Look. Into the mirror. Into your own heart. Look past the light bits scattered on the surface, the pretty face you show everyone, and take a deep, hard look at those skittering creatures in the dark. The ones that flash past the corners of your vision, and hide deeper in the night of memories. Those are the demons I’m talking about, and I’ve got 13 reasons to stop fearing them, and start learning from them. Or at least accepting them.
1. Your inner demons are great teachers.
Really. Think back on the most powerful lessons you’ve learned over the years. I’m betting most of them weren’t learned in a sunny spring meadow, sipping tea and lounging in dandelions. Perhaps that’s where you came to the realization, but that’s not where the lesson started. It started in the dark, the black, recessed shadows of your mind and heart, where an experience or a person left a gaping wound you wanted to ignore. In time, that wound gained some manner of consciousness, and the world would try to name it: Addiciton, Depression, Anxiety, or any other myriad of names.Then, one day, you had a choice. Let it run amok, and run you, or don’t. That day came realization number two.
2. They’re never as terrifying as they first look.
Take a moment to read this:
Education is the difference between terror and understanding.
~Jacob Helaman Taylor
The darkest shards of our souls have a nasty habit of turning their sharpest bits into tentacles of terror, reaching into all the obscure parts of our selves and pretending they are far more than they are. When we first begin untangling the messes they’ve made, it hurts, and sheds light into those dim shadows we spend our days, energy, and coping mechanisms avoiding. Yet once lit, we find old blood, dust, detritus, and, most vitally, treasures. Of Knowledge, Wisdom, Experience. And all at once, those demons shrink in size and form until they resemble those small, shattered pieces they started as.
3. “Because they’re part of your personality and you can’t fight everything all the time.” ~Kelsey Lynn Brown
Incredible the things friends come up with once we reach out for help. Kelsey’s right. Fighting them constantly is a good way to spiral. After all, no one I know WANTS to live in a battlefield, right? Even worse if the battlefield is one’s own mind. Add to that, our inner demons are, as she says, part of us. They aren’t disembodied things attacking us from the outside. They are our fears, apprehensions, bad habits, addictions, destructive self-imposed messages, etc. Funny thing about them? Fighting those demons only makes them angry and vengeful, and they come back that much stronger. Besides, everyone needs a hug sometimes. Even our demons. (Thanks, Grayson, who I’m paraphrasing.)
4. They’re not that powerful when we’re not running from them. In fact, like the Hairy Man, all we need to do is best them a couple of times, and they leave us be.
I don’t need to add to Buddha’s words on this. After all, we may be our own worst enemy, but we are the greatest ally we have, as well.
It is better to conquer yourself than to win a thousand battles. Then the victory is yours. It cannot be taken from you, not by angels or by demons, heaven or hell.
5. They like to play hide and seek with the truth, concealing it in the deep recesses of our minds; so unless we search it out, all we’ll see is that terror guarding the entrance.
That demon with the sly grin? It’ll show us the blue square, or the yellow circle. Or maybe a blue circle or a yellow square. Whatever it shows you, look for the cylinder in the middle. After all, that’s where the Truth is.
“So many twists behind the truth, which makes it worth searching for.”
6. Someone else has the same demon in a younger, louder form. Maybe your story can help them.
One place our demons thrive is the secret part of our soul housing that tenebrous pseudo-emotion of shame. They like to stay secret, and as soon as that secret is out, we’ve thrown wide the drapes over the windows of our soul and let in the sunlight of connection. It’s tough to be in the first stages of the fight, and we all need someone who’s been there, or at least can empathize enough to show compassion. I needed it at the beginning of coming to grips with being both a transman (thanks USA for not having a better word for me) and a faithful member of the LDS Church. I’ve needed it working through the demons and scars left in me from my parents’ divorce when I was 12. I won’t bore you with the details, but compassionate friends and therapists helped me face in the interlude what I couldn’t as a child and teen.
7. The inner demons of those before us pave the paths we take as a society, for better or worse.
How many scientific and creative geniuses throughout history have been describe thus: Like a man possessed? Do you personally know anyone who takes on a project or takes up a cause with such passion all else falls away, and they forget the world in pursuit of it? What is there that you would grab hold of with the same passion?
Those who create change in society, whether in a profession, such as science: Marie Curie, Albert Einstein, Mary Anning, and innumerable other men and women through history. Others contributed in social movements. Martin Luther. Martin Luther King, Jr. Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Pharaoh Hatshepsut. Especially those who played significant roles in social movements saw wrongs that either personally affected them – likely creating some form of inner demon – or affected those close to them. Why not turn pain to passion for creating a better world?
8. Your demons notice aspects of situations that, if you’re not listening to them, you might not. Not to mention, they “get the job done,” as Apryll J. Cosby mentioned.
We all have talents and abilities, and often, the critic in us takes charge, and can turn those to demons, if we’re not careful. Or they just start that way (and no, I didn’t just this morning tell another writer how to poison the crops of the whole earth in a triple-redundant manner for effectiveness. Okay, I did.) See? Helpful inner demon – my inner villain.
9. Let them be the heroes they want to be.
The demons will forever believe they are a hero in themselves. ~Jessica Harper
This one is simple. The villain is always the hero of their own story. The demon’s story is not their’s. It’s yours. So, let them save you in the long term. Learn the lessons they are there to teach.
10. Knowing your demons allows you to introduce them to the people you love. On your time, not the demons’ whims.
Want your new friends terrified beyond reason? Let the demons run amok. Want to build trust and respect? Have enough power over those demons to introduce them in casual conversation. Which doesn’t happen if you’re still busy running like Indiana Jones from that rolling boulder.
11. Occasionally (read: often, especially for creative types) they come up with really good ideas.
Remember the poisoning the crops of the whole earth thing? Yeah. Creatives, artists, embrace the demons that give your art depth. Or, to quote Carine Roitfeld…
In a way, I envy the freedom artists have. Artists can push themselves beyond their limits, in pursuit of their ideas and their vision, even if they are inhabited by demons that can also play tricks on them.
Or this from Suzy Menkes:
We know that creative people have all sorts of demons. Creative people aren’t the only ones with inner demons. We’re just more likely to draw on them for inspiration and put them in others’ view for critical examination, regardless of whether or not those critiques intend to rip our proverbial hearts out.
12. “Always a good story.” ~Jessica Harper
Often the best, Jessica. Often the best.