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When It Comes to Friends, Lovers, and Eating Disorders, Are You Listening to Your Alarm?

A clock set for 8:05Published February 2, 2015 | By Lori Osachy
If you have an eating disorder and you’re having trouble approaching people, you may have turned off your “alarm”.

Our body is like a house. When we’re born, we all have a natural “alarm system” built into our house that tells us when we’re in danger, and when it’s safe. When we’re in danger that alarm goes off in the form of our intuition or instinct, and tells us it is not safe.

Some people end up turning off their alarm.

Why Do People Turn Off Our Natural Alarm?

  1. They may have a history of abuse—verbal physical, and/or sexual. When the abuse was occurring, these people learned that even though their alarm was going off, there was nothing they could do to escape. They were helpless. They came to believe that it didn’t matter whether their alarm was off or on, because there was no escape. So they just learned to ignore the alarm.
  2. Low self-esteem can also cause you to question your alarm system. If your instinct and your intuition are telling you that someone is not healthy for you, your low self-esteem might kick in and whisper, “You shouldn’t stand up to that unhealthy person or say no to them, because they may not like you or reject you.” As a result, you “open the door” and let them in anyway.
  3. I often work with adults who were “parentified “children, which means is you were parent to your parents emotionally and/or physically instead of them properly parenting you. You are expected to be very responsible, overly responsible. Too responsible for a child. For example, if you had an alcoholic parent, you were probably a parentified child. If, as a child, you learned to take care of others all the time at the expense of your own needs, you are vulnerable to turning off your alarm and not listening to what your instincts are telling you.

How Do You Turn Your Alarm Back On?

If you believe you have turned off your alarm and you’re letting people be involved in your life who are unhealthy for you, how do you turn it back on? Well, that takes a lot of work. First of all in realizing your alarm is off in the first place, but then doing the work of learning how to set very firm boundaries with people if your alarm is telling you someone’s not trustworthy. You have to learn to shut the door and keep it locked until the right people show up.

Another skill that is required for turning your alarm back on is learning to say “yes” when you mean “yes,” and “no” when you mean “no.” If someone asks you to do something and you don’t want to do it, but you say yes anyway, try instead to say “I’m not sure yet.” Or “I’ll let you know later,” instead of answering right away. Give yourself time to tune into your alarm.

Don’t squash your instincts!

What Happens If We Don't Listen to That Alarm?

It’s also essential to learn to talk back to fear of ridicule and rejection. Sometimes people say yes to unhealthy people or yes to invitations because they fear they won’t be asked again. Or they believe the person won’t like them anymore or will judge them harshly. If you don’t practice talking back to all of those distorted fears, you will end up spending too much time with people that are not healthy for you. It is very important to get to the bottom of what these fears are so you can turn your alarm back on.

If you give, give, give all the time and you can’t receive, you won’t be able to ask for help when you need it. A more harmful result is that you’re also likely to draw people to you who will take advantage of you and your kindness. Once this happens it’s very difficult to extricate yourself and find healthier friendships and love relationships.

One of the most dangerous consequences of not turning your alarm back on is the resurgence or development of eating disordered behaviors. Eating disorders are triggered by stress, and if dangerous people keep walking in your “house” because you haven’t turned your alarm on, it’s going to cause enormous amounts of stress. It is going to lead to stressful and conflicted relationships. Many people cope by binging, purging, starving or compulsively exercising to soothe all of that stress.

What if Your Alarm is Always On?

Sometimes I work with people that have been hurt so much in their life, that they slam shut the door, put 10 locks on it, barricade it and shout, “No one coming into this house ever again!” They have learned to believe, through their traumatic experiences, that no one is to be trusted. When you lock your door, you are definitely safer, but what also happens is you lock out all the good people, too. There are 7 billion people on the planet, and I’m telling you not all of them are bad. They’re not all going to hurt you.

So whether you lock everyone out or let everyone in, neither option is healthy for you.

It’s vital to learn how to tell which people are trustworthy, but it’s not so easy to figure this out. You can always seek the help of a good therapist to work through these complex issues and you don’t have to do it alone. The good news is you still have that alarm system installed in your house; you just have to learn how to turn it back on and how to open your door again.

We’re all born with healthy intuition and instinct, and you can reconnect with it - even if you need a little help!

If you need help managing your alarm, remember that I offer in-person, Skype and phone coaching all over the country, just send me an appointment request and I’ll be in touch right away. You deserve love that is safe, intimate and nurturing.

To your recovery,




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