"Rules" First, Then Flexibility

A disclaimer that the first bit of this post does talk about faith and religion. If reading about religion bothers you, replace religion/faith with academia/school as the concept will still apply. 

Years ago, someone once told me, “every now and then, you need to empty out your religious cup to figure out what you need to put back into it”. Essentially, not everything one learns will continue to have meaning, apply, or hold true as time goes by and one matures in their faith or understanding. Many people have a tendency to throw the baby out with the bath water. Take the time, do the work, to sort out what is important to intentionally take with you.

Fast forward to this past summer. I found myself having a conversation with someone about my frustrations of black and white thinking that religion can sometimes bring, and did bring for many years of my life. They then reminded me that one cannot simply be in the grey right off the bat.  There’s a need to learn the “rules” first. Then, after having a good foundation, one can learn to sift through the complexities of life, which will ultimately challenge rigid thinking. This made sense. 

Another way to think about it is thinking about our school experiences growing up. We start off in elementary school.  Then, we graduate and go into high school to build off what we’ve learned in the years prior. Some continue to post secondary education where critical thinking is fostered and encouraged, and an even more in-depth study and diversification on subject matters occurs. Each stages of learning builds off the learnings prior. You can’t go on to do quadratic equations without first knowing about the rules of addition or multiplication, right? Right!

Recovery is similar. There is a learning (or re-learning) that must occur around building a healthier relationship with food, weight, exercise, relationships, body-image, family dynamics, coping mechanisms, and so on. This period is important, and the specifics around implementation can look different amongst individuals. There is, however, life past the intense treatment regiments that are often needed to help you get back on track. It’s hard to learn how to be flexibility when building a foundation for recovery when the eating disorders is quite sneaky and slippery, never mind sorting out who’s motivation/values/thoughts is who’s, etc.

In faith, recovery, and many other facets of how this concept can apply, people can stay stuck in the early teachings and rules. There is a degree of freedom there. I don’t want to deny that. My early days/years of recovery, and the periods where I needed to be particular about what and how I ate were way better and more flexible than when I was in the throws of my eating disorder. There is, however, greater freedom past this. Sometimes, there is a need to return to the foundational pieces, and that’s okay too! Recovery, faith, life are not linear experiences. Everyday we make decisions that either move us towards or away the values we hold within these experiences. As scary as it can be to dip your toe into the unknown or flexibilities of greys, it can also be rewarding (remember, both things can be equally true!)

Take a second to think about where you could or would like to grow in your recovery (or faith). Then, try talking to your therapist about what you could do or how you could experiment with getting to know the greys.