How is Hunger a useful concept in Therapy?

“What are you really hungry for?”… It might sound like a cliché, or perhaps the starting line in a self-help book, but it’s now widely recognised that we can confuse the feeling of wanting to eat, for something other than a physiological need for food. It might be that we’re not hungry, but thirsty, or, the hunger may actually be of an emotional nature. To combat eating problems associated with this confusion, mindful eating is becoming widely used.

But in the context of therapy, hunger can be a “gateway” to deeper states of being that might not at first be accessible. Working with the embodied feeling of hunger as a starting point, we can explore, deepen our self-awareness, combat addiction and unearth aspects of our potential that were once out of reach.

During research I conducted in 2013-2014, hunger was traced from it’s embodied feeling, through to developmental roots. Sometimes memories emerged that better explained aspects of self-belief which were causing problems in present life. Other times, trapped emotions or trauma could be identified, and a variety of creative techniques used to help release the underlying issues. The key point: far from something to simply quench or to abstain, hunger can be the starting point for healing and change.

In order to work with our hunger, first we have to actually feel it. This might seem straightforward, but as instant gratification is so prevalent in our society, it can actually be quite a journey to “un-learn” our tendency to numb ourselves from feeling hunger. A numbing which might be through eating, or perhaps, other addictive behaviours which numb us from feeling difficult feelings, such as shame.

If you’re interested in better understanding your hunger, perhaps to combat addictive behaviours, taking the first step to talk to a therapist can help. Mindfulness meditation groups and a growing range of mindfulness apps are also useful at deepening your relationship to hunger.