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pause button

Posted Sep 23 2009 10:14pm

I think our friend SuperEgg is onto something with the idea of a "pause button."

Anyone that understands eating disorders knows that the behaviors inherent in these illnesses can function like pause buttons- they "stop" reality, give someone a temporary break from the intensity of what he/she's experiencing.

There are other behaviors around that can function in a similar way: alcohol/drugs, cutting and other self-injurious behaviors, shoplifting, promiscuous sex, just to name a few.

I understand how people feel the need (sometimes a HUGE, intense need) for a pause button. Maybe we could consider how we could come up with a pause button or buttons that could give people a break without being destructive (and ultimately not particularly effective).

I'm branching off here from exactly what SuperEgg said in her comment. She mentioned the desire for a pause in emotional experience, a button that could pause "feeling so much." I'm going off on my own tangent with that idea and thinking of how we could develop it into practical applications. So, forgive me, SuperEgg, if I'm mutating your comment a bit. Nothing personal, it's just that you have a creative idea here :)

So, how about a list of things that maybe we could try to use as pause buttons instead (or at least as a first attempt, before resorting to ED or other behaviors)?

1. Breathe
2. Do something distracting (go for a walk, watch a goofy movie,write a silly email or text). Note: There are some times when "processing what we feel" is helpful and/or important, and some times when it IS NOT! And for use as a pause button, processing what we feel defeats the purpose.
3. sculpt something out of modeling clay- either something silly like SpongeBob, or something detailed that requires you to pay close attention to the clay and what you're doing with it.
4. build a complex Lego ship or building or whatever you feel like. That 6 year-old friend I know is fond of the Legos that have like 486 pieces- takes forever to build those things- and you have to pay attention to what you're doing, and you have to do things in a particular order so it forces you to stay in the present; it's also kind of meditating- something about attaching those little pieces together (ok, so I've built a lot of Lego things...they're cool)

You can see that there are two components to the list: one, breathe, is designed to lower anxiety, get your body oxygenated properly (which is a problem for many people who suffer from eating disorders, because you guys often don't breathe all that much), and two, to distract you from the intensity of your emotional experience.

Now, before every therapist ever created gets on my case here, let me just say that I'm not advocating giving up paying attention to what we feel. Not at all. This is more a matter of pacing. SuperEgg's pause button is about the need to have a break. We're human after all- we aren't machines (and sometimes even machines need a break). We can't always being paying acute attention- why did the universe make animals need sleep... ever consider that??? And, yes, we all need sleep so don't try to make the argument that if we're smart enough, disciplined enough... whatever enough... we can avoid sleeping (the implication being that sleep is for wimps! You didn't think I was going to let that slip by, did you???).

Our own personal versions of pause buttons are good long-term pacing for all of us. And what's a good pause button can different for each of us. What we can all be pretty sure of though, is that if we don't come up with effective, healthy and sustainable pause buttons, our need for them will eventually push us into the development of pause buttons that aren't particularly healthy, effective or sustainable.

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