So many people share with me that Thanksgiving is one of their favorite holidays! I often wondered what about it appeals to so many people more than some other holidays. One thought I’ve had is because there is less financial investment and commercialization as there is with some other holidays. There’s also less religious connection than other holidays which for some can be less stressful or complicated
This year I’ve thought about a different reason that Thanksgiving feels so good to so many people:
The need for food is the first thing that connects us to getting nurtured by our mothers or caregivers. Our hunger leads us to cry out and brings us comfort, care and nurturance. The two, hunger and nurturance become linked. A full belly equals being cared for. These create our earliest bond and this is one of the primary places where our attachment style begins.
When food is provided in a loving, warm and consistent way then it evokes feelings of being cared for, comforted and nurtured.
If food isn’t provided in a dependable way or if it is given in an uncaring way then the bond between food and nurturance is not linked and often food alone becomes a substitute for the comfort, care and nurturance we seek from others. Our hunger for being taken care of ends up morphing into a hunger for food. We may develop a relationship with food that is a substitute for the love we want. We then turn to food for comfort when we are upset, overwhelmed or stressed.
The terms about hunger are interchangeable whether referring to food or love. As Bruce Springsteen sings, “everybody’s got a hungry heart.”
If we look, we will also find that there’s a connection between how we feel toward food as well as how we feel towards love. We celebrate special occasions or holidays with people we love and sharing food. Care, comfort and nurturance are expressed both through food and love.
I have seen so many couples where one person uses food in an unhealthy way to find comfort and the other person uses sex or relationships in an unhealthy way to find the same thing. The wounds of each person stem from the same hunger but manifest in these two different ways. Often, but not always along gender lines.
The taste, smell, and texture of food can also be extraordinarily evocative, bringing back memories not just of eating food itself but also of being cared for. Food is an effective trigger of deeper memories of feelings and emotions, internal states of the mind and body.
This year, when you sit down at your Thanksgiving meal take some time to explore your connection to food and love. Do they feel similar? Are both comforting? Do both provide sustenance to you or do they provide “empty calories” to fill up a different hunger? How can you use food or love in a healthy way to provide comfort, care and nurturance?
This year, may your holiday be filled with both food and love which are satiating, comforting and nurturing.
If you are curious to explore more about your relationship with them in more detail, please reach out to us and one of our therapists will be happy to help you.