I really like food metaphors. They resonate for me and I find them particularly helpful in my work. One of these metaphors that I find poignant concerns the nourishing quality of food as analogous to the nourishment potentially available in relationship. Like good food, relationships and even brief encounters with others can truly feed and sustain us. When we can take moments of healthy encounter in and assimilate them, it can be truly nutritive to our psyches.
But so often, something gets in the way of really taking in the nourishment available to us. Something pulls us away from the possibility of being nourished by an encounter with someone. We might be pulled away by worries about what is to come in the next moment, the fear that we will be rejected by that person or that we will not receive enough, we have difficulty settling in and being present, we become self-involved and are unable to see that person in front of us, and sometimes we are so hungry that we end up rejecting what is wholesome. There are so many reasons why we are unavailable to simply be present to take in the nutritious and tasty quality of the relational moment in front of us.
What we don’t realize is that there is benefit to doing this beyond the satisfaction of being fed in that present moment. If we could slow down and be present, savor the interaction, ingest it, and digest the nutrients of it, it would change us. It would strengthen and sustain us to face the next moment. We would not approach the next moment or future moments in the same way as we would without the new nourishment because we come with new strength, perspective, wellbeing. It is not unlike approaching the next moment of life after taking in a nutritious meal that affects your energy level, your ability to think clearly, to feel satisfied, and fortified.
In individual and group therapy, people bring in the resistances that prevent them from being nourished by the relationships right in front of them. When we can remove these blockages, patients can digest and be nourished moment by moment by life and relationships, and are subsequently changed. The things they long for become available to them in a way that wasn’t previously possible. New possibilities open up that weren’t previously available without the sustenance. Life starts to look different when nourished.