A Peak Experience
On the rugged, South West Coast of Ireland, there is a small fishing village called Dingle. It was where I had what Abraham Maslow, the father of Humanistic Psychology, called a ‘Peak Experience.’ I was swimming with Fungi, a wild bottle-nose dolphin who lives in Dingle Harbour.
Maslow writes that peak experiences are,
“Rare, exciting, oceanic, deeply moving, exhilarating, elevating experiences that generate an advanced form of perceiving reality, and are even mystic and magical in their effect upon the experimenter.”
Peak experiences are life’s most joyful moments, the AHA moments, the ecstatic moments, and moments of rapture.
A turning point
Having a peak spiritual experience was the turning point in my recovery from an eating disorder. I had suffered with chronic dieting and bulimia for 15 years. My self-worth was at an all-time low. And I was consumed by self-loathing, on a path of complete self-destruction by using amphetamines daily. I’d read that swimming with wild dolphins was therapeutic for many who were healed from addictions and major health concerns. It had turned people’s lives around.
From the first moment that Fungi the wild dolphin swam by me and looked me in the eye, I experienced a sense of inner knowingness and peace that up until that moment, I had never experienced before. I felt seen, accepted and loved unconditionally. Like I could just be me. And I felt a natural high that couldn’t be matched through the hedonistic, rave culture lifestyle that I had been living in London.
In ‘The Dolphin Within: Awakening Human Potential’, the book that I read which started this whole journey, Olivia De Bergerac writes,
Such experiences are much sweeter than chocolate or drugs.
Swimming with Fungi the wild dolphin awakened something in me – I now know this to be the higher self or the soul.
Are you ready to dive into your spiritual being instead of living in your current world ruled by ED? Join us in theSchool of Recovery to find out how!
Motivation To Heal
When I returned to London, I immediately searched for an eating disorder therapist. I had a few false starts with medical professionals. Eventually I found a psychotherapist I felt I could grow to trust.
Whilst swimming with Fungi was the catalyst for my recovery, it was my weekly, depth psychotherapy that helped ground my peak experience and aided me in long-term recovery.
My therapist had lived experience of an eating disorder and had recovered. I believe this to be a crucial aspect in me being able to trust her. I just knew that she knew what it felt like.
We spent many hours integrating my peak spiritual experience and discussing wild dolphin behaviors. For example, my therapist asked, “Does Fungi worry about how much he has eaten today?” And, “Does Fungi worry about what he looks like?”
I would laugh and say, ‘of course not!’
Through the long-term relationship my therapist provided me with a safe and secure base. A sacred space. And via her years of love and unconditional positive regard – I was able to put my eating disorder out of a job. I have been recovered for over 20 years.
The Long Road Back
Depth psychotherapy wasn’t easy. It wasn’t a quick fix either. I had to get to know and process my early childhood wounding. And recover the deeply split off parts of myself that for whatever reason, had to go into hiding. I had to recognize, accept, and build a relationship with the parts that I abused, doubted and loathed. And I had to heal the deep shame I had experienced. I had to stop shaming myself with my harsh inner critic. Which I had internalized from my environment and culture.
Over-time, I started to accept my whole self – the light and the shadow.
Therapy assisted me in fostering healthier parts of myself. Such as the internal nourishing mother, the healthy inner father, and my soul self. And therapy was a profoundly deep and nourishing journey of the soul.
By connecting with my soul self, it taught me that I am so much more than my body. My body is the home for my soul and I learnt to respect and care for it. It’s the only one I have!
Eating disorder psychotherapist and Founder of Monte Nido and the Carolyn Costin Institute says that connecting with soul self is a crucial element of becoming fully recovered. We redirect our focus from the trappings of the ego and towards what really matters in life.
Think of your eating disorder self and your soul self: the one you feed will be the strongest. Getting better is about feeding or strengthening your soul self.
Connecting with soul self is an ongoing process. Medical treatment may be essential for early recovery. But it’s our soul work that will help us to fully recover and stay recovered.
In psychosynthesis psychotherapy, the therapist always asks, ‘What makes your heart sing?’ This is a really great question to start connecting with soul self.
My Soul Self
My connection with soul self started with my wild dolphin, peak spiritual experience. For others, it could be through dancing, surfing, yoga, or meditating. Or any spiritual or religious practice such as connecting with land, journaling, reading a good novel, visiting art galleries or the theatre.
Whatever it is, don’t put your life on hold or get caught in the trap of saying, ‘When I am thin I will.’
To recover, start connecting with soul self today and whatever your soul calls for – do that!