Do you have your tiger by the tail?
Updated: Sep 26, 2019
This quote resonated with me on a deep level. How much of the day do we spend running from some type of struggle? Substitute any maladaptive behavior: emotional eating, shopping, TV bingeing, drinking, smoking—you name it, there is a way to take yourself out. To go numb when things feel like too much.
How do you get away from the thoughts and the stress and the pain? Do you find a diet to go on, a new exercise program to try? Do you spend the evening shopping on the Internet? Do you spend hours playing games mindlessly? Scroll through your FB or Insta feeds?
That tiger isn’t about finding a fun way to pass some time—it’s about not being in control, about not being able to face whatever it is you don’t want to feel. It’s about the illusion that “when I ___ (am thin, am rich, am in love, etc.), life will be perfect.” It’s about abandoning yourself.
There’s a common acronym in the coaching world: H.A.L.T. Before you eat (shop, scroll, etc.), ask yourself: Am I hungry? Am I angry? Am I lonely? Am I tired? If you’re regularly engaging in a behavior to avoid feeling something, chances are that you’re creating a crutch. If engaged in long enough, you lose the musculature to carry your own weight.
Natalia Benson referred to addiction as searching for soul outside the body. When I starved myself, spent hours on the treadmill, found as many ways as possible to not be in my body, I crafted this veil. I thought it meant I would finally feel safe, that the outside world couldn’t get to me. But really, I was carving up the parts of myself I didn’t like and trying to throw them away, wondering when it would finally be enough, when I could feel like I belonged. There was so much I didn’t want to feel, I was drowning myself in it.
Recovery is really hard. Walking that tiger can be terrifying. But as you go through it, you develop those muscles, the ones that let you take care of yourself. The ones that give you the strength to find your way back home. And then, you realize that you never really left. You were there all along, you just didn’t let yourself see it. You placed so much emphasis on avoiding the pain that you made it bigger and deeper than it really was. Of course, some of the pain is really big and really deep. But the longer we run from it, the farther away we get from ourselves.
It wasn’t until I stopped looking outside of myself that I began to see the glimmers of who I really was. There are times I’m very much aware I’m walking my tiger. But for the most part, he isn’t even there. I can get through the day with the tools that work for me and feel like I’m finally figuring out who I am, who I’ve been all along.
Let yourself feel what you need to feel so you can move through it. Find your tribe. Ask for help. As you learn to go through the pain, to ride the wave of it, you realize that while you may get wet, you won’t drown. You’ve got this.