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Dreams: your doorway to emotional healing and a meaningful life

Dreams: your doorway to eating emotional healing and a meaningful life“Trust that which gives you meaning and accept it as your guide.” Carl Jung

Trusting Dreams as Personal Living Truth Tellers 

If you have are anxious, depressed, stressed or  trapped in a bad relationship you may not know who to listen to, who to trust, what to believe, what even to hope for. Yet you carry within you the source of your most effective guidance that comes from your authentic truth – your dreams.

You can pay attention to your dreams, despite the disguises dreams use through the symbols your unconscious presents. The disguise is there to help you get closer to what is meaningful to you without your needing to push that meaning away too fast.

Following what is truly meaningful to you is the path to your recovery and to a much more fulfilled and satisfying life.

Decades ago a dream pushed me into the world of recovery and healing.

My dream was a nightmare. I was at sea in a becalmed, small sailboat, sails lowered, with my husband and his best friend. The sky was clear blue. It was midday. I was lying back against the tiller when I saw in the distance a huge long wave. I thought it would roll itself back into the water, but it kept coming. It was miles long.  Finally I sat up. While the wave was still at a great distance I told my companions to look.They did and were surprised. 

Now the wave looked threatening. We had no way of surfing up the wave. It was more apparent every moment that this was a tsunami of gigantic proportions.  Our only hope was to sail parallel to it and get beyond its length.  We aised the sails and fled as quickly as possible.

But the wave was endless. We skimmed above the surface at high speed. Yet the wave got closer and closer until it was a mountainous wall of water an arm’s length from our boat.  As it curled above our heads and was about to crash its immensity upon us I knew my life was over.  As it crashed I woke up.

Waking up to reality and choices

I woke up terrified with my heart pounding mixed with relief that I could wake up. These are all the signs of a true nightmare. At the time I didn’t know much about dreams or symbols or messages from the unconscious.  But I knew enough to know this was an important event. I wrote it down.

This dream led me to ending a disastrous marriage, beginning my solid education at UCLA, developing a satisfying career, creating valuable friendships and having meaningful adventure in my life. Part of my journey was recovering from bulimia.

Interpreting the dream language of symbolism and metaphor

Looking again at the dream with you you’ll see some clues in the language.  I was “at sea”, adrift, not knowing where I was in life. I was not taking any action.  Mid-day meant, as I know now, midlife and I was lolling against the tiller, not taking any control of my direction. I didn’t even have my sails up to catch opportunity or to explore possibilities. While I was still, dormant, barely even awake, something large and catastrophic was looming in the distance. It hurtled toward my construction, my situation, my irresponsible person that was me, waiting for a breeze to carry me along.

This dream wave was my personal sense of self, desperate to get my attention and ready to upset anything in its way to make its presence known.  Even then I alerted my companions to take charge and get us away. I still did not act except to call attention to what was coming and flee. I insisted on their taking action and telling me what to do. I did not take the tiller.

I believed we could escape the consequences of that Self of mine rearing its identity and bearing down on my life. But we could not escape. We could not flee.  I could not flee the core urgings of my innermost self that came from the deeps of me. I knew we would die.

I woke up with full knowledge that the dream wave crashed on me and my companions destroying the boat and our lives.

In bed with my eyes open and heart pounding I knew I was alive. I didn’t die, but something did. The life I was leading ended.

Dream guidance may take time

That way of life didn’t end all at once in a wave crushing tsunami. But the effects were similar.  Nothing much remains of that unsatisfactory life now except memories and a child now grown to womanhood.

From here, decades later I see clearly how I had to develop awareness. I had to develop respect for the authentic forces with me. My dream woke me up to the seriousness of my situation.

Most of all, I had to learn that I had strength and power to move obstacles and surge ahead into my true life. The force of a tsunami dwelled within me.

My change process took years, as you can imagine. But the force of that dream was the beginning of my healing and my new life of meaning and satisfaction.

Life Changes 

I write to you now from my spacious studio while seated at my glass desk. Dogs lay on their pillows keeping me company on this chilly night December night while we are warm and safe.  My bills are paid. I own my house. I’m not bulimic. I have loving family and friends. I have long and short-term plans for my coming days plus time to read, garden, think and write to you.

I have a private psychotherapy practice that is rewarding for me. I work with patients I’ve grown to respect and love. I’m still learning. In a few hours I’ll be attending a Jungian workshop on the symbols of the Christmas classic, It’s A Wonderful Life (maybe not your choice but certainly a golden event for me). And I’m starting a dream workshop in January.

I love my life. It took a tsunami experience to crash my resistance to myself and set out to honor what is meaningful to me. 

What is meaningful to you? 

Do you know? What messages from your unconscious are available to you? You''ll find out by paying attention to your dreams.  The core of your eating disorder is based on your personal suffering. You are removed from what you genuinely care about. You cling to your disorder as a way to ease your suffering. Yet, suffering pushes you to find help.  That’s why you found this essay and are reading it now.

You are looking for something. Doesn’t it make sense that your suffering holds the key to your recovery and is pushing you to explore possibilities?

Your suffering has meaning. Your emotional defenses like eating, drinking, crying, sexual acting out, pretending to others while hiding your pain serve to block your awareness of yourself. You may not even know that more to you exists besides what your life shows you now.

But your unconscious knows. The Self within you knows. And the symbols and experiences within your dreams can point the way if you pay attention.

Opening awareness and wisdom through your dreams

Dreams can help you come into your own awareness of your true condition, your true nature and identity. That often involves pain. It’s not discovering your true nature that hurts. What hurts is experiencing fear over losing your built-up defenses against knowing who you are.  You may even believe that you are your pain, that you are a deficient person.

Resolving the mystery that empowers your seld doubt and bewilderment is your journey to awareness and freedom.

Unearthing the meaning of your suffering, understanding the meaning of your symptoms is your task. It’s not an intellectual exercise. You know the meaning when you have realizations and revelations.  It’s like having a blindfold suddenly removed when you didn’t know you were wearing one.

Then the work on your path is to learn how to live in this new world you’ve discovered you’ve been in all along but couldn’t see.

How to recover and regain your soul

There is no formulaic way to recover. There’s only your way. Your way relies on what honors your true self and gives your life meaning. Dreams can help you find your path.

Learning the language of your unconscious is crucial. Paying attention to your dreams is powerful way to start.

Information about Psychotherapy with Joanna

Joanna Poppink, MFT, is a psychotherapist in private practice specalizing in eating disorder recovery.  She is licensed in CA, OR, UT, FL and AZ. She specializes in eating disorders, anxiety, depression, PTSD and self doubt.

All appointments are virtual. Ages accepted begin at 25 and go up, including seniors who are most welcome.

For a free telephone consultation e-mail her at 
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Author of This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Healing Your Hungry Heart: recovering from your eating disorder


0 # Recent dreamKymL 2019-07-29 19:15
A couple weeks ago I had a dream that I was looking at a hole in my heart/soul. It was round and lined with a thick plastic water trough. My old anorexic self came into view. She was naked, head looking down and I could sense all the pain, trauma, abuse and negativity stuck to her. She stepped into the hole and circled up into a ball, not talking. I knew I couldn’t fill the whole with anorexia so I removed her and let my high power in. It was a glowing light but it didn’t stay put and my anorexic self came back in. I woke up. I’m stumped if I should keep her there or maybe nurture her. I also thought maybe I need her to stay there but I need to take down the walls of the trough so she’s integrated into the rest of me. Still working on this one.
0 # KymL's recent dreampinkjoanna 2019-08-02 18:27
What a powerful and provocative dream. Thank you, Kym.

I’ve been thinking about the possibilities around what you psyche is communicating to you with these complex images. Here’s where my thoughts are going.

First, please remember that all images in your dream are symbols coming from your unconscious and hold opposites within them. Both aspects and often more are valid for discovery work.

The general image is that of a womb holding a fetus. A fetus is a parasite, living off the host until it is capable of surviving in the external world. At that point the fetus pushes its way through its confines, and the muscles of the uterus contract to propel the fetus out. Both the fetus and the womb work together to bring about birth.

With that in mind, your anorexic self is curled up in your heart, getting nourishment it needs from your heart/host. Your heart is holding this not ready for the external world aspect of yourself and providing a holding place while development proceeds.

The trough is a clear boundary that distinguishes the anorexic self from the heart while protecting them both.
As the anorexic self pulls into itself what it needs from the heart the heart must grow stronger and more resilient to provide. And your whole psychic system needs to cooperate with this process, bringing support and sustenance to the heart so it can meet this challenge.

When a woman is pregnant it’s not just a matter off the fetus and uterus doing a job. Her whole body has to cooperate with the process. Different amounts of nutrients are required. The stomach, lungs, bladder and more have to move and work under constriction while the uterus expands. Emotional changes occur as the body chemistry shifts to support this enterprise.

Your heart is determined to hold, protect, nourish this anorexic self until it is more developed and whole, ready to be in the external world.

Your psyche needs to support your heart in new ways, giving it sustenance and respect as it develops the strength and wisdom to do this job.

Both the anorexic self and the heart are working together in different ways and both will be stronger and more evolved when birth comes.

What seems to be needed now is your attention plus patience and kindness as you nurture the needs of your heart. Your heart will nurture the anorexic self. A new kind of wholeness and unity is developing.

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