Buffering is any action that we take to distract us from what we perceive as a negative emotion. Common buffers include over-eating, over-drinking, shopping, over-indulging on the internet, and porn. It is a very successful attempt to immediately change how we feel by seeking an external pleasure. It gives a quick hit of dopamine to our brain to provide a temporary relief from the uncomfortable feeling.
Most of us have a very low tolerance for sitting with uncomfortable feelings like anxiety, stress, anger or self doubt. I am no different.
I have decided to “walk the talk” and set a personal goal this month to stop buffering with food and wine. Historically, when I feel stressed, anxious, overwhelmed or upset, I will overeat salty or sugary food or indulge in a few glasses of sauvignon blanc. I get away with this because the rest of the time I am pretty careful with what I consume.
Why bother to get rid of buffering behaviour?
If we could have all of those pleasures induced by buffering with no consequences, we would all choose to be hedonists. Unfortunately, there are consequences to buffering. There is always an equal and opposite consequence that keeps buffering from being worth it:
- weight gain
- obnoxious behaviour due to alcohol over-consumption
- financial stress due to overspending
- inability to complete tasks at work
- inability to achieve personal goals such as weight loss, improved health and well being, starting a business
Now that I am no longer in the thick of the divorce battle, I am prime for the challenge to stay on my food and drink protocol for a whole month. This means I will have to learn to manage my urges to emotionally eat. The goal is not to lose weight, although I suspect that will be a natural sequela. The goal is to acquire a new skillset of sitting with the uncomfortable emotion of overdesire, without answering the urge. This will be huge for me as I have failed all previous attempts to master this skill.
What is life without buffering?
The alternative to buffering would be to bravely experience life, understanding that at least 50% percent of the time our feelings will be negative. It means not always trying to feel happy. It means sitting with a negative emotions and realizing that it won’t kill you. I means learning to lean in to these emotions, to feel them, listen to them and manage them effectively in a compassionate way.
Wish me luck to feel the 50/50 without my emotional eating and drinking. I am choosing to believe that the discomfort I will experience with be the currency of achieving my goals and living most authentic life.