afraid of being caught

Hi Anonymous—

After all your hard work—all your training, learning, and striving to practice what you preach—do you ever feel like your eating disorder sometimes just gets loose and whacks you over the head—with a big spoon? If you do, and if it feels like you’re in jail sometimes, living with an emotional compulsion like that, I hope you know that you’re not alone. Anyone who has battled with a self-destructive habit—be it compulsive eating, gambling, drug or alcohol use, or sexual activity—knows what it’s like to wake up and wonder what the heck “hit them.” If we really want to know the answer, all we have to do is walk to the bathroom and look, puzzlingly, into the mirror again.

Because you are an instructor of alternative treatments for eating disorders, your recent decision to accept medical help has caused you no small measure of distress. Not only is your decision an admission that non-medical treatments do not work in all cases, you also feel it makes you a hypocrite in front of your students, who look to you for guidance and support.

This internal struggle is represented in your dream by a battle. In the battle (not surprisingly), you play two roles. Your eating disorder (role 1) is the part of you that hits the other part of you—the student (role 2)—on the head with a shovel (giant spoon). The other clue that identifies you as the student who is killed is your discovery of this woman’s “dental record.” Despite her appearances, you soon learn that this woman actually is not young. In fact, she has dentures. And her dentures remind you specifically of your own plate—that you use for whitening your teeth at night. Positive identification?

Your car being in the shop symbolizes the powerlessness you currently feel. Becoming lost, similarly, reflects not knowing what direction you should head in. Worrying about what you will tell your children and grandchildren almost certainly is an allusion to your students. Indeed, what will you tell them?

Rather than feeling guilty and distraught about your recent decision, have you considered being open and honest with your students? Despite your commitment to non-medical treatments for emotional disorders, perhaps the valuable insight you can share with them is that different people may require different approaches in their efforts to defeat a common enemy. Some people can succeed with counseling and a natural treatment approach, while others may require stronger medicines—to at least get some relief from the eating craziness—so that they can see what it is like to be free from obsessing about food all the time.

Do you recall the relief you felt upon awakening from this dream? Happy to accept yourself as you are, and free from the numbness of shame? If this is the gift you wish to give to your students, you must be able to role model it for them. Tell them your decision, and don’t be afraid to share with them your true identity. A sympathetic student on the road to empowerment. One day at a time.

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