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Nightmare Wave in Eating Disorder Recovery

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320px Ocean surface waveOver the years in my psychotherapy practice with women recovering from eating disorders, I've seen many women who are unaware of the massive change about to disrupt their lives report versions of an overwhelming wave of water dream. They consider this  dream a nightmare. *pix

One version is this:

The woman is on a boat in the ocean, often with friends or spouse or both.  It's a beautiful day.  The sea is calm. She and her friends are relaxing. She feels that all is normal and pleasant. 



Off in the far distance she sees a small rise in the sea.  It's a wave.  She continues to loll in the boat with her companions, and periodically glances at the wave.  It's coming toward her boat.  No one else notices.  The wave is either growing in size or it was always large and seemed small because of the distance.

She alerts her companions.  The way is long and now huge but still far away.  The people on her boat stir themselves and either row or set sail to speed horizontally before the wave.  They know they can't outrace it.  So they try to avoid it by moving toward its lateral end.

Soon they are terrified realizing that can't escape. The skyscraper wave bears down. It's endless..

As the tiny boat is lifted by the power of the immense curl and before she and her companions are capsized and overwhelmed, the dreamer wakes up.

Sometimes this dream doesn't have a boat.  The dreamer is on a beach, often a resort beach or a quiet beach village, again, on a lovely, calm day.  In the distance, she alone notices the beginnings of a wave which eventually sweeps over the beach, the resort, the town, the streets. 

Occasionally she dreams she is in a tall building by the sea. She sees the wave coming from her window or patio. The wave hits, and she races to climb to upper floors to escape the rising water.

The dreamer always wakes up before she is engulfed. She is always frightened and tells me how real the dream felt.

What does this dream mean? Why does is come up for so many people in eating disorder recovery?

When you have an eating disorder, your life is organized around information, people and experiences you can tolerate.  What you cannot tolerate you won't know about either because you've avoided it or because your eating disorder creates the necessary oblivion you require.

As you heal you use your eating disorder less.  You gain psychological and emotional strength. This means that your oblivion begins to lift.  You see more clearly the significance of your actions and the meaning of the people in your life.

This great wave dream often means that your own awareness is coming. It's unstoppable. And your own awareness is going to bring immense changes in your life. Life with an eating disorder is very different from the life you lead when you are free.

The wave dream helps prepare you for deep changes that are coming and that you can't consciously acknowledge yet.  This is a terrifying but manageable dream, especially when you write it down and when you share it with your psychotherapist. This dream helps you tolerate your fears and helps you emotionally prepare for the healing and healthy changes ahead.

A big wave dream is a gift from your unconscious.  Have you had a big wave dream? Please share with us.

Joanna Poppink, MFT, Los Angeles eating disorder recovery psychotherapist 

*pix Ocean surface wave. PDphoto This work has been released into the public domain by its author, Jon Sullivan (PD Photo.org). This applies worldwide.

Comments  

Jeannie Rust, PhD
0 # I have not heard about the Big Wave dreaJeannie Rust, PhD 2010-09-28 08:23
I have not heard about the Big Wave dreams -- but the value of dreams can be irreplaceable when healing from an eating disorder. Any peek into our subconscious is like finding gold in your backyard!
PTC
0 # I don't think I've had the wave dream, bPTC 2010-09-28 09:19
I don't think I've had the wave dream, but you just made me daydream to the island of Bora Bora for a minute and I liked that a lot.

I often have a dream that I end up in a doctor's office somehow and they know about my ED and I don't know how I got to the office, or I end up in patient somehow and I don't want to be there and don't really know how I got there, but I get taken there unknowingly.
shh
0 # I have had the wave dream - several timeshh 2011-02-27 14:24
I have had the wave dream - several times!

I'm always on a beach, and I can always see it coming, but nobody else seems bothered, and I know there's no way I can get away in time.

I get right up to the point where the wave is arched right over my head and about to crash down on me...and then I wake up!

I thought it was just a crazy dream that only I had - not had it for quite a while though.
pinkjoanna
0 # Hi Spazzy bobs, Can you remember whatpinkjoanna 2011-02-28 15:27
Hi Spazzy bobs,

Can you remember what was going on in your life at the time and fairly soon after? From how you use words in your comment I wonder if some new awareness and then some new way of living was getting ready to creash down on you.

The wave dream can feel like a nightmare, but it's more of a signal that great change is occurring in your psyche. That change will bring changes to your life.

It's not about seeing into the future, although it can feel like that sometimes. It's about being on the verge of waking up. Once you wake up and see what you couldn't while you were asleep, you make decisions differently. You respond differently. And your life changes.

For example, your unconscious knows you are going to really move into eating disorder recovery before you are consciously aware of your decision.

Many women I've seen in my private practice report the big wave dream before they know they are about to make a big shift in their lives.

Did that happen for you?
shh
0 # Joanna I've been wracking my brains tshh 2011-02-28 16:01
Joanna

I've been wracking my brains trying to figure out what was going on in my life around the time I had the dreams, but as I never really attached any significance t the dreams when they occured, I just can't seem to pinpoint anything that might've been going on in my life at the time....they quite possibly occured when I started seeing CBT therapist at ED unit, or possibly when I was pregnant with my 2nd child (after years of trying).

I'm sorry I can't shed anymore light on them than that!
pinkjoanna
-1 # Dear Spazzy bobs, That's a lot of ligpinkjoanna 2011-02-28 16:18
Dear Spazzy bobs,

That's a lot of light! You are describing huge changes in your life.

Thank you.

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JoannaPoppink Today we pledge to give the climate crisis the attention it demands | Katharine Viner https://t.co/mOAqJtKVEJ
11hreplyretweetfavorite
JoannaPoppink Latest Sustainable World online now. https://t.co/LjeC1XMh0N #middleschool #highschool
11hreplyretweetfavorite
JoannaPoppink Esperanza: My Greenpeace Voyage https://t.co/TUEhpXsLg2 by @finisterreuk
23hreplyretweetfavorite
JoannaPoppink As The Climate Warms, Companies Scramble To Calculate The Risk To Their Profits https://t.co/2ToYi88VcG

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