All my demons live in my own head. I know that many people understand evil as something personified, as something exterior to ourselves, but this is not how I experience my own struggles. Last year I was seeing a counselor and one of the techniques she used with me was to personify aspects of myself. It seems so weird at first to speak to part of oneself, such as that part of me that is still the child feeling lost and alone, still seeking rescue and comfort, in the third person. Margaret, my counselor, thought it would help me to have compassion for myself and not be so hard on myself if I did this. Certainly I judge myself harder than I would ever judge someone else so perhaps she is right.
She taught me to identify two streams of thought running through my head. One says I am a beloved child of God, worthy and cherished, that I have something worthwhile to contribute, that my life has purpose and meaning. The other tells me that I am nothing and no one really wants me around, that there is something wrong with me. These are my demons. These are the voices of abusers and hurtful people in my past and whose voices live on inside my head. When I am healthy and strong I do battle with these thoughts. I argue with them (some of you may be thinking, hmmm, cognitive behavioral work, yes, thank you, you psychologically informed people you, that’s exactly what it is!). When I’m hurting or alone it can be hard not to join in, to think, “ha, they were right, no one will ever love me, no one wants to hear my stories,” etc, to fall into bitterness. You know those voices I’m sure. The ones that tell you that you are not OK, that you need to be thinner, smarter, kinder, more beautiful. These voices are pervasive.
We hear so often that we need to surround ourselves with positive people. Those who shine the light of love on me are my companions in this struggle. Together we fight to shine the light of love on all those around us. My counselor was right though, it helps to recognize that this is a fight, that there are things, whether they are memories, thought patterns, abusers, just things, that we must fight against if we are to embrace the light of love. I want to distance myself from these thought patterns that are so quick to resonate with perceived rejection, that anticipate rejection and withdrawal and that do not see me as worthy of being loved.
I have thought,though, wouldn’t it be fun to write a screen play with all my demons personified……
The light comes up on a small congregation gathered around the communion table. The pastor is speaking the welcome to the table, inviting the congregation to join in prayer. It is a small but gracious community.
As they take hands to form a circle our hero reaches out to take the hand next to her and is surprised to find it slimy and dripping in goo. As the rest of the congregation continues unknowing she looks up to see Shame, oily and slimy, dressed all in black, standing next to her,
Hero: What are you doing here! You don’t belong here!
Shame: You didn’t think I’d let you come alone did you? (He leers)
Hero: But…you don’t belong here, this is my church, my home congregation. You can’t come in here!
Guilt oozes across the chancel steps to join the circle, taking its place on the other side of our hero.
Guilt speaking to Shame: Typical of her, wanting to leave us out, as if we weren’t a part of her, as if we weren’t always with her.
Hero, objecting strenuously as the rest of the congregation continues unaware: But they love me here! I belong here!
Shame: You don’t belong here! If they really knew you,
Guilt: knew what you’d done, what you’ve been,
Hero: but I haven’t! I haven’t done anything terrible!
Shame addressing Guilt: Listen to her protest, (shakes his head sadly)
well, you get the idea. There is a common story of a Native elder who tells his grandson that two wolves are fighting inside him, one that is kind and loving, that is strong and courageous, one that is fearful, filled with anger and hatred. The grandson asks him, which one will win and his grandfather responds, “the one you feed.” Like this grandchild I too get to choose whether to feed my fears or to trust in the love and the light that I have been told birthed me and continues to live in me. A light that I sometimes feel, that I see and hear and feel in my friends and in the depth of prayer and meditation.
My demons live in my head and they take shape in the media, in misspoken and ill thought words and actions of others, in painful memories, but I do not have to surrender to them. I can face them and see them for the darkness they are, a darkness that cannot withstand the light of love. I hold in my heart the loving and gracious communities where I have been embraced by the light of this love and then I take courage, then I open my heart to those around me and I know that this light cannot be overcome.