What if the thing that helped you survive before is the very thing that is keeping you from being whole?
Imagine you were standing by a rushing river and you fell in. About to drown, you grabbed hold of a large log that happened to be floating by. The log saved you from going under.
Now the waters have calmed and you’d like to get out of the river. You’re still clinging to the log and it is keeping you from maneuvering to the edge and climbing out. You can’t bring yourself to let go of the log and just swim because… you don’t know how to swim. You’re deathly afraid that once you release your grip on the log that saved you, you will sink.
This is the metaphor that Anita Johnston used in her book Eating In the Light of the Moon, to show why we hold on to our disordered eating habits, or any other “crutches” that have helped us to get through tumultuous times in the past.
Especially if you learned these coping mechanisms as a child, they can be difficult to let go of. The behavior helped you survive some scary and rough times as you held on for dear life. So, now that it is time to let go of the unwanted behavior, you find it is not so easy.
Johnston says you can gradually learn to let go completely by letting go a little.
And so, very slowly and carefully, you let go of the log and practice floating. When you start to sink, you grab back on. Then you let go of the log and practice treading water, and when you get tired, hold on once again. After awhile, you practice swimming around the log once, twice, ten times, a hundred times, until you gain the strength and confidence you need to swim to shore. Only then do you completely let go of the log.
This metaphor was one of the big “aha’s” for me over the last month or so. I found the courage to let go of my log and start swimming. But once or twice to my surprise I’ve found myself grabbing hold of the log for a short period. I feel disappointed and a little sad when this happens, but I realize it is OK. My disappointment is short-lived as I let go again and work on making it to the river’s edge and solid ground.
What is your log? Start thinking about this.