Nightmare Wave in Eating Disorder Recovery
- Category: Self-Help
Over 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.