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Feeding Your Demons

Posted on Mon, 14 April, 2014

Inevitably we are faced with demons, some small, some catastrophic.  Small demons include the irresistible pull to donuts and resistance to exercise, but the large ones pack a bigger punch, think Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Winehouse, basically any addiction and extreme behavior that leads to our undoing.

Demons are the dark areas of our lives that we shy away from, afraid or ashamed to address them.  They hold a type of power over us because we feed them with the fear and shame. These parts of ourselves thrive off living in the recesses of our consciousness, creating anxiety and coping problems when they come up for air.

Many times clients come to me aware of their demons and the therapy becomes a gradual renovation of those demons or patterns.  Sometimes, awareness of the patterns alight in the course of the therapeutic work and the pieces of the demons slide into place like a jigsaw puzzle. Facing our demons and understanding how we feed them is the important work of therapy.

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The id, ego and superego are the holy trinity of the Freudian/jungian world of psychoanalysis and illuminate the concept of facing demons quite nicely.  The cliff notes version is in the attached graphic but basically refers to the id as the devil on your left shoulder, ego as the angel on your right shoulder and the superego as moral conscience between the two.  That id comes up repeatedly wherever your demons hide, as Imagine Dragons puts it in their popular track Demons.

There is probably no better analogy for facing our demons than the children’s book The Big Fat Enormous Lie  in which a little boy brings to life a monster in the form of a lie when he lies about eating all the cookies.  The lie grows bigger and uglier with each page, shadowing the boy and plaguing his peace and playtime. No coincidence here that I use the term “shadow”, a psychoanalytic concept describing the id’s ability to seduce and  thrive in the dark.  By ignoring the problem he feeds his demon with the fear and avoidance. It is not until the boy faces his demon/lie that he achieves freedom from it’s power over him.  In the book he ultimately tells his parents the truth and then the lie shrinks into nothingness.  The demon has been destroyed.  

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We feed our demons through behaviors we know to be wrong, risky and flat out self-destructive as in the case of substance abuse, gambling, over-spending, unprotected sex, and any other extreme behaviors.  Most of the time our society casts a judgmental eye toward these coping mechanisms, triggering us to feel shame and despair over the demons, enabling them to be more powerful.  We feed our demons when we are too afraid to face our choices or behaviors and let them recede into the darkness of our minds, the id.  We feed our demons when we don’t stand up for ourselves or others, when we don’t use boundaries in relationships where they are required or needed.  We feed our demons when we are not honest with ourselves.

How do you think you feed your demons?

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A blog written by a hip, sometimes irreverent shrink who’s been around the block and calls it like it is

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