“Life will give you whatever experience is most helpful for the evolution of your consciousness. How do you know this is the experience you need? Because this is the experience you are having at this moment.” – Eckhart Tolle
If you are reading this, the demons haven’t won. Facing your demons is part of life. From the earliest moments when you might have been hungry and the breast or bottle wasn’t immediately available, to later life crises like divorce, death, job loss, financial hardship, illness, and other challenges, everyone is beset with demons. When things are particularly rough, it may seem as if the demons are winning. But as long as you’re still living and breathing, you are the victor.
It’s important to remember just how resilient you are, especially in the midst of an invasion. When I say invasion, I mean those times when you feel so overwhelmed by life you think you simply can not stand another minute; when the emotional pain, grief, or hopelessness is all you can see. At those moments, it is crucial to remember how time-limited everything really is, including you.
Demons are excellent shape-shifters and can morph from one torturous form to another in the blink of an eye. A few of the guises they assume include:
- Fear of rejection
- False pride
- Giving up on oneself
Even if you live a long life, it will still be a relatively short span in the body. Being incarnate is fraught with all sorts of experiences. When the less appealing ones visit, it’s best to welcome them with open arms, as counter-intuitive as that may seem. By denying what is really happening for you, or repressing your feelings with addictions or unhealthy habits, you forgo the opportunity to grow. You miss the chance to spar with scary thoughts, ugly impulses, or overwhelming grief, all of which move you into a more evolved and compassionate place.
There are still many people out there, and I don’t mean drug dealers, who will offer you a way around your misery. Advertisers will tell you life can be rosy if only you buy X, Y, or Z. Some New-Agers will claim a quick way to nirvana, and there are myriad options for dulling one’s pain with obsessive-compulsive behaviors of all kinds. Don’t be beguiled by their dog and pony show. Who would turn away an easy way out from pain? Sign me up! I’d love to think there was some quick panacea. Although, after 40 years of studying psychology, religion, and philosophy, I truly believe the only way out is through.
That does not mean you have to weather every storm alone. This is the time to ask for and graciously accept help. Whether it is from a friend, relative, therapist, hotline, clergy-person, or 12-step group, please avail yourself of any support you can. That many of us were brought up with that old Calvinist ethic of independence and self-sufficiency does not mean we are limited in our healing options. If you were traveling west in a covered wagon then you definitely needed to be one tough cookie. But most modern folks are not braving a physical, material wilderness.
In some accounts, when the Buddha was under the Bodhi tree seeking enlightenment, the demons came. He tried to fight them off for days. Finally, realizing that, at best, they would reach an impasse, he invited them to sit with him. I like to think of this as the Buddha inviting his demons to tea. Take a page from the Buddha’s book and befriend your demons. Undoubtedly, you will learn something, and develop more resilience in the process.
Jung, Sigmund Freud‘s disciple, believed each of us has a shadow side and we need to embrace it to be fully human, alive, and whole. By inviting your demons to tea, you establish ownership of your shadow. You bravely go where many fear to tread. You have the guts to face your anger, fear, jealousy, lack of self-acceptance, guilt, and anything else you deem unacceptable.
By dancing with the demons you reclaim your power. If you keep trying to bury them, you unconsciously feed each one and it comes out in projection, attributing all your own issues to others. Everyone does this to some degree, but being unaware of doing it is problematic.
It takes guts to face your demons. Luckily, everyone has the innate capacity to tread this rocky path, and already has. Have you been ill? Divorced? Child of divorced parents? Child of an alcoholic or addict? Moved to a place where you knew no one? Weathered a financial storm? Been estranged from family? Experienced the death of a loved one? If so, you faced your demons.
You courageously soldiered on. It was not easy or fun, but you persevered, even when you thought the pain would never stop. Slowly but surely, it abated. At first, you may not have even noticed the subtle lessening of your anger, anxiety, or grief, but as the weeks and months wore on you started to feel more alive and open. That resiliency supports you through every challenge, allowing you to stretch beyond what you thought your limits were, and finding more capacity to bear what you thought was unbearable.
You are here for the whole enchilada, not just the kittens and rainbows. The sooner you embrace the totality of life with its highs, lows, and everything in between, the sooner you will find some measure of peace. Practicing affirmations, self-soothing thoughts, or a comforting prayer or mantra, will ease you through those trying times everyone has.
No one is exempt, no matter what their life looks like, or what story they tell you. Every life is mix of treasures and traumas. By persevering, speaking lovingly to yourself when the going gets rough, and assuming the best, you will make it to the other side.
Just like all the molecules in you and around you, things are constantly moving and shifting. Whatever you feel at this moment won’t last. It can’t. That’s what makes life so interesting and bittersweet. By embracing the vicissitudes of life with compassion for yourself and others, you allow yourself to fully experience whatever is happening to you right now. Yes, this is also known as mindfulness, acceptance, and liberation.
The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.