast with tonnes of butter”, usually my Nan and often toasted on the fire, with a fork. Always gorgeous! I’ll never forget!

I think feeding to grandparents and parents (myself included) also brings a sense of comfort. Even now I’m pleased when my son clears his plate. He’s eighteen.

So what’s behind this feed me, feed you situation? It’s what we’ve already said; pure comfort, but it’s bitter sweet and can become too much of a good thing. Hence, as with any crutch it needs to be accessed / performed in moderation. That’s the hard bit.

I was really enjoying my over eating, high fat, high sugar diet thank you very much. Until the name calling started… that’s when the fun stopped.

He’d shout “PIGGY!” across the playground. My world fell apart. I stopped eating. Completely. My Dad told me to “tell Karen I said hello”. She had already died. Karen Carpenter. That’s how scared he was. 

One thing lead to another and I became skin and bone, didn’t see it, I couldn’t see it. I just carried on, not eating. Never diagnosed, it wasn’t the done thing then, but looking back it was a cert. 

High School was better, “PIGGY “boy left me alone, I was a smaller fish in a bigger pond by that time and he was no longer in any of my classes – thankfully! Slowly my not eating / eating stabilised and I became happier. I’m glad it didn’t go for any longer than it did.

So let’s put some theory behind this; the locus of evaluation.  

When we operate and base our value on our external locus of evaluation we seek approval and acceptance from others; external meaning outside ourselves. It’s much better for us to operate using our internal locus of evaluation, by being more sure of ourselves. 

For example, if I’d have been able to shrug “PIGGY” boy off, I wouldn’t have had such a dreadful time – for such a long time, it would’ve been so much better for me to believe in myself a bit more, I just didn’t know that back then. Instead, I judged myself on his unacceptance and disregard for me. It was even bordering on disgust and I allowed myself to feel the same.

Clients often start therapy from an external locus of evaluation viewpoint. As therapy progresses this often shifts as the client begins to trust themselves and value their own decision making more. They are more accepting of themselves and values put upon them by others become much less important. We start to unpeel the onion, layer by layer.

The shift is pretty amazing to witness and be part of, every single time! 

I’m always thankful when I’m made part of it. It’s a joy to watch!


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