A client recently asked me a question about motivation and weight loss. He had been following a destructive pattern, one that I had followed in the past along with many other highly accomplished individuals that I met and worked with over the years. I provided some advice and perspective that significantly assisted him with pattern recognition and in turn, helped to create a new pattern.
It is important to mention that this particular client works in both a physically and mentally demanding field, in an industry in which he is a leader. One of the large triggers of his presenting problem is his work as a business owner as well as being self-employed. The work he undertakes is done on a contractual basis and his contracts can run between six and twelve months.
He communicated, both verbally and non-verbally, that his most vulnerable time for following his destructive pattern was during 'down time' (this down-time negative feedback loop is a recurring pattern I see regularly in high achievers and can lead to highly destructive behaviours, but that is another blog entry entirely). The focus of this client’s pattern, which was ongoing for about 30 years, was rapid weight gain. The upside was that he had the ability to lose the excess weight at other times but the main problem that manifested during his destructive down time was that he did not feel ‘in control’. It was as if the weight gain happened out of nowhere and he could not identify the mechanics of why.
When we are inside an old, recurring pattern such as this, it may be almost impossible to really see the inner workings of it. This is due to the fact that the pattern is unconscious. Metaphors and frames, such as the one I am about to share, can often be a catalyst to the 'ah-ha' moment, which gives an individual the ability to bring the mechanics of a pattern to consciousness. These provide perspective for an individual so that they are able to think around the problem and in turn, avoid firing old, neurological circuitry that triggers the undesired pattern.
The question posed earlier leading to this explanation was, “Why is it that when I am at work, I am not hungry and yet, when I am at home during 'down time’, I constantly feel hungry and eat compulsively?”
I eventually identified one of the key factors of this destructive pattern; the client was watching cable news from morning to evening during his down time. He thought this was a way of relaxing but sadly, there was something more sinister at work. One of the major problems with watching TV, particularly over long periods of time, is that it can put you into a trance. The longer you engage in this behaviour, the deeper you go into the trance. The problem with this type of trance is that it is not constructive. With a constructive trance, like therapeutic hypnosis, a desired state and outcome is achieved by the client and hypnotist working together. However TV trance is - for all intents and purposes - a destructive trance because it trains the brain to become passive. If an individual uses it in moderation it can be almost harmless, but the problem starts when use is prolonged, compulsive and excessive leading to the brain becoming passive. When I initially read about this, I was taken aback but after thinking about it, I realised that I too had felt this in the past.
Think of your will (willpower) as fuel in the tank that fuels your ability to achieve desired outcomes and maintain a positive attitude, positive perspective and drive. It is the fire in your belly, if you will. Now picture excessive television abuse as a big puncture hole in the tank, syphoning out all of the willpower. I draw this connection because being passive is the inverse of having fire in your belly, being driven, and ultimately being in control and having willpower. Now because all patterns are cross-contextual and have inertia, it is quite clear how excessive eating and rapid weight gain go hand-in-hand with this down time pattern.
A lack of willpower is exactly as the term sounds, a ‘state of lack’. This concept touches on a common phenomenon that any compulsive eater can relate to, regardless of whether they abuse television or not. A state of lack can be triggered by many different events: emotional turmoil, dissatisfaction at work, not engaging in enough social activity, not being as physically active as the body optimally requires, and so on.
The common thread in every state of lack is that the unconscious mind is looking for fulfilment. In fact, fulfilment is what truly eradicates a state of lack. The problem is that when you’re not aware that you are unconsciously caught in a pattern of lack, you tend to reach for the most basic and infantile solution to being unfulfilled: pacification. For infants, pacification is breast milk, a bottle or a pacifier; but as an adult, pacification comes in the form of a sugary treat, such as a gluten-filled slice of cake or biscuit. It's clear how dangerous this substitution can be but more to the point, how distant it is from the true solution.
It was at this point of my explanation about the unconscious phenomena at play that I saw a big physiological shift in my client. There was a postural change and a tilt of the head, followed by the simple utterance, “Wow, you’re completely right. I never even thought of it like that!”