It’s the season to express gratitude by giving and receiving nourishment; it is Thanksgiving. The territory of nourishment and its resulting impact on each of us is as profound and variable as our experience of love itself! Nourishment is expressed directly through nutrition and it includes from whom or what we received the nutrition. The empty calories filling our stores promise something they don’t deliver; food given by parents without love, results in the same lack of nourishment.
Water is the source of life and yet so often we can’t drink it without going through a process to make it potable. Even something good for us, can be bad in the wrong context. A gourmet meal might feel less nourishing when offered with contempt while a simple sandwich offered with love will feel complete and sating. Discounting the chaos and tumult inherent in family, what was the predominant feeling shown by the people who offered you food?
Who provided us nourishment, and how it was done is the origin of our nervous system and its encoding of sustenance and self-care: the quality of the caregiver’s touch; their feeling state or temperament; whether the nourishment met our individual needs as children or was offered without regard to authentic hunger. Love doesn’t meet caloric requirements, and meeting caloric requirements doesn’t mean love. Digestive issues ranging from annoying to chronic are often symptoms of how food and love were mismatched.
We may wish to intellectualize our experiences of love, and contort our beliefs by naming as love what we received and provide to ourselves. However the truth will be evident in our actions. The choices we make as adults speak volumes about our experiences with care and the provision of nourishment. Alternately binging and starving ourselves, eating unhealthy foods – as reward or punishment – followed by negative self-talk meant to inspire us to get to the gym or eat kale – excessive exercising, and stringent cleanses in an effort to clean by association those who didn’t “get clean” for us.
Nourishment that was not loving will show in the toxic rewards we give to ourselves and to negligible self-care and is an unconscious effort to repeatedly communicate the original experience. Love needs no translation, no intellectualization, or transmutation – It is love. It is represented in words and actions and always felt. No matter what brings us to a therapeutic process, the territory must include self-care and exploration of how we received nourishment and learned to care for ourselves.
So, here is a holiday that asks for us to give and receive thanks by way of nourishment. From conception of the meal, to preparing the kitchen for the event, in the labor of the creation, to the delivery of the meal to the table and those who are receiving its nourishment, please be curious about who you are being in each of these moments. They will consume you or they will nourish you.