A phenomenological study of self-love in women's experiences healing from bulimia

Date of Completion

January 2001


Health Sciences, Mental Health|Women's Studies|Health Sciences, Nursing




This research was a phenomenological study of self-love in women's experiences healing from bulimia. Feminist research methodology, interpretive phenomenology and existential-holistic nursing perspectives guided the inquiry. Eight women (mean age = 29.8 years) who reported that self-love is an aspect of their experiences healing from bulimia participated individually in 2 audiotaped research dialogues. Data consisted of thel6 transcribed dialogues, participants' written summaries of self-love in healing, and participants' selections of music, artwork and prose. Van Manen's method for thematic analysis, Drew's method for the development and use of a researcher's synthesis of intentionality, and phenomenological writing as method were used to analyze data. ^ Three major themes were identified (1) The Happening-Realizing of Self-love in Healing; (2) Discovering Self-love through Transformative Life Experiences; and (3) The Feeling-Being of Self-love in Healing. Theme #1 involved two sub-themes: (a) realizing one's holistic self, and (b) awakening to one's spirit. Theme #2 involved 4 sub-themes: (a) journaling, (b) leaving home or going away to college, (c) engaging in therapy, and (d) experiencing critical, abusive, or nurturing relationships. The last major theme comprised 3 sub-themes: (a) empowered freedom, (b) authenticity-strength, and (c) peace-harmony-joy. ^ Self-love was understood as a dynamic, holistic phenomenon of healing, authenticity and existential human being. Self-love in healing was an experience of enduring self-acceptance, perseverance and fully, freely participating in being. Self-love in healing was described as a feeling and awareness that involved meaningful and poignant self-realizations. These realizations were accompanied by visceral sensations and emotions that as a gestalt, created a peaceful, empowering transcendent experience. Self-love may be considered a tangible conduit to the soul. Findings were congruent with existential holistic perspectives of human being, healing, self-transcendence, expanding consciousness, authenticity, and spirituality. Implications for nursing concern self-love as a philosophy for holistic practice, particularly for self-awareness, personal knowing and therapeutic use of self. Further study and research will contribute to the refinement of these basic ideas, and to the development of a fully matured model of self-love as healing energy. ^