Food and the Family Mediator



Being the mediator can be a lonely gig.


When we're born into our family system or enter new communities early in our development, we typically take on a role. Some of us become inherent peace-keepers; in order to survive varying levels of tension and upset, we figure out how to keep the system in a state of homeostasis where it seems unable to do so on its own.


This role typically develops unconsciously and teaches us how to hone our people- and environment-reading instincts so we know where our services are needed before they're actually needed. Yes! This role is as exhausting as it sounds and can develop a sensitive child who struggles to regulate their empathy and may head down the path of co-dependency. But this can also squash a quest for individuality, as it becomes assumed that our purpose is to serve others rather than ourselves.


During pivotal developmental phases of our lives, we may retreat from social development or individuation and instead continue to carry on our duties, both because we feel it's all we are worth and because it's all we know.


Maintaining peace in times of conflict, at home or elsewhere, can make us feel alone in a sea of the scared and easily provoked.


We carry an inflated sense of self-importance but only as it comes to the service of others, never the desires or needs of self. We aren't narcissistic aiming to impress others and be heralded, instead we are self-assigned minions who become burdens when not in service. And if the homeostasis we seek isn't achieved, we're convinced the destruction that erupts is our fault.


With a devoted-to-others sense of self (embodying that martyr archetype!), limited social skills (maybe even hermit-like), and uncontrollable empathy, relationships with people become challenging to healthily navigate. It's not unusual for food to become the replacement. Too much or too little food lets us know we're alive in our most basic of human senses, and getting to control the dial of our intake let's us prove how much we think we're worth. We can fill our depleted selves through bingeing or restrict for further deprivation. Either way, food gives us a "safer" object of attachment absent elsewhere.


What does this reflection help you recognize about the role you played in your family, and the role food plays in your quest for wholeness?

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