Feeding Your Demons

October 6th, 2012

I have been out of my relationship almost as long as I was in it but I can’t seem to go on. I have dated a little, but am so afraid of being hurt again that I find some excuse to break it off before anything can happen- good or bad.  I feel like I am just going through the motions in my life. Why can’t I just accept my husband leaving me and move on?  Any ideas about how to re- start my life?

Thank you for sharing this very personal and challenging question that I believe is experienced by millions in one form or another.  Perhaps the most normal and least helpful response that we humans have to our emotional pain and fear is the habit of looking away or trying to suppress our feelings. Most of us are not trained or adept at dealing with the fear, rejection and pain that life and relationships often present. Emotional injuries from childhood that were never processed become silent filters that impact how we perceive and understand our entire lives.

Our feelings can seem so large and overwhelming that they threaten to consume us whole. When we refuse our emotional experiences, they grow into demons that become the lifeblood of our identity. The demons that run our lives become an infinite number of manifestations… They are as unique as we are in personality yet universal in the needs we all share. The problem you mentioned of broken-heartedness can include everything from conflicts with people we love, to anxiety about communicating, discomfort with our appearance, the terror of being abandoned, or the shame of feeling worthless.We demonize our emotional experiences by our inability to attend to them. Anything that calls for our attention and is continuously rebuffed will become an active demon inside of you.

The issue of demonizing our fears and pain is as old as recorded history. It was first recorded in ancient Buddhist practices one thousand years ago. The practice has been translated and modernized for our times in an extremely user friendly version called Feeding your Demons: Ancient Wisdom for Resolving Inner Conflict. Written by a former Buddhist nun, Tsultrim Allione, the book provides a helpful five step process to identifying and attending to the experiences and emotions that prevent us from joining life.

Although the idea of feeding and nurturing our internal enemies flies in the face of the conventional approach of overcoming and eliminating our weaknesses, getting intimate with the parts of ourselves that we generally unsuccessfully cut off from ourselves makes great sense.  Instead of battling with the places that scare us, we invite them in, take a good look at them and try to find a way to give them what they need. If ever a Buddhist path offered a way to true liberation, this is it. And you don’t even have to sit, you just have to be courageous enough to embody your feelings and listen.

Dismantling and integrating our internal demons has the added benefit of developing the skills of attending and turning towards our feelings before they become the monsters that can control us.

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