Why Am I Overeating?

Are eating disorders caused by stress?

By the time eating becomes a disorder, yes, it’s usually a case of internal stress. The first step in dealing with these issues is identifying which element is the primary source of your stress (soul, mind, or both). The second issue is determining which element is currently controlling your eating habits (soul, mind, or body).

Sources of Primary Stress

When your soul is the primary source of stress, you will usually find yourself frequently grappling with moral guilt. For soul stress to result in a significant eating problem, it needs to be pretty severe. Feeling like you’ve committed an “unforgivable sin” is a common issue here. Another is feeling like God has abandoned you, or that your life has no purpose. These are all major crises for the soul.

Another possibility is that your mind is in some kind of crisis. Unresolved trauma is a very common issue here, but so is feeling trapped in a tense/stressful environment. If your home environment feels very stressful, or if there is some other threatening environment that you feel forced to keep revisiting (such as school), then your mind can feel like it is has to stay on constant “red alert” without getting a chance to relax and recharge.

The Controlling Element

Eating disorders can be triggered directly by the body, or by one of your alpha elements (your soul or mind). The key here is identifying which element is currently holding the most influence over what you eat and how you eat. Under normal circumstances, your body expresses preferences for food, then your mind provides guidance for how you can acquire that food. When it’s time to actually eat the food, your body would normally be the one controlling how that food is consumed. But when stress enters the picture, these mechanics can change.

When your body is the triggering element for an eating disorder, it makes drastic changes to the way that it interacts with food in attempt to manage it’s own stress. Imagine a child who hears his parents arguing, so he curls up into a ball and starts rocking back and forth. The child’s behaviour is an attempt to reduce his own stress, but his stress is being caused by someone else (his parents). So the child is engaging in the rocking behaviour as a reaction to stress that he’s picking up from someone else. This is what is happening when your body starts avoiding or scarfing food in an attempt to reduce it’s own stress: in these cases, the body is reacting to stress that it’s picking up from your soul, mind, or both.

Now there’s a second, very different kind of scenario that can occur. This time the body’s interactions with food are being controlled by one of your alpha elements. In these cases, it is your mind or soul that is commanding your body in regards to how it should interact with food. What happens here is that the body wants to either continue to eat (because it needs more nutrients) or it wants to stop eating (because it is full), but an alpha element blocks it from being able to do so. In these cases, the body’s desires are being overridden by one of your alpha elements. Your soul typically uses bullying to control the body like this. Your mind has a far greater influence over your body than your soul does, so it will often use a combination of threats and physical overrides (such as causing your throat to gag to prevent you from swallowing, or causing your stomach to throw up the food you’ve just consumed).

Here’s a diagram to help us understand the different mechanics in these two scenarios:

Stress-driven eating disorders generally fall into two main categories: overeating and undereating. But according to the above chart, we can see that by the time we’re talking about these issues, we’re actually talking about the surface symptom, not the underlying mechanics. As is always the case with humans, the same surface symptom can be caused by a wide variety of issues.

As you can see, this is a complex topic, and there are some unique mechanics that drive each surface symptom. For example, one very important issue that often goes unnoticed in cases of undereating is intense psychological stress associated with how the food is delivered to the body. Typically some kind of long, metal utensil is used to transfer food into the mouth. When there is a history of invasive physical trauma, especially the kind involving objects being inserted into the body (such as during a medical procedure, in which many of the tools used are metal), the mind can lock onto the elements of tools being used on the body and bodily openings being painfully invaded. When this kind of memory lock happens, the mind can then become hypersensitive to any kind of object entering into any opening in the body. This includes a fork or spoon entering the mouth. In these cases, when a person tries to eat, their minds might force their bodies to go into immediate, sometimes violent gagging convulsions in an attempt to defend against the intrusion. The result is that the person literally can’t eat, because their bodies refuse to allow anything to reach their throats. Often in these cases, there is information being withheld by the mind so that the person does not consciously understand why they are having so much trouble eating. From their perspective, they want to eat, and they like the food that is in front of them, yet when they go to actually eat it, there is distressing physical resistance. Happily, there are ways to work around these kinds of trauma triggers by strategically altering the way you deliver food into your body, and by better managing your psychological stress load. But when you’re not aware that an issue like this could even exist, you don’t know to look for it, and you can end up jumping to all kinds of false assumptions about why your body is rejecting food.

I gave that example about undereating to give you a sense of how varied and surprising the underlying mechanics can be. Since undereating and overeating have so many potential causes, I won’t try to cover both issues in this post. Since overeating is the issue that is relevant for you, we’ll focus specifically on that symptom for the rest of this post. (I encourage anyone who wants to learn more about undereating to send in their own request and I’ll be happy to address that topic in a different post. Remember that the more details you provide about your own situation, the better I can advise you.)

Some Cautions

Let’s start with some practical cautions. You are a male, and males naturally have more lean muscle than females, which results in them burning through calories faster. All of that extra muscle God gave you is the reason you can bulk up so much faster at the gym, and the reason you can lose weight more quickly than females. Understanding this anatomical difference between you and the ladies is important when it comes to setting reasonable expectations about how much food your body needs. When you increase your daily exercise or start trying to pump iron, your body will automatically go into muscle building mode, and that means it will need you to eat more calories, especially protein. If you’re worried about gaining weight, it’s easy to undereat during these periods, and that will only stress your body.

When bodies become stressed, they generally react in one of two ways: they either start dropping too much weight or they start packing on the pounds. There are logical reasons for both of these responses, and your body is typically going to be in one camp or the other for life. When you already have a history of excessive weight gain, it’s likely your body is the type to gain weight as a reaction to stress. Undereating (because you’re afraid of getting fat) stresses the body, and what often happens here is the body goes into a “Yikes, food is becoming scarce!” mode and it concludes that, “I’d better start storing up as many calories as I can for later!” It then dials your metabolism down on purpose so that you will gain weight faster. The lesson here is don’t undereat, because even though it sounds logical to say “If I just eat less, I’ll weigh less,” it isn’t that simple. You need to consider your own body’s default response to stress: to hoard extra calories or to burn through them. You also need to consider its perspective of what you’re doing in a day, and that means thinking about how much energy and exertion you demanded from it versus how much fuel you gave it. If you’re trying to build muscle, you need to increase your calories and protein, so your body has enough fuel to keep up with your demands.

A key indication that you’re undereating is physical fatigue. If you find yourself forming a pattern of dragging around and wanting to take a nap just to get through the day, you should look at your diet and consider how much fat and protein you are consuming. Fat is not the evil thing people make it out to be. Your body needs fat, protein, fibre, and sugar to function well, so make sure all of these elements are being represented in your daily food intake. If you start craving naps, try increasing your protein content, especially by eating real meat (not meat imitations) and see what happens. If you increase your protein intake and the desire to nap goes away, that’s an indication that you were undereating and not giving your body enough fuel to keep up with the demands you are putting on it (and remember that building more muscle is a major demand from the body’s perspective).

Trauma History

Since you have a trauma history, let’s consider timing. Think about how old you were when your original trauma occurred. Then think about how old you were when you first developed a habit of overeating. If you see these things happening close together, it’s very likely that the first thing caused the second. In that case, you’d probably be dealing with an issue of the body overeating as a reaction to sensing that your mind is so upset about what happened to you.

Now things aren’t always so simple. In any eating disorder, there is the possibility that the mind has formed very strong mental associations between terrible things that have happened to you and either food, the process of eating, and/or the effects of eating. In your case, one of the effects you’ve seen is that when you overeat, you gain a significant amount of weight. Significant weight gain changes your body’s overall shape, and in some cases of psychological trauma, the mind links being fat with being safer.

A common example here would be you getting sexually assaulted, then your mind forming the hypothesis that, “I was probably targeted because other people see me as physically attractive.” In this situation, your mind will base its definition of “attractive” on how your culture generally defines that term. Once this logic is in place, your mind can easily conclude that there is an urgent need to change the way you look so that you will move closer to your culture’s definition of “unattractive.” If your culture looks down on fat people (which many cultures do these days), then pressuring your body to overeat for the purpose of making it pack on the pounds could be a strategic effort on the part of your mind to reduce your chances of being targeted for another assault in the future.

Ruling Out the “Being Fat Makes Me Safer” Hypothesis

So how can you tell if your mind is using this kind of logic? What you’re looking for here are indications that you feel stressed by other people viewing you as attractive in any way. If your mind is currently using this logic, then compliments about your appearance will make you feel tense and stressed, not pleased. You’ll find yourself avoiding clothes that you secretly feel look “cool” and choosing “dumpier” options instead. This kind of issue will likely have a negative effect on your personal hygiene. Developing acne or the occasional protruding nose hair will give you a secret feeling of relief and you won’t feel motivated to do anything to address these issues. If you receive negative feedback about some aspect of your appearance, such as your hair style or eyebrow shape, you’ll find yourself wanting to intentionally keep those aspects just as they are, not try to improve them to please others. You might be tempted to go very light on the deodorant, or skip it altogether, so that you’ll maintain an off-putting body odour. To a mind that feels very anxious about how attractive other humans perceive you to be, all of these things can have a calming effect.

If this strategy is in play, you would have found yourself feeling stressed by slimming down in the past. You might have felt like it was the “right thing to do” from a health standpoint, but internally, you would have felt upset by the image of slimmer you in the mirror, and you would have likely tried to compensate for these changes by dressing uglier and dialling back the personal hygiene even more.

If gaining excessive weight only made you feel bad, not relieved, then your mind has probably not formed this kind of link, but I want you to be aware of how influential mental associations can be in these situations.

SHADOWING THE PRIVATES

This next strategy is primarily used by males, due to the way male anatomy is arranged. While females have their front privates tucked well out of sight, the male front privates are constantly highlighted by a physical bulge that is impossible to hide. For male sexual assault victims, this anatomical arrangement can cause immense distress, because it can essentially make you feel like there’s a giant red arrow constantly pointing at your genitals. The way that they sit bundled up in the front of your pants can make them feel all too accessible to any random person who feels like reaching out and groping you. The thinner your waistline is, the more prominent the bulge can look to a mind that is very upset.

In this situation, intentionally developing a large stomach can be attractive for two reasons. The first is that it makes your privates feel less visible to others, as your gut protrudes outward and overshadows your privates like a nice protective shelf. A large gut will also block your own view of your privates when you’re looking straight down at your body (instead of using a mirror). When the mere sight of some part of your body triggers mental panic, hiding that part from view can feel essential to managing your stress levels.

If this logical strategy was being used by your mind today, you would experience a significant spike in your stress whenever you happen to catch a glimpse of your own genitals. You would probably also feel anxious and stressed at the sight of other male genitals on display (such as in artwork or movies). When standing naked in front of a mirror, you would find your eyes either 1) instantly locking onto your privates, and frequently returning to them even when you try to focus on other parts of your body, or 2) you would find yourself avoiding looking at that part of your body, and if you try to force yourself to, your eyes would flit away almost instantly.

Be aware that some degree of genital-related stress is entirely normal in cases of sexual assault. In extreme cases, people not only feel very stressed whenever they see their own privates, but also when they have to touch them (such as supporting your penis during urination or a woman trying to insert a tampon during her period).

I mention the mirror thing because it is a useful way to tell if you are experiencing symptoms of anatomical repulsion. The exercise here is to stand naked in front of a mirror and slowly move your eyes over your entire body, from head to toe, while paying attention to sudden spikes of internal anxiety. Body parts that cause you to suddenly feel stressed and anxious are having that effect due to the presence of negative mental associations.

Realize that you can have some degree of anatomical repulsion without also trying to get fat to overshadow the natural bulge of your privates, but this is a logic that some men deal with, so it’s worth mentioning as a way of showing you that your mind often has a deep game going on with its various coping methods.

If your mind was trying to get you fat in the past as a way of shielding your privates, then you would have probably found yourself feeling distressed by how prominent your genital bulge seemed to become when you started slimming down again. Be aware that fear often causes your mind’s perceptions of things to become exaggerated, so in a situation like the one I’m describing, you’d feel like that front bulge was extra big and that it felt super obvious to others. You would probably also find yourself frequently thinking, “People are looking at my crotch,” when you were out in public.

When it comes to the kinds of mental associations your mind can form, anything is possible. I’ve explained two examples, but there are a million more possibilities. I suspect that you’re not dealing with the issue of your mind intentionally making you fat, but I like to give people extra information in these kinds of posts in case it helps a hidden issue come to light for them.

Before we change topics, here’s a useful analysis exercise for you to try. Get out a piece of paper and take a moment to think about the concept of your own genitals. Notice what kinds of words, feelings, and images immediately surface when you do this, and write those things down. That list will give you a sense of the mental associations your mind is currently linking to your private parts, and your own trauma history will be a major influence here. While all men psychologically link their own genitals to concepts that have nothing to do with genitalia, such as strength, value, intelligence and self-worth, traumatised men will add some very negative concepts to the list–things like vulnerability, danger, or shame. Understanding what your own associations are at this time can be very useful when you’re trying to recover from trauma. As you move forward in your recovery process, your associations will change to become less negative.

Do this same list making exercise for the concept of becoming fat. When you imagine yourself packing on the pounds, what kinds of words, images, and feelings surface? This exercise can help you identify how your mind currently views the effects of overeating.

The Body’s Agenda

Now in your case, I’m guessing we have a case of your body pushing to overeat as means of managing its own stress, not because it is feeling overridden by your soul or mind. In this situation, the urge to overeat will surge whenever your soul/mind stress surges, because your body is reacting to what’s happening with your alpha elements. The very desire to overeat can then be viewed as a handy way to monitor your internal stress load. When you find yourself suddenly wanting to shovel in the food, that indicates either your soul, mind, or both are feeling extra stressed by something. It would be helpful to try to identify what that something is (a movie scene, a comment someone made, an environment you were in, etc.) If you can identify what the trigger was, you can be more proactive in managing it. Some triggers can be easily avoided (such as turning off a movie that is upsetting you). Other triggers can’t be avoided, but if we can see them coming, we can plan some stress relieving activities for ourselves (more on that later).

Now regardless of whether or not you can identify what has triggered you, you need to deal with the food cravings in a useful way. Avoid using negative methods, such as shaming yourself, or forcing yourself to go without, or forcing yourself to eat “health foods” that your body loathes. Remember that this is a stress response which is being fuelled by fear, and punishment makes fear worse. To help your body calm down, you need to use a compassionate, kind approach. You also need to try to figure out why your body views overeating as stress-relieving. Let’s now learn about specific agendas that bodies can have here.

A Focus on Nutritional Content

Stress prevents the body from functioning normally because it makes many of its internal processes more difficult to carry out. It’s rather like trying to turn a bunch of gears after someone throws sand into them. Instead of whirring along smoothly, the gears start grinding and jamming and you have to apply more pressure to force them to keep turning.

When bodies are being bombarded with a lot of stress-induced problems, they will often start making special requests to help themselves out. One common request is for you to consume “junk food”, which is typically high in calories, sugar, fat, and starch. To the body, such foods can be sources of fast fuel. Sure, it’s not top quality fuel, but quality isn’t always your body’s primary concern when it’s feeling stressed.

When your body is actually after the content of junk food and you respond by saying, “No! I’m not eating that garbage! This bran muffin is all you’re getting!”, you are actually making things harder than they need to be and increasing your body’s stress load. To treat the body well, we need to begin by assuming it is a highly intelligent machine, and that means we don’t write off its requests as “bad” or “foolish” just because we don’t understand the specific reasoning behind them.

Now by the time you’re scarfing down twenty bags of potato chips on top of your regular meals, you’re clearly dealing with something more complicated than a focus on nutritional content. When content is what your body is after, it will speak up with some very strong “food cravings,” but once you consume one or two generous portions of the requested item, the cravings will usually stop. When cravings persist well after you’ve eaten a couple of generous portions, that indicates your body has another agenda going on. But I want you to be aware of this content agenda so that you don’t swing to a negative extreme of trying to deny your body any food that doesn’t seem “healthy” enough. Just because the ever-changing definition of “healthy” doesn’t happen to include the food your body currently wants you to eat doesn’t mean that that food can’t be helping your body in some way. You should give your body the benefit of the doubt by assuming it’s a whole lot smarter than the folks who claim to be “experts” on nutrition.

Venting Stress Through Oral Activities

Each of your elements is designed to vent stress in different ways. One of the primary ways that bodies vent stress is through physical activity. Every body has its own personality, and its own preferences for how to vent stress. Some bodies will start pacing when they feel tense. Others will start jiggling one leg up and down, or rapping their fingers on a surface, or wringing their hands together. Some bodies develop headaches or backaches. Some bodies get “knots in the stomach,” some start sweating, some want to go for a run. Every body is has its own style. Gaining a better understanding of what your body’s personal preferences are will help you manage your stress better in the future.

Now for some bodies, oral activities feel very stress-relieving. Often what’s wanted here is prolonged activity that is focused on the mouth, such as chewing or sucking. This brings us to a very important point: your body can’t request something it has never experienced.

For some bodies, overeating is actually an attempt to engage in oral activities because they find such activities comforting and stress-relieving. The reason they fixate on eating is because they haven’t had a chance to experience other options. When your body is eating for the primary purpose of getting to do something oral for as long as possible, the goal is to help it find a better way to achieve this goal. In any attempt to relieve stress, more stress will be relieved if you can closely match the method with the goal. Overeating is certainly an oral activity, but it comes with some negative side effects, such as forcing the body to have to try to digest too much food at once, which then leads to all sorts of other problems. To help the body better achieve its goals here, you need to start introducing it to other oral activities that have less negative side effects. If your body likes any of those activities, it will latch onto them and want to keep doing them. When you get this kind of positive feedback, that tells you that a desire for oral activity was one of the driving factors in your body trying to get you to overeat. Helping your body find a better, more satisfying solution here should cause it to stop prompting you to eat so much as it turns its focus onto its better option.

I recommend that you do some experimenting in this area, because you might really score a positive win, and there isn’t a risk of doing harm if you choose body friendly options. Often in cases where the body is trying to vent stress through oral activities, people don’t realize that that is what their bodies are doing, so they never try to help their bodies find better options.

Below, I list some activities that are worth trying out. Remember that if your body finds any of things helpful, it will give you positive feedback and you’ll find yourself wanting to keep doing them. If you have this kind of victory, be intentional about keeping the necessary supplies readily available as much as possible (in your car, by your bed, near any kind of desk or couch that you use a lot, and even in your pocket when you go out).

Be aware that bodies can be quite particular in this area, so to identify what specific kinds of oral activities your body likes, you should try a variety of things. The stuff you need should be easy to find in grocery stores or online. If you search “oral fixation adults” on Amazon, you’ll find more things you can try, but here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Get a plastic drinking straw, cut it in half or into thirds, then put one of the pieces in your mouth like a cigarette and see how your body responds. Straws are a great place to start because they invite both chewing and sucking activities. Plastic straws are durable and can be chewed for a long time (unlike paper straws). Shortening the length of the straw makes it easier to use and more economical. If your body shows any interest in this kind of activity, you’ll find yourself leaving the straw in your mouth for quite a while. If your body doesn’t like it, you’ll find that the straw annoys you and you’ll want to get rid of it. If your body seems to like this activity, try to notice how it is interacting with the straw. Is it mostly chewing it? Is it sucking air through it? Is it rolling it about or trying to flip it up and down using your lips? Is it rotating between these activities fairly evenly? If you start noticing preferences, you can focus your next efforts along those lines.
  • Chewing gum is a classic way to quickly test if your body finds chewing to be stress-relieving. But be aware that the size of the object can be important here. Some bodies want to feel a fairly large mass in the mouth so they can roll it about a lot with the tongue. If your body wants size and you give it some teensy bit of gum, it probably won’t be thrilled, so don’t rule out chewing until you test various sizes. If you start with one piece of gum and get a “meh” response, try popping in several more sticks and see if your body’s interest piques when it senses a larger mass. Also try bubble gum and see if that is a winner. If your body finds the process of creating and destroying bubbles satisfying, it is probably looking for something it can chew on that it also feels it can change the shape of or make sounds with.
  • Adult chew toys sounds like a bizarre concept, but they are definitely worth trying out if you suspect your body might be looking for comfort through oral activities. Amazon sells many options here that can be worn around the neck for easy access. The attraction here is that these objects can be chewed endlessly, they are easy to clean, they won’t hurt your teeth (as they are typically made of silicone), and they come in a variety of shapes. Different shapes invite some interesting tongue options, such as a shape with a hole in it that the tip of your tongue can play around with. Here are some product pictures:
  • Chewing sticks (which are essentially toothpicks that come either flavoured or plain) can be comforting when your body likes the feeling of something sticking out of your mouth. The initial straw test can help you identify if you like the general idea of holding something between your lips.
  • If you find yourself attracted to lozenges and sucking on bits of ice, you might try a teething necklace. These are marketed at moms with babies, and you can find ones with small silicone beads strung on a cord to form a necklace. Take the beads off of the cord, wash them, and try just sucking on one bead in your mouth. Most adult chew toys are too large to fit into the mouth, but the right teething beads will be small enough to basically imitate a lozenge that you can endlessly suck on or roll about with your tongue. This can be satisfying to bodies that want to push/chew/suck on an object that is entirely in the mouth as opposed to an object that is partially sticking out.

The goal here is to introduce your body to new oral activities that it might find soothing. If your body is only pushing for large quantities of food because it wants the oral action, then we’re dealing with a need to vent stress and feel soothed. Remembering that this whole issue is only coming up because your body feels upset helps you understand why you should respect its desire for comfort and try to work with it, not against it.

Needing Distraction

Distraction is a powerful tool for calming stressing elements. Since eating is a very complex physical activity, some bodies try to prolong eating as much as possible because they are looking for a way to distract themselves from feeling stressed. When this is the case, you’ll notice the food cravings stop whenever you are doing something that requires focused attention, such as reading or playing a video game. The most effective activities here will be ones that require a lot of physical engagement. To play a video game well, your fingers must constantly interact with the buttons, sticks and triggers on your gaming controller in very precise ways. Rapid responses are essential here, and that makes gaming a lot more interesting to your body than just holding your phone in a stationary position while you read an e-book. Assembling a complex model made of Legos, plastic, or wood, or fussing around with a handheld fidget toy is also more stimulating and distracting to your body than just watching a movie because the movie does not require a bunch of carefully coordinated physical motions.

The key thing to realize here is that the nature of the activity affects which of your elements it distracts the most. Movies can be fabulous distraction tools for the conscious, soul, and mind but they’re not that great for the body. To directly relieve body stress, you need to focus on activities that are more physical in nature: ones that require complex movements (such as gaming or model building) or intense exertion (such as cycling or running). (If you weren’t dealing with overeating, I’d be recommending relaxing activities, but those aren’t ideal when your body wants to be busy.)

From your body’s perspective, eating is a very complex physical activity, so if it’s looking for distraction, it could be turning to eating simply because it doesn’t feel it has a better option available. A good way to tell if this is an issue for you is to try an activity that is more physically stimulating and see what happens with the food cravings. If the cravings keep nagging at you the whole time you’re doing something physical and you know you are not undereating, then there are two potential issues: one is that the activity isn’t distracting enough to pull your body’s focus away from your stressing alpha element, or your body is looking for comfort over distraction, so it’s not feeling very helped by the activity.

Reducing Primary Stress

Now so far we’ve been focusing on ways to help the body feel better after it has become stressed. That focus is fine as far as it goes, but it’s not enough. Since your body’s stress is a reaction to how some other element is behaving, the best way to help it is to focus on calming down the primary source of stress. Since you are dealing with psychological trauma, calming your mind is going to be essential to helping your body feel better. Since trauma can’t be fixed overnight, the goal here is to help your mind keep its stress levels manageable by helping it access effective stress relieving tools. Here is where we come to a very important issue: your mind’s core temperament.

The Aggressive Style of Venting Stress

From things you’ve shared, it sounds like your mind has an aggressive temperament, not a passive one. All minds fall into one of these two categories and you are what you are for life. One temperament is not better than the other; both have fantastic strengths and both have weaknesses which need to be respected. God designed the two temperaments to complement each other in fabulous ways. To put it simply, we need both temperaments before we can have any hope of running functional human societies.

Now the reason your temperament is such a critical issue is that passives and aggressives have very different needs when it comes to venting psychological stress. While there are some methods that work well for both temperaments, the most effective methods for aggressives happen to be ones that have a negative effect on passives. For this reason, passives often frown on certain aggressive stress-relieving tools because from their perspective, such tools have a genuinely negative effect on them, therefore they assume that those tools are bad for everyone. Well, no, things are more complicated than this, so here is where all of my passive readers need to take a deep breath and realize that some of the advice I’m about to give in this section is the wrong advice for you, but that doesn’t mean it’s the wrong advice for everyone. Aggressives have some special needs which need to be respected, not ripped on. So let’s get into it.

When aggressive minds become stressed, their natural instinct is to lash out, not pull in. For example, if an aggressive drops a soup can on his bare toe, he is likely going to yell loudly, curse angrily, and perhaps even kick the can away from him as a way of getting revenge. A passive in the same situation will be much more likely to wince, gasp, grit his teeth, express some verbal frustration in a hushed tone, then remain fairly still while he waits for the intense throbbing to subside. One temperament lashed out, the other pulled inward. Both styles are valid, but they are quite different in their external behaviours.

Now when humans group up into larger societies, those societies choose to favour one temperament over the other. For example, American and British societies favour the passive style of dealing with stress, whereas Italian and Jewish societies favour the aggressive style. Which style your culture favours influences how free you feel to use the stress methods that work best for you. Societies that favour the passive style tend to look down on emotional outbursts in public. When two men accidentally bump their cars together, then they both leap from their vehicles and start shouting in each other’s faces, they would be considered obnoxious, out of control, and potentially dangerous in a passive society. In an aggressive society, the same behaviour would be considered normal and reasonable.

Now when you’re an aggressive living in a passive society, it’s easy to go your whole life never understanding how your mind needs to vent stress because you are naturally steered away from the methods that are best for you. Your mind will try to push you towards stress-relieving methods that it finds helpful, but your soul will tend to block your mind from doing those things because it labels them as “bad” due to cultural influence and a lack of understanding of psychological mechanics.

Now there are tons of aggressives living in every society all over the world, and it’s quite possible to manage living in a passive society and get by with the stress relieving activities that passives approve of. But once psychological trauma occurs, there is an urgent need to improve the ways you vent stress. Not only is it better for you to keep your internal stress loads manageable, it is also better for other people. Due to their built in need to lash out when stressed, aggressives can become a threat to others when they aren’t managing their own stress well. Passives tend to use this fact as an excuse to demonize all aggressive stress venting activities as “bad,” but such logic is very flawed.

It’s vital to understand that the two temperaments respond to violence differently. For passives, focusing on violence increases their personal stress. But for aggressives, focusing on the right kind of violence actually reduces their personal stress. So for one temperament, a specific activity is agitating while for the other temperament, the same activity has a calming effect. Passives struggle to understand this, but for you, it is vital to understand this because you are dealing with severe psychological trauma, and that means your mind needs all the help it can get to vent its stress out of your system.

Now let’s get practical. What kinds of activities work well for stressed out aggressives? What we need here is to strike a happy balance between you feeling like you’re getting to do real or vicarious physical violence to something or someone, and also that you’re triumphing over whatever it is. To keep things positive and healthy, we need to ensure that no harm is being done. The moment you cause actual harm to a person, this method backfires on you and you end up being harmed as well.

Now there are many ways to accomplish this goal. One excellent option is beating the tar out of a punching bag when you start feeling stressed. Amazon sells some excellent free standing models so no installation is required. You buy the punching pillar, then you buy some sand to pour into the base to weigh it down. Then you have at it: punching, kicking, whatever feels right. The element of physical violence is extremely important for aggressives, which is why you making actual contact with the punching bag/pillar is very therapeutic. Plus, no harm is being done to anyone using this method (especially if you buy some boxing gloves to protect your hands).

The use of mental associations makes the punching bag thing even more useful. Imagining that the pillar represents some real life enemy of yours, or even a concept such as fear or pain can greatly increase the psychological relief you will feel by showing the bag who is boss.

Power is an important issue for all humans, but for aggressives, feeling stripped of power causes an intense psychological crisis which can thrust them into a state of panic. It is usually psychological panic that drives aggressives to start assaulting real people in a desperate effort to restore their personal sense of power.

Most assault traumas result in the victims feeling stripped of power. This is especially true for sexual assault traumas. Aggressives who have been sexually assaulted often come out of that experience feeling like all of their power has been stripped away, and aggressives simply can’t function well in this state. For aggressives who are trying to cope with the fallout of an assault trauma, it is vital that they engage in stress-relieving activities which allow them to feel physically dominant. Such activities help to calm the internal panic and help them counter the fear that they have permanently lost their power in life.

Having a punching bag/pillar in your home that you can attack whenever you start feeling agitated not only gives you a quick way to reduce internal panic, it also helps you avoid doing damage to something you care about. If you let your stress levels rise to high, you’re going to be likely to hurl your phone across the room or try to punch your fist through a wall. In these moments of blind rage, you will be unable to make good judgment calls because your mind will become so desperate to vent stress that it will start overriding your whole system and forcing you to do something violent. Realize that rage is an intense form of fear. When aggressives flip out and go ballistic on something or someone, they are usually trapped in the midst of a psychological panic attack. Panic is a very miserable, upsetting experience, plus you don’t want to deal with the fallout of such things if you don’t have to.

For you, the key is to monitor your own temper. When you start feeling like you’re getting a short fuse, or when images start flashing through your mind of you screaming at someone or doing violence, that’s telling you that your stress levels are getting too high. To bring them down again, you need to have a plan in mind and the right equipment ready to go.

The good news for aggressives is that vicarious violence can be as helpful and even more helpful than real violence. A lot of the things your mind fantasizes about doing aren’t things you can do in real life without negative consequences. But what you can do is get yourself a proper gaming console and find some satisfying shooter games in which you go around blasting an endless sea of enemies to Kingdom Come using a whole array of beefy artillery. For passives, violent shooters are more stressful than they are therapeutic. For aggressives, violent video games can be extremely stress-relieving. The key here is that you need to see yourself scoring wins. You can’t just be losing all the time, or you’ll feel more stressed. Happily, video games are usually programmed to make winning quite doable. The key thing for you to understand is that as an aggressive, you need at least one game that is very violent, meaning that most of the gameplay is focused on beating heads and blasting baddies, not on advancing the story line. Aggressives will generally find close combat situations to be more therapeutic than distant combat because it helps their victories feel more personal. So rather than fly around in a war plane dropping bombs from way high in the sky, you need your game character to be within close proximity to his antagonist: blasting guns, chucking grenades, and watching your enemy’s life bar sliding down to zero.

When you have upsetting nightmares or a very stressful day, a session of blasting enemies away in a video game can be very effective in reducing your mind’s stress load. Once you feel better, you can change to a different activity. If you can’t get a proper gaming console right now, there are a lot of shooters that you can play on your phone or tablet for free via the Google Play Store.

Another very positive option for aggressives is real life physical sparring situations that are often promoted as giving people “a good cardio workout”. Many gyms offer classes for these kinds of activities that you can attend as often or little as you want. The most therapeutic options for you will generally be workouts in which you make physical contact with something or someone (as opposed to just kicking the air). The positive thing about these kinds of classes is that they are structured to avoid doing any harm to real people. You get taught some new sparring moves, which you can then practice on a physical object or with a real person who genuinely wants to spar with you.

Now if you sign up for a class in which you’ll have the chance to spar/box/wrestle with a real human being, remember that when you have a history of an assault trauma, your mind can feel extremely threatened by any sense of being physically dominated by someone else. If you’re feeling very stressed, it’s best to avoid man-to-man combat so that you avoid the risk of triggering a panic attack if your opponent pins you down on the floor or defeats you in some other obvious way. Aggressives who are dealing with the fallout of an assault trauma need to be extra guarded against putting themselves in positions where they might feel physically dominated, but you could certainly get a lot of value out of a class where the violence is aimed at some kind of punching pillar or other piece of equipment that can’t fight back.

For aggressives, physical violence plays a vital role in managing psychological stress. When you understand this about yourself, you can be proactive about meeting this need in ways that don’t cause harm to others. If you reject your own wiring here and try to suppress it, you run the risk of having your stress levels spiral out of control. So being proactive is key, as is understanding the mechanics I’ve just explained about how to choose activities that will help your mind calm down.

Putting It All Together

Let’s now combine all of the principles we’ve learned in this post. It sounds like your body is pushing to overeat in an attempt to manage its own stress. That stress is likely being caused by your body sensing that your mind is feeling stressed, so as your mind’s stress levels rise and fall, so does your desire to overeat.

To address this issue, you need to start being more intentional about helping your mind vent stress out of your system by having some aggressive-friendly activities available. When you feel your stress levels surge, the first thing you want to do is try to help your mind calm down by attacking a punching pillar or playing your favourite shooter for a while. After you’ve done the activity that is focused on relieving psychological stress, see how your body is doing. If it is still pleading for food, how you should respond depends on what kind of results you get from trying to figure out what your body’s real attraction to food is. If you find that oral fixation is playing a big role, you can be chomping on some kind of chewy thing at the same time as you’re playing your video game. If you feel that your body is genuinely after the nutritional content of a certain food, then eat some of that food. Pay attention to how your body responds.

If you’ve been doing self-analysis work to get to the bottom of your trauma, realize that such analysis will cause your mental stress to temporarily spike. To heal trauma, we need to focus on what happened to us, but the very act of focusing on it causes our minds to feel more stressed. This is why it is important to only work on mental health issues in short bursts: ideally 30-60 minute sessions with no more than 2 hours being allowed no matter how much you’re “on a roll.” Whenever you do a session of working on your own trauma issues, you should plan to do something stress relieving directly afterwards instead of trying to do your normal activities while your mind is feeling frazzled. Minds need to be rewarded for doing trauma work. If you use rewards and kindness, you’ll get a lot farther than if you use punishments and harshness.

This post was written in response to Zack.