Before her descent into Oz, Dorothy was unsure of herself.
When a cyclone hit her home in Kansas, it completely turned her world upside down. She was stuck in a new, strange world with her companion, Toto.
Being in Oz is a lot like having an eating disorder: eating disorders agitate our lives deeply, leaving us wondering who we are and where we belong.
Throughout her journey, Dorothy makes three friends. Each one is symbolic to the journey of recovery from an eating disorder.
Dorothy first meets Scarecrow who needs a brain. He symbolizes the journey we must take to understand ourselves intellectually: figuring out the roots of our eating disorder, what our triggers are, and how we can use different ways to cope with difficult feelings.
Dorothy meets a second friend, Tin Man. He needs a heart, representing the compassion we must have for ourselves. For people in recovery, compassion toward others tends to be easier than self-compassion.
But once we become more compassionate toward ourselves, we reach another level of connecting to others, which is often what we seek.
Lastly, Dorothy meets Cowardly Lion, who desires courage. Recovery from an eating disorder often involves finding the strength within us to protect ourselves, which can also be called assertiveness. We must learn to advocate for ourselves in the way we do so easily for others.
Throughout this journey Dorothy, her three new friends, and Toto (more on what he represents later) are challenged by a series of tests. Through these tests, each of them gain their respective wishes.
It is through using his intellect that Scarecrow receives a brain. Acting compassionately allows Tin Man receive his heart. And through acts of bravery, the Cowardly Lion become brave.
In recovery from an eating disorder, the actions of recovery happen before our insight. Like Dorothy’s three friends, we must act with a recovery mindset before realizing we are recovered.
When Dorothy finally finds the Wizard of Oz, she realizes his false authority. This is very similar to the end phases of recovery when we realize that our eating disorder gave us a false sense of purpose. The Wizard takes Dorothy on a hot air balloon, presumably to take her back to Kansas. But then, Toto jumps out of the basket, chasing a squirrel.
Toto represents Dorothy’s guardian, which is something everyone needs in recovery. This guardian could be a person, a passion, spirituality, or something else. By this one act of jumping out of the balloon, Dorothy was saved from the fate that the Wizard falsely promised her, which represents a relapse in recovery.
The power within you…
Glinda the Good Witch of the North then visits Dorothy and tells her that she had the power to go home the whole time in her Ruby Red Slippers. She just didn’t know it yet.
Scarecrow asks Glinda, “Why didn’t you tell her before?”
She replies, “Because she wouldn’t have believed me. She had to learn it for herself.”
Although the road to recovery is difficult, recovery from an eating disorder often leaves us with tremendous gifts like understanding, compassion, and courage, which we may not have learned if it weren’t for our difficult times.
In a sense, we need pain to encourage our growth.
Glinda teaches Dorothy how to tap her heels together, chanting, “There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home.” This represents how eating disorder recovery involves returning to our intuition: our home. We then realize that we had the power to recover from an eating disorder the whole time.
We just had to believe it for ourselves.