Skip to Content

Relapse Dreams While In Eating Disorder Recovery

via Like A Mirror
via Like A Mirror

Years ago, The Victorian had an eating disorder therapist who would try to
analyze our client’s dreams. One time in an all staff meeting this therapist
analyzed one of the staff’s dreams. The staff member emphasized how bizarre it
was to see a distant cousin in her dream, someone she hadn’t seen in years. The eating disorder therapist explained that sometimes when we see someone from our past it isn’t
literally the person we are seeing, but what the person represents (i.e. youth,
vulnerability, betrayal, etc..)

Some dream analyst believe that dreams come in the service
of health and wholeness helping the person experiencing the dream to reconcile
their life. Even the worst recurring nightmares come to help the dreamer move
forward more consciously in the direction of their health and wholeness. If a
dream is remembered at all, it is a very good indication that there is a
crucially important role for the dreamer's waking mind to play in the unfolding
of all the issues and possibilities the dream presents, whether or not these
multiple layers of meaning and implication are clear to the dreamer or not.

This same principle applies to the dreams of people with addictions,
both in and out of recovery. Dreams always have important levels of symbolic
meaning and implication even when they appear to “merely” repeat actual
experiences of waking life. For instance, take the common dream of relapsing
and being back fully in the grips addiction, years into solid recovery. We
often hear people in recovery say, “I’m so glad I’m not there anymore.”

Some believe that recovery from an addiction is a spiritual
battle and the occurrence of relapse dreams come when recovery is solid and the
addiction wants back in. Usually, to the dreamer it indicates that the recovery
is so integrated into waking life that they are in danger of forgetting just
how bad the addiction actually was. This is why we encourage 12 Step meetings
for our clients, so that they are constantly reminded of why they are working
so hard to stay out of their disease.

Relapse dreams are a great way to remind an eating disorder addict
that the vulnerability to relapse is still with them, even years and decades
later, but the primary service to health and wholeness that this type of
nightmare provides is to keep the conscious emotional and intellectual
awareness vividly alive. There is an unbroken subconscious memory of how bad
addiction was and how good recovery is. We encourage our clients to remember
that they once were addicts and need to keep aware of just how much effort it
took to overcome their disease. It is a crucially important passage of life
that one cannot afford to forget.