Monsters, and why I love them

This is something I wrote on a forum to explain what I do. I thought it wanted  reposting here. :)

I’m a monster whisperer – I talk to people’s negative inner voices, aka ‘monsters’. You know, the ones that scream at you that you’re DISGUSTING or USELESS or DOOMED TO FAIL or WHY CAN’T YOU JUST ACT NORMAL (I bet many of us have heard that one…) It’s a unique, playful and loving form of therapy and I’ve had people experience big life changes from just one session. Plus weird side-effects like getting cured of compulsive lateness when we hadn’t even discussed that!!

Our monsters are part of us, and however hateful they sound, they secretly love us and are trying to help us. They just don’t understand that screaming at us isn’t helpful. They often come from early childhood, and their picture of the world hasn’t evolved since. They still feel the pain that we felt then, constantly, and the one purpose of their lives is to protect us from it. They scream at us because they’reterrified for us. They desperately need to be heard, loved, and gently shown that there are other ways of seeing things and other ways to help.  And when this happens, they transform themselves. Their true love nature comes out and it’s absolutely tearjerkingly beautiful.

I love monsters. I really do. They’re so full of love and pain, and most of them have never had a kind word spoken to them, and every single one of them holds a beautiful secret inside them. When I do a session I send love energy not only to the person I’m working with, but also to their monster. It really works. I’ve seen the most ferocious monsters melt in tears and shyly ask their person for a hug. It’s a vivid demonstration (ha, deMONSTRation!) of the truth that when you get right down to it, it’s all love. Everything.

My inner hero

First off: I would like to remind my beloved readers that my prices are going up on April 11th! So if you’ve been thinking of booking a session (or several) this coming week is your opportunity to do that at the current price. (I’ve just spent the last five minutes trying to phrase that in a way that didn’t say, ‘OMG BUY NOW OR DOOM’ :) )

I just had the most stunning session – my second time with the same client, and she said I’d made a huge difference to her life. I was amazed at all the changes she’d experienced just from one session with me. How about accidentally getting over lifelong chronic lateness as an unexpected side effect? (Hmm, if I can do that for someone else, maybe I can do it for myself…;)

This session went really deep and got resolved really quickly, 1 hour 10 mins for the whole session including quite a long chat at the start about what was up. I’m on such a high right now.

This is really reminding me of why I do what I do. Lately, because I’m preoccupied with an upcoming house move and all the money stuff around that, I’ve fallen into thinking that I do this work for money. NOT NOT NOT! I do this to help all the brilliant, beautiful souls around me and to help the world change for the better. Glorious feeling!! And I really need to talk to my own monsters and headpeople more too. Seeing the effect on others reminds me how much it can help me.

Last night Andy advised me to talk to my inner hero on the blog, on the basis that I might find out some interesting things. So I’ll try doing that now. :)

Me: Hello?

(Blaze of light. KA-CHING! of Audible Sharpness. A dazzling star of light running down from point to hilt of a blade held skywards. When the dazzle clears, I’m kind of expecting to see Luke Skywalker in full-on poster boy mode. Or some amazing anime heroine like Utena or Oscar. Instead (is anyone surprised?) it’s just me. Jeans, t-shirt, messy hair. And where’s the sword gone?)

Me: Oh. You’re me.

Inner Hero: Well, don’t sound disappointed!

Me: I do feel a bit disappointed. I wanted to see some visible evidence that my inner hero is, you know, heroic.

Inner Hero: What would that look like to you?

Me: A bright sword. Burning blue eyes. Not necessarily a lot of muscle (I mean, look at Frodo) but a lot of heroic bearing. Intensity. Being visibly full of light and power. And preferably a heroic outfit too. Maybe shining armour or a spiffy military uniform with lots of gold braid.

Inner Hero: Armour? Military uniform? Wars do not make one great. You win by refusing to fight, remember?

Me: Yeah, but – I mean, Luke won by refusing to fight, but he still has his lightsaber. I mean, a sword made of light. The absolute symbol of pure goodness and power. Magical, miraculous power for good. You know?

Inner Hero: You’ve got a lightsaber.

Me: Yeah, a toy one.

Inner Hero: Oh come on. That’s a ‘toy’ like your parrot-headed umbrella is a ‘toy’. It’s an incredibly powerful talisman that is actually linked to your soul and therefore actually magical. Would you rather have a weapon you could kill people with?

Me: Well, no.

Inner Hero: Playfulness is a more important value to you than killing. Actually, violence is way down at the bottom of your value list and playfulness is way up at the top. And so is the reality of imaginary things. The power of imaginary things. I mean, look at what you do for a living! Trust me, the perfect blade for you is a toy one. Something that’ll always be a little bit funny. And at the same time, when you hold it, you make a face like THIS.

Me with a lightsaber

Me: Oh. Yeah. That is you.

Inner Hero: Burning blue eyes? Check. Heroic bearing? Check. Intensity? Check. Being visibly full of light and power? CHECK CHECK CHECK.

Me: Oh, but now I’m having all the I’m-not-worthy.

Inner Hero: Every hero has all the I’m-not-worthy!

Me: Really?

Inner Hero: Well, most of them. At some point. It’s a perfectly normal response to having an epic mission!

Me: Everybody has an epic mission. I mean, everybody’s life is their own epic mission. Everyone is the hero of their own hero’s journey.

Inner Hero: Yes, but right now we’re talking about you, not making excuses about why you’re not special.

Me: Everyone is special!

Inner Hero: Yes. Including you.

Me: Okay, so how do I connect with you more? What’s the secret?

Inner Hero: Well, it’s something you’re very good at. Believe in me.

Me: What?

Inner Hero: Play at being me. Imagine being me. You know imaginary things are real, right?

Me: Oh. Yes. Like the Sun says in the Mary Poppins books. To think a thing is to make it true. And so, if Michael thought he had the Moon in his arms -

Inner Hero: - why then, he had indeed. You thought you had a lightsaber in your hands. And look what happened.

Me: Wow. Yes. I can see that.

Inner Hero: You know what the funny part is?

Me: That I’m holding a piece of movie merchandise like it could cut steel?

Inner Hero: Okay, the other funny part. The really funny part is this. The only thing that’s really imaginary here is that you’re NOT me.

Me: What?

Inner Hero: You’ve been imagining that you’re not me. Playing a very elaborate game of make-believe and let’s-pretend that consumed your entire life. You’re really good at that. So good that you actually believed your own fantasy. You became the character.

Me: So the me who isn’t you is imaginary?

Inner Hero: Precisely! You not being a hero? Fantasy! You being unheroic? Nonsense! You having anything less than infinite light and power? That’s just a story you tell yourself! You’re making it up!

Me: Wow…

Inner Hero: So the funny thing is… you’re a hero pretending to be a non-hero pretending to be a hero!

Me: Oh, but that’s also really sad. Like, imagine if the greatest knight in the world had lost his memory and was just playing in the dirt like a child, forgetting who he was. And imagine if he picked up a stick and held it like a sword. I mean, really like a sword. You’d want to cry, wouldn’t you?

Inner Hero: Laugh or cry! Your choice.

Me: I’ll laugh.

Inner Hero: That’s me talking!

The Longer You Leave It The Harder It Gets

You know that phenomenon where the longer you leave something, the harder it gets to do… I thought I’d have a talk with that phenomenon. (My version of it, anyway. Other people’s may vary.) I’ll be calling it Longer for short. Longer for short!

Me: So it’s been a while and I still haven’t done this thing. I’d like to do it now, and it seems like you’re unhappy about that.

Longer: Yes! Just think how much that person must be suffering because you haven’t done that thing!

Me: Okay, I’m confused. I’m hearing that you’re very upset about the consequences of my not doing the thing.

Longer: Yes!!

Me: And yet you’d like me to carry on not doing the thing.

Longer: Yes! LOOK AT ALL THIS GUILT! DO YOU REALLY WANT TO CONFRONT ALL THIS GUILT?! DO YOU?!

Me: Wait, so you exist to protect me from guilt!

Longer: YES!

Me: When you started the conversation by saying, ‘Think how that person must be suffering,’ it sounded to me like you wanted me to feel very guilty. Were you just showing me how big and scary the guilt was so I’d run away from it?

Longer: YES YES YES! I make you run away so you won’t do the thing! Because if you do the thing now, that means YOU COULD HAVE DONE IT ALL ALONG!

Me: You’re protecting me from knowing I could have done it all along?

Longer: YES!

Me: Okay, knowing I could have done it all along seems quite empowering to me. Like, I’ve always been capable. Like Dorothy has always had the ruby slippers that could take her home.

Longer: If you know you could have done it all along, you have to face the GUILT of knowing you could have done it all along! AND YOU DIDN’T! Dorothy has been stuck in Oz all this time and all she had to do was click her heels together, what an idiot! Do you really think she’d be happy to find that out? It means all the pain she went through was unnecessary!

Me: No… Oh, wait. The guilt thing is just a smokescreen. You’re just waving guilt at me to scare me off the thing you’re really protecting me from. Regret.

(Longer, who has had no discernible form up till now, turns into a tall, skinny white bird.)

Bubulcus ibis(2)

Me: Did you just turn into an egret?

Longer: (nods)

Me: You’re a Regret Egret! That’s… inspired.

Regret Egret: You did it WRONG. You did it WRONG and you SHOULDN’T have done it wrong and you have to live with all the pain that you went through because you did it wrong, AND all the pain of knowing that you DIDN’T HAVE TO GO THROUGH THE PAIN!

Me: Oh. Sweetie. You just really hate to see me in pain.

Regret Egret: OF COURSE, WHAT DID YOU THINK? (childlike voice) I HATE IT WHEN YOU DO IT WRONG. I HATE IT I HATE IT.

Me: It sounds like you’re from then. From a long time ago.

Regret Egret: (almost in tears) BECAUSE I DON’T LIKE SEEING YOU TOLD OFF AND PUNISHED!

Me: Oh. Oh, wow, you’re right. When I was little, if I got punished, sometimes I’d pretend I was fine with it. I mean, even to myself. Like I didn’t want whatever they were taking away from me, or… anything rather than acknowledge that I was in pain because I did it wrong. That was you, wasn’t it?

Regret Egret: Yes!

Me: And as an adult, almost 30, I said something that completely shocked me when my friend repeated it back. Basically, that I didn’t want to learn from my mistakes. I preferred to go on making the same mistake over and over rather than admit defeat and learn my lesson. That was you too, huh?

Regret Egret: Yes!

Me: ‘Admit defeat’ like ‘let the people punishing me win’.

Regret Egret: YES!

Me: Even though now I’m an adult and nobody is punishing me, I’m just getting results that I don’t like. When I don’t do something I’ve committed to doing, I worry that other people are suffering and I feel upset and guilty, and that’s a result I don’t like.

Regret Egret: Consequences. The consequences of your actions. Can’t you FEEL the weight of doomy-parenty-teachery AARGH behind that phrase?

Me: Yes, absolutely! AAARGH!

Regret Egret: (finding this cathartic) AAAAARGH!

Me: I’m wondering… what were my parents and teachers trying to communicate when they talked about ‘the consequences of my actions’? What need of theirs were they trying to meet?

Regret Egret: For you to stop being such a nuisance.

Me: (smiles) I think we can go a step back to something more basic and less judgementy. How about the need to know that I could learn from my mistakes? Even though they were saying it in a doomy way, what they really wanted was to help me learn.

Regret Egret: They could have found a better way of saying it!!!

Me: They could, couldn’t they?! Like what… how would you say it better?

Regret Egret: Well, they could have said it how Havi says it! That there’s no ‘doing it wrong’ because it’s all an experiment and all results are useful! So if you get a result that you don’t like, you can be a scientist and go ‘hmm, useful’ and note it down and it gives you clarity. It helps you work out how to get results that you do like. So what we call ‘making mistakes’ is actually vital experimenting, it’s how we learn, I mean you might as well call it making discoveries!

Me: Exactly! Beautiful!

Regret Egret: WELL, WHY DIDN’T THEY JUST SAY IT LIKE THAT THEN?

Me: I guess because nobody had ever said it like that to them. Plus I was really little and they wanted to make it really big and loud and simple and ‘THIS IS DEFINITELY BAD’ to be sure I understood.

Regret Egret: Well, ouch.

Me: Yeah. Ouch for the whole world. Because pretty much everybody’s been brought up like that.

Regret Egret: I’m sorry!!

Me: It’s okay, it’s okay, it’s okay!

Regret Egret: Now I want to change but I’m still terrified of letting you suffer pain. I mean you’re my baby!

Me: I understand. It’s hard to let your baby grow up.

Regret Egret: So what do I do?!

Me: Well, the thing is -

Regret Egret: Is this the bit where you tell me I’m one of those monsters? Because I was wondering why we hadn’t got to that bit.

Me: (laughs) Maaaaybe. What do you think? You’ve been trying to protect me from regret, right? And -

Regret Egret: And OMG I’ve totally been keeping you in it, because I haven’t been letting you stop doing the things you regret! Or start doing the things you regret not doing! And I can distract you but I can’t stop the pain completely, I mean I can’t make you completely stuck AND make you completely oblivious to being stuck, so it’s always going to hurt! OH NO OH NO I HAD THOSE RUBY SLIPPERS ALL THIS TIME AND I DIDN’T USE THEM AND WE’VE BEEN STUCK IN OZ ALL THIS TIME!

Me: Hey. Hey. It’s okay. Because we’ve been in Oz, right? You don’t want to miss the journey. You don’t want to miss the adventure. If Dorothy had just landed in Oz, taken the slippers, clicked her heels and gone home, there wouldn’t be a story! Or there would, but it would be a very short one that wouldn’t really say anything. Not a book. Not an epic beautiful journey where people experience wild and wonderful things and face deadly terrors and learn and grow and go through transformations and find out things about themselves they never knew.

Regret Egret: (crying) You mean it’s all okay?

Me: Yes. Yes. It’s great that we’ve been on this journey. And it’s great that we’re going home.

Regret Egret: What do I do?

Me: Well, when I’m doing something – or more likely not-doing something – that produces results I don’t like – don’t protect me from experiencing the pain.

Regret Egret: WAAH!

Me: Wait, it’s okay. Instead of holding me back from my pain and my adventure, you can support me through it. Be by my side. Remind me that this is an experiment and there’s no doing it wrong, just results. Help me take a curious, scientific look at those results and see what I discover. And if I’m still hurting about what I did or didn’t do, let me go through mourning so I can learn from it and it’ll stop hurting. You know what NVC mourning is?

Regret Egret: When you don’t beat yourself up, you just let yourself be sad for yourself and all the ways you didn’t meet your own needs.

Me: Yes! No guilt, just compassion. Let me cry, and be with me while I cry. That’ll help a lot, actually. I’ve got a lot of mourning to do and it’ll really help to have someone with me who loves me like you do.

Regret Egret: (sniffs) Will it help if I wear a funny lab coat? And funny little glasses on my beak? (does so)

Me: (laughing and crying) Yes!! Look at you, you totally suit that! Now I think of it, you kind of looked like a tall skinny scientist in a white lab coat already!

Regret Egret: That’s because all monsters have the – have the – person they’re going to be inside them already. You know, the person they’re going to be when they’re not monsters any more.

Me: Yes!!

Regret Egret: Because secretly – that’s what we are. Already. Just with a monster suit over the top.

Me: YES YES YES! Look at you making scientific discoveries!

Regret Egret: Hmm! Useful!

Compulsions! They look like mogwai from Gremlins.

I’m trying to get over an internet addiction (yes, monsters, I am allowed to tell people that I have an internet addiction even though I also have difficulty replying to emails) and part of what I’m trying to do is not feed my compulsions. That is, not check the internet at the moment I get a compulsive urge to do it, because that teaches my brain that compulsions get rewarded so there should be lots of them.

So obviously, the concept of lots of proliferating things that one shouldn’t feed led me to characterise my compulsions as mogwai. You know, the fluffy little things that multiply if you get them wet and turn into gremlins if you feed them after midnight. (Actually, feeding my compulsions after midnight is a PARTICULAR problem for me.)

3 mogwai

Apparently these three are called Mohawk, George and Lenny, so that’s what we’ll call them.

I thought rather than just forcibly starve these little furballs, I’d better get their point of view and find out what they’re really trying to tell me.

(Compulsions roll into the room, squeaking, chattering and showing lots of sharp teeth.)

Compulsions: FEED US! FEED US! NOM NOM NOM!

Me: Hi, compulsions! Sounds like you’re really hungry for something.

Compulsions: EMAIL EMAIL (actually giving me a compulsion to check email)

Me: What needs does email meet for you?

Compulsions: EMAIL EMAIL EMAIL EMAIL

Me: (smiles) Okay, how does getting to check email feel for you? What kind of good things are you getting from it?

Mohawk: No uncertainty!

George: Relief!

Lenny: Knowing! CHECK EMAIL NOW BY THE WAY.

Me: I was expecting to hear something like ‘attention’ or ‘love’ or ‘validation’ -

Compulsions: ATTENTION ATTENTION

Me: Okay, so that’s a need that email meets for you too?

Mohawk: Yeah but – even if you check and there’s nothing, at least you KNOW you HAVEN’T got attention.

George: Otherwise SOMEBODY COULD BE PAYING YOU ATTENTION AND YOU WOULDN’T KNOW! AAARGH!!!

Lenny: CHECK EMAIL NOW

George: Worse! Somebody could NEED YOUR ATTENTION! AND! YOU! WOULDN’T! KNOW!

Compulsions: AAAAAAARGH!!!!! EEK EEK EEK!

Lenny: CHECK EMAIL NOOOOOWWWWW

Me: I’ll check email as soon as we’ve finished this talk, okay? Deal?

(All compulsions immediately clamp their hands over their mouths, ‘speak no evil’ style. Total silence.)

Me: I don’t mean just stop talking right now! I mean as soon as we’ve finished this talk. Do you get what it means to finish this talk?

Mohawk: To reach an agreement!

George: Yeah!

Lenny: For all of us to be happy!

George: Yeah!

Me: That works. (smiles) Are you willing to wait till that point for me to check email?

Compulsions: Eeeeerrrr….. Maybe?

Me: Okay, thank you. Let’s start talking and if it gets too difficult for you to wait, you can tell me.

Compulsions: IT’S TOO DIFFICULT FOR US TO WAIT!

Me: (laughing) Fine, I’ll check email and then we’ll finish the conversation, okay?

Compulsions: (jumping up and down) OKAY OKAY OKAY OKAY!

Me: (checks email) Nothing there but spam and people trying to write a punk Hamlet filk. Happy now?

Compulsions: (slightly unsure) Yeeeees….

Me: Any problems?

Mohawk: We are disappointed that there wasn’t email from that one person!

Me: I hear you. I get that you’re feeling disappointed. I’d just like to remind you that it’s not even 9am for her and she has a lot to think about right now, and that I know she loves me very much and I don’t need an email to prove it.

Lenny: CHECK EMAIL CHECK EMAIL. Look! You can see you’ve just received another email! CHECK IT CHECK IT!

Me: Okay, I’m not willing to do that right now because I’m feeling really concerned about how frustrated and anxious you seem and how you can’t rest for even a minute without needing me to check email.

George: We’re also disappointed that you didn’t get distracted. Then we could rest.

Me: Huh?

George: When you’re connected to the internet, it’s like uh – an umbilicus! Or a baby bottle. Being constantly fed. So we can rest.

Lenny: Nom nom nom nom nom nom nom… WANT NOMS!

Me: And what is it that you’re being constantly fed?

Mohawk: Internets!

Me: What does the internets contain?

Mohawk: Caffeine!

Me: (laughing) Okay, everyone knows the internet contains caffeine! What does that mean for you, does it energise you, keep you awake?

George: AAARGH, you got another email!

Lenny: CHECK IT CHECK IT!!

Me: Fine, I’ll check it… There, nothing important. So what’s this about caffeine?

Mohawk: A way to avoid sleep! Not just that, but a way to not need rest!

Me: Because while I’m surfing the internet, I’m in a state that’s sort-of-restful but not so embarrassingly obviously restful as, say, having a lie down?

George: Yeah!

Me: So I don’t need to deal with the fact that I need rest?

George: Yeah!

Me: Thing is, surfing the internet isn’t adequately meeting my rest needs. It’s like living on rice or porridge, you get to a point where you can stuff and stuff and stuff on it and you’re still constantly hungry because you’re not getting any vitamins or protein. Anyway, why are you protecting me from needing rest?

Compulsions: Uh….

Me: You don’t know?

Mohawk: Because you seem to get upset when you need rest. We don’t really know why.

Me: Actually, I’ve made a lot of progress in that area recently, and I’m going to be talking to my rest monsters some more today. I can handle this, I don’t need you to protect me from needing rest. Besides, constantly being online actually puts me in a state of constantly needing rest.

George: Oh no, we’re those kinds of monsters?

Me: Yeah, your protecting me from needing rest is leading to me needing a lot of rest.

Compulsions: SORRY SORRY SORRY!

Me: It’s okay! I get the feeling that there’s more to you than that, though. What else does the internet contain?

Lenny: Not having to think. Whatever you’re in pain about, you don’t have to think about it when you’re online.

Me: What if I’m in pain about being online?

Lenny: Make candybar dolls! [An online game.] That will even numb the pain of being in pain about being online!

Me: This is kind of like the drunkard in ‘The Little Prince’ who drank to forget that he was ashamed of drinking.

Lenny: Well, it’s a reasonable strategy.

Me: The thing is that a lot of my pain comes from not doing things, and a lot of my not-doing-things comes from being online. So your protecting me from being in pain is leading to a lot more pain.

Lenny: THAT’S WHY YOU HAVE TO BE ONLINE ALL THE TIME SO YOU CAN IGNORE IT!!!

Me: I can tell that you’re really concerned about this. The thing is that I’m not able to ignore it all the time. It still hurts. And if I get offline and face a little bit of pain in the short term, I can have a lot less pain in the long term.

Compulsions: WHAT IS THIS LONG TERM OF WHICH YOU SPEAK!

Me: It’s the short term tomorrow. It’s right now in five minutes. Or a week. Or a year.

Compulsions: DOES NOT COMPUTE… DOES NOT COMPUTE…

Lenny: YOU GOT ANOTHER EMAIL, CHECK IT!!

Me: (does so) Still just talking about Hamlet filks. I’m getting that you are not long-term creatures. You need a need to be met NOW, always.

Compulsions: YES YES YES!

Me: And right now it seems that the things you want for me are rest (of a kind that doesn’t upset me) and relief from pain. So maybe when I have a compulsion I could try meditating or praying.

Mohawk: BUT WHAT ABOUT THE ATTENTION! And the play! WHAT ABOUT THE PLAY!

Lenny: YOU GOT ANOTHER ONE CHECK IT CHECK IT

Me: Okay, I’m checking this one, but then let’s not check any more for five minutes so we can sort this out sooner. Okay?

Lenny: NO YOU HAVE TO CHECK ALL OF THEM OR WE’RE NOT TALKING.

Me: I’m feeling uncomfortable and frustrated about that because I need to know I have some sovereignty here.

Lenny:… Fine, five minutes.

Me: Thank you! So, attention and play?

Mohawk: Yes, internetting is a form of rest-play. It’s something you can do that’s not ‘because you should’.

Me: Right, so you also want me to experience play and freedom from shoulds. So when I get a compulsion I could also try goofing off in another way. Doodling on my whiteboard perhaps.

George: Oh, HOURS OF FUN. Why don’t you just play with a jack-in-the box? Open the box… shut the box. Open the box… shut the box. WHAT FUN!!!

Me: I’m hearing that you don’t find non-internetty things any fun!

George: I’ll admit that they could be fun, but where else can you find such infinite variety of input?

Me: In my own mind.

George: Okay, then do a proper creative project, but with permission to do it badly or not finish it. Or make stuff up in your head. Something you actually WANT to do, not some fake displacementy boring thing. Or read something or watch something.

Me: You’d be happy for me to do that? Because I’ve just realised that my internet addiction means I don’t have time to play properly! To do things I really WANT to do!

George: I’d be happy for you to do that sometimes, but not all the time because there’s still the attention thing.

Me: Thank you!! Okay, the attention thing. It seems like you’re really keen for my attention needs to be met, and for me to meet the attention needs of others.

Compulsions: YES YES YES YES YES YES YES

Lenny: BY THE WAY CHECK EMAIL

Me: Okay… I’m confused. You’re obviously genuinely very concerned about this attention thing, and yet I’m noticing that even with all this time online, I’m still way behind on replying to most of my emails. In fact, I could have replied to a lot more if I hadn’t been so busy compulsively surfing, checking, and re-reading existing emails. It seems like you really care about me checking, but not so much about me replying?

Compulsions: Uuuuhhhhh…

Lenny: CHECK THE FLOOP

Me: (does so) Oh, I got comments. That feels good because now I know that people care.

Mohawk: This is the point! To know that people care!

Me: Are you feeling worried that I don’t know I’m loved? That I need reminding?

Mohawk: WELL, CLEARLY.

Me: So if I can find other ways to remind myself that I’m loved, and to give myself love, will that help with the need to check?

Mohawk: Not really because there’s still OTHER PEOPLE’S attention needs and what if there’s a crisis? WHAT IF THERE’S A CRISIS? What if someone you love is crying and heartbroken because YOU WEREN’T THERE WHEN YOU WERE NEEDED?

George: You see, every second you’re not checking email, THAT COULD BE HAPPENING RIGHT NOW!

Lenny: Every second you’re not checking, YOU COULD BE MAKING SOMEONE CRY! EVERY SECOND!

Me: You all sound really freaked out and panicked.

Compulsions: YES YES YES YES YES!

Me: You all want a cuddle?

Compulsions: AAAAAAAAH (diving on me)

Me: (cuddling the compulsion pile) Okay, guys. It’s okay. This is from then. This is from a time when someone genuinely did want my attention every second. That is not happening now. None of the friends I have now would want me to be constantly tied to the internet looking after them, they want me to have my own life, even if that means they sometimes spend some time crying because I wasn’t online.

Mohawk: …For reals?!?!

Me: Yes, for reals!

Mohawk: BUT YOU WOULD STILL BE SO GUILTY! Even if they didn’t mind, YOU would mind!!

Me: Sounds like you’re desperate to protect me from guilt.

Compulsions: YES YES YES YES! And sadness! Sadness for other people’s pain!

Me: You really suffered back then, didn’t you? You don’t ever want to feel that bad again.

Compulsions: YES WE DID! NO WE DON’T!

Me: Would it help if I told you that things are very different now because I have more sovereignty, and I would never allow myself to get into that bad a guilt situation now? Because I know I’m not responsible for the happiness of others.

Compulsions: Huh?!

Me: Yeah, I always had a choice. I could have ALWAYS said, ‘Hey, it’s not okay to expect myself to give attention every second. I don’t need to feel guilty for not doing that.’ I could have ALWAYS said, ‘I’m not willing to give you attention every second, can we talk about other ways to meet your needs?’ It was always between me and me! It was my guilt about my relationship with me and I don’t have to have that guilt any more!

Compulsions: Whoa. Um… whoa.

(They huddle together and talk compulsion language for a few seconds.)

Mohawk: Okay. We’re willing to try to stop pushing you so hard to check email, but only if you’re willing to try to stop guilting yourself, because we feel awful when you do that.

Me: Wow, thank you! I’m definitely willing. And you can help.

Mohawk: How?

Me: When you feel like talking to me, talk to me. But instead of saying ‘CHECK EMAIL CHECK EMAIL’ tell me all the qualities you want for me, like – what’s the opposite of guilt?

Mohawk: Permission!

George: Sovereignty!

Lenny: A clear conscience!

Me: All good! And what are those other qualities you were talking about?

Mohawk: Rest!

George: Play!

Lenny: Comfort!

Mohawk: Freedom!

George: Attention!

Lenny: Love!

Me: All things I would love to be reminded to give myself. So are you up for that? When you feel like talking to me, are you willing to shout those qualities in my ear?

Compulsions: (bouncing up and down) YES YES YES YES!

Me: Thank you!

(group hug)

BY THE WAY, EVERYBODY – HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Oz and the Tribblegonks

Sometimes monster conversations are serious and harrowing, and sometimes they’re LIKE THIS. Cuteness and hilarity ahead.

(See here to find out about all the members of my headcast who crop up in this post.)

I realised that despite the breakthrough with Dragon, I was still getting a lot of negative self-talk saying things like ‘I hate you in a million different ways!’ So my usual beloved tag-team went in to find out what kind of monster was behind that.

Big Sister: Hi, could I talk to the Negative Self-Talk Monster, please?

Monsters: There’s lots of us.

(And the lights come up on a sea of tiny beings. They look like Hattifatteners from the Moomins.)

Big Sister: Hmm, you look like Hattifatteners! So what’s that telling me? Hattifatteners look like ghosts… and they’re electric… and kind of expressionless… and scary… and ultimately harmless, right? So, Hattifatteners, what’s going on with you? What are you observing?

Monsters: (slight crackling noise)

Big Sister: Oh, right, Hattifatteners can’t talk. Could you appear in a form that does talk?

(Monsters turn into many tiny black fuzzballs.)

Monsters: (with no conviction, as if reading a script) Bleh. You suck. We hate you. Get better at everything.

Mr. H: Gonks! Yeah, GONKS! (Laughing… he loves it when the monsters look like gonks.)

Big Sister: You also look kind of like Tribbles. Tribbles proliferate like crazy and cause Tribble trouble. Is that what you do?

Monsters: (suddenly excited, bouncing and doing flips) Yeah! We proliferate! We cause Tribble trouble! (They start multiplying wildly, popping up like popcorn, piling on top of each other until the negotiators are in danger of getting buried.)

Mr. H: Whoa-whoa-whoa! Let’s keep the proliferating to a minimum till we’ve finished TALKING PLEASE!

(One last one defiantly plinks into existence and then the fuzz settles.)

Big Sister: You looked like you were having fun there.

Monsters: Yeah! We have fun!

Mr. H: Fun, huh? I was expecting a lot of things, but I wasn’t expecting fun. Most of the monsters I’ve met have been kind of grim and austere and b- well, not boring, nobody’s boring, but they have a boring life.

Monsters: We have fun slinging insults because it’s all we can do.

Mr. H: Why’s it all you can do?

Monsters: We don’t know! We’re just insult slingers!

Mr. H: Uh…

Big Sister: Is there someone behind all this? Is there like, a queen monster of this hive?

(An ENORMOUS GIGAGONK appears behind the horde.)

Mr. H: (stepping forward) Hi! Do you -

Gigagonk: BRRRRAAAAUUUUMMMM. (A booming blast of air and sound that sends him staggering back in shock.) HA! EVEN YOU WERE RUFFLED!

Mr. H: (brushing imaginary dust off his jacket) Heh. Shaken not stirred.

Gigagonk: BRRRRRRAAAAAAUUUUUMMMMM!

Mr. H: You know who you remind me of? The Great Oz. Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!

(And sure enough, a curtain draws back, revealing a sheepish-looking little old man turning a handle to operate the beast.)

Mr. H: Hi, Oz. What’s up?

Oz: I’m from Omaha! I came here in a balloon!

Mr. H: Okay, I don’t need the plot of the Wizard of Oz. What are you observing?

Oz: You just outed me!

Mr. H: How are you feeling?

Oz: Embarrassed!

Mr. H: It’s okay, I’m safe. You’re safe. Wanna tell me a bit about what you do here?

Oz: Um… I wizard.

Mr. H: What do you do when you’re wizarding?

Oz: I say things in a loud voice.

Mr. H: What sort of things?

Oz: ‘I hate you, you’re awful, do better…’

Mr. H: Okay, why those sorts of things?

Oz: Oh, it’s what the people want.

Mr. H: What people?

Oz: Well, Eve, I suppose.

Mr. H: And why do you think she wants that?

Oz: I don’t know. All I do is give the people what they want. I’m a showman, you know.

Big Sister: It seems like you’re someone who feels small trying to hide behind a facade of being big and noisy. That suggests childhood stuff to me. Am I right?

Oz: I don’t know. I’m from Omaha.

Big Sister: Okay, honey. I need to talk to Eve to find out more about this. Can you wait while I do that?

Oz: Certainly.

Big Sister: Thank you. (kisses him on the cheek)

Oz: (blushes) Oh! Madam!

Big Sister: Okay, Eve, can we talk about this? Is he right that you need to hear things like ‘I hate you, you’re awful, do better’?

Little Sister: Can I join in?

Big Sister: Yes, of course! This is really relevant to you.

Little Sister: I need him to say those things so I’ll behave better so then real people won’t say those things to me.

Oz: I’m real!

Big Sister: I know, honey.

Little Sister: I mean flesh and blood people.

Big Sister: (hand-on-heart sigh) Okay. And when he says those things, how do you feel?

Little Sister: Scared. Angry.

Big Sister: When you feel scared and angry, do you behave better?

Little Sister: No, I behave badly! Or I don’t do anything at all.

Big Sister: So what are you really needing?

Little Sister: To not be hated!

Big Sister: Remember, in NVC we don’t do a ‘don’t’. Can you say ‘to not be hated’ in a different way, so it’s a ‘do’ instead of a ‘don’t’?

Little Sister: To be loved!!

Big Sister: Yeah! (hugs her) Really big, really simple. How can we get Oz to help you with that?

Little Sister: I don’t know. You’re the big sister.

Big Sister: Okay, I’ll work it out. Thank you.

Little Sister: You’re welcome. (watches intently during the next bit)

Big Sister: Oz, thank you for waiting. Did you get all that?

Oz: Yes. No. Could you explain it again, please?

Big Sister: Okay. You came into being because Eve wanted protecting from hate. She wanted you to say hateful things to her so that she’d behave better so that flesh-and-blood people wouldn’t hate on her. The trouble is that when you say hateful things, she feels scared and angry and either behaves worse or does nothing. Not her fault, not your fault, you were both doing your best with the information you had.

Oz: Oh, no. I always knew I was a failure.

Big Sister: You’re not! You’re a very powerful ally. We just need to work out a better way for you to do your job so you can meet her real need, which is to be loved.

Oz: Oh, is that all? Well, that’s easy. (Turns handle. Gigagonk turns pink with sparkly antennae.)

Gigagonk: HHUUUUUUUGGGSS!

Tribblegonks: (turning pink and bouncing up and down) We love you! You rock! Do more of that awesome thing! We’re having fun slinging love!

Big Sister: Wow, that WAS easy! Thank you!

Oz: (tipping hat) All I do is give the people what they want.

Me: Thank you, Oz!

Oz: You’re welcome, madam, miss, sir, whateveryouare. May I draw the curtain again now?

Big Sister: Sure.

(Oz retreats behind his curtain. Little Sister dives through the curtain and hugs his legs.)

Little Sister: Thank you, Oz! I love you!

(Oz looks deeply touched. This is the person he was really here to serve. All these years he’s received nothing for his service but fear and anger, and now he finally gets love. The old man and the little girl stand there hugging each other, both in tears.)

At the end of her conversation with Oz, Little Sister looked like Dorothy for a moment – a bit older than normal, in her blue and white checked summer school uniform and pigtails. When she came skipping back to me I said, ‘You grew up a bit,’ and she said, ‘Just for a moment,’ and transformed back to her normal self.

Just then we walked past a street sign that said, ‘Emerald Court’.

Oz & Dorothy

What I find interesting about this monster talk is that the monsters had so little emotional investment in what they were saying. Normally there’s a lot of passion and fear and DOOM in monster interactions, and a lot of ‘we have to keep saying this thing or the world will end.’ In this case, while Oz is clearly devoted to Little Sister, he’s not invested in what he’s saying. He’s a showman who just says whatever the people want to hear. This was a revelation - my negative self-talk feels so intensely real and hateful when it’s happening, and yet - it’s just a show?

As for the Tribblegonks, they’re even less invested in what they’re saying. I think that’s why they’re capable of having fun. They’re just copying Oz, they don’t mean anything by it. They’re a perfect image of how negative self-talk, well, proliferates, and you end up slinging mindless, meaningless hate-words at yourself just out of habit.

…But they’re so cute!

Dragon

I realised I had a very aggressive monster called ‘You’re Disgusting and Deserve to be Obliterated.’ What followed was one of the most amazing monstertalks of my life.

I was really scared of this one, so I asked members of my headcast to help me.

Me: I DEFINITELY need a monster negotiator here. Who wants this one?

Mr. H: Me!

Me: Okay, thanks. Big Sister, you want in as well?

Big Sister: (in a flat, tightly-controlled-anger voice that sounds nothing like her) No.

Me: Okay… are you okay? Have I done something in the last few days that’s -

Big Sister: Yes.

Me: – ruined my future?

Big Sister: Yes. Yes you have.

Me: I don’t believe you! You’re a monster masquerading as my sister!

Monster: Yes.

Me: …Mr. H, you want to take it from here?

Mr. H: With pleasure. Monster, who are you really?

Monster: I’m the one you came here to seek.

Mr. H: What, ‘You’re Disgusting and Deserve to be Obliterated’? (He sounds slightly amused by this title.)

Monster: Yes.

Mr. H: You’re not very talkative, are you? You sound like you’re kinda… holding something in.

Monster (EXPLODING from the form of Big Sister into this demonic dragon-horror-thing that reminds me of Screwtape in his centipede form.) GRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH! *breathes fire*

Mr. H: Whoa! (steps back) Very angry monster! You’re furious about something, huh? Wanna tell me about it?

Monster: (breathes a huge blast of fire at him. It’s acting like a computer-game boss. Hovering up and down challenging him to fight.)

Mr. H: Do we have to do this? I mean, we can, but I’d rather you just told me what’s bothering you.

Monster: WHY AREN’T YOU SCARED OF ME?!

Mr. H: You’re not my monster.

Monster: …wuff! (A sulky little puff of flame.)

Mr. H: Come on, what’s up? You can tell me.

Monster: AAAARGH! (This time it’s not attacking, just throwing back its head and howling.)

Mr. H: I know, it sucks, huh?

Monster: (caught off guard a bit) What sucks?

Mr. H: Whatever you’re that angry about. Or just being that angry.

Monster: GRAAAH!!

Mr. H: Do you know why you’re angry?

Monster: Because she’s disgusting and deserves to be obliterated! It says it right there on the tin! (Points to a huge rusty barrel-sized tin, which does indeed have these words painted on it.)  GRAAAH! (breathes fire at the tin and whatever’s in it bursts into flames.)

Mr. H: Okay, I’m gonna NVC you. Ha ha. (mischievous look) You’re feeling angry because you need something. What do you need?

Monster: FOR HER NOT TO BE DISGUSTING AND… (sad moment) not to be obliterated, OF COURSE!

Mr. H: Oh. Oh, you’re scared that she’s going to be obliterated, huh? You’re really scared. (tries to pat monster’s nose, monster shies its head away like a horse and avoids eye contact.) You don’t want her to be obliterated because… you love her.

Monster: (breathing fire and crying, tears sizzling on its red-hot scales) OF COURSE, WHAT DO YOU THINK ALL THIS FIRE IS, IDIOT?

Mr. H: Whoa, that’s -

Monster: RED HOT BURNING FUCKING PASSION!

Mr. H: …I was right not to fight you.

Monster: What?

Mr. H: Well, you know. There’s good in you.

Monster: WAAARGH! It’s very angry good and I’m very tired and AAAARGH!

Mr. H: You need a rest, huh?

Monster: NO, I NEED HER TO NOT DISAPPEAR! Why can you not understand that? Why do you think I’m a dragon? A DRAGON GUARDS THINGS!

Mr. H: You’re guarding her. She’s the treasure.

Monster: (In very frustrated, ‘why do you not get this already’ tones) YES!!!

Mr. H: (suddenly sounding rather sad, and gentle.) But your name is ‘You’re Disgusting and Deserve to Be Obliterated.’

Monster:  ….

Mr. H: But you see her as treasure. The opposite of disgusting. And you dedicate your life to protecting her from being obliterated. Your secret name is the opposite, isn’t it? It’s like, ‘You’re Amazing and Deserve to Be Safe Forever.’

Monster: (crying) YES!! But what’s the use? Everybody else thinks she’s disgusting and deserves to be obliterated! So I can’t let her forget that or she will be!

Mr. H: Oh, no. Hey. Hey. (pats monster) Look, people don’t really think that.

Monster: The housemate does!

Mr. H: Not that she deserves to be obliterated! Didn’t she save her life crossing the road recently? That says right there, ‘I don’t think you deserve to be obliterated.’

Monster: She just didn’t want to have to clear up the mess.

Mr. H: Oh god, you are really… man, your life sucks. I think I need backup. You okay if I call for backup?

Monster: (nods)

Mr. H: (in a weirdly high voice, staring around randomly) Backup! BACKUP!

Big Sister: (running in laughing) You’re doing Phoebe from Friends!!!

Mr. H: (smiles) Just trying to lighten the mood. This one thinks everyone thinks Eve deserves to die. I’m a bit out of my depth.

Big Sister: (to monster) Ohhhhh, that sucks.

Mr. H: That’s what I said.

Big Sister: Okay, it sounds like we have a great big tangled-up ball of wool here so let’s see if we can find the beginning. When did you start thinking everyone thought Eve deserved to die?

Monster: Well, at school. They didn’t want anything about her. What she said, how she acted – they didn’t even want her intelligence, and it was a school.They basically told her to sit down, shut up and stop being Eve. Okay to exist as long as you no longer resemble yourself in any way. And after a few months of that she no longer did resemble herself, and then nobody else wanted her either. They wished she would stop existing so they could have the old version back.

Big Sister: Wow. That’s a whole lot of pain to be carrying around. And for what, thirty years? *hand-on-heart sigh*

Monster: Yes. I learned from that that she can’t please everyone. No matter how she acts, someone is going to want her dead. So the best thing for her to do is just to dial herself down as much as possible, and try to act however the person she’s with right now wants her to act. But she’s such a strong, exuberant, crazy eccentric person that the only way I could make her do that was to convince her they were right. Make her feel like a bit of rubbish that deserves to be burnt. I had to break her spirit to save her life.

Big Sister: Oh, monster.

Monster: Are you angry with me?

Big Sister: No, I’m feeling really, really sorry for you right now.

Mr. H: His real name is ’You’re Amazing and Deserve to Be Safe Forever.’

Monster: I’m a her. I think.

Mr. H: Oh jeez, I’m sorry!

Monster: (shakes head sadly) My gender is unimportant. I exist to guard.

Big Sister: You don’t really have much of a self, do you?

Monster: Well, I make a lot of noise.

Big Sister: I mean, of course you have a self. But you don’t have much sovereignty.

Monster: Where would I learn it?

Big Sister: Oh. Oh, dear. You were born from horribly unsovereign situations where everyone had everyone else’s stuff all over them. Which actually kind of is disgusting. I mean, people are never disgusting, but being buried under a pile of other people’s icky stuff is… a lot like the mess in her room right now. Ooh, epiphany! Can I use this epiphany to help you?

Monster: I want to get other people’s icky stuff off her.

Big Sister: Help her tidy her room?

Monster: But I’m a dragon. I hoard. Also, you haven’t really given me any assurance that she won’t be killed for being herself.

Big Sister: Nobody’s killed Havi.

Monster: Well, she’s been in some life-threatening situations. And anyway Havi is not Eve and Eve is different and what if people DO kill HER? She can’t just go around being herself. Nobody is allowed to be themselves past the age of four. That’s the whole tragedy of this world.

Big Sister: Oh, baby. You’re another growing-up monster.

Monster: Isn’t everybody?

Big Sister: Everybody in this monster menagerie, by the looks of it! Okay, here’s an idea. Maybe it’s better for her to be herself, even if she dies for it. I mean, I don’t personally think there’s any risk that she’ll die, but I can’t prove that. But even if it did mean a shorter life, maybe it would still be better for her to live as herself, without shame.

Mr. H: Oh, that’s totally true. Even if it takes you ages to work out how to be yourself because you’re so used to being everybody else.

Monster: You don’t understand. I’m a dragon. I guard. You’re asking me to stand by and risk my treasure being destroyed.

Big Sister: But your treasure is a person. Have you ever seen Pete’s Dragon?

Monster: Of course. That dragon’s treasure was a person.

Big Sister: Right. So the dragon brought his treasure to a cave, but he didn’t keep him there. Because a person’s not the kind of treasure that you keep in a cave forever. The dragon let his treasure walk away with another human being. He took the risk of letting him have all kinds of new experiences and form all kinds of new relationships, not knowing how any of them would turn out. He let him change, and when it was time, he let him go. And that’s how you treasure a person.

Monster: That’s hard. That’s much harder than fighting bad guys.

Big Sister: (hand-on-heart sigh) I know.

Monster: I can still fight bad guys sometimes? I’m scared, I’m scared!

Big Sister: I know, honey. But – okay, this is going to be hard to hear. The ‘death’ people wished on her all those years ago wasn’t physical death. They just wanted her to stop being herself. They wanted to take away her sovereignty. And the trouble is – out of love, I know – you’ve been doing that too. When she believes she’s disgusting and deserves to be obliterated, she loses her sovereignty. She doesn’t get to be herself. She doesn’t really get to live. It’s the very ‘death’ you’ve been trying to protect her from.

Monster: I killed my treasure? She’s not dead!! She can come back to life!!

Big Sister: Of course she can! I told you, it’s not death death. She just needs reminding, that’s all.

Monster: (crying) Reminding what?

Big Sister: That she’s amazing and deserves to be safe. Safe from anything that would threaten her precious sovereignty. Safe from ever having to be less than the strong, exuberant, crazy eccentric person she was born to be.

Monster: That kind of safe?

Big Sister: That kind of safe.

Monster: Is this really true, what you’re telling me? I don’t know…

Big Sister: (nods) Trust me. You’re part of her, so I’m your Big Sister too.

(Slowly, the dragon uncurls itself, showing just how huge and old it really is. Gnarled scales encrusted with ancient gems. Tears rolling down its long muzzle. It approaches Big Sister and lies down before her, bowing its head at her feet.)

Dragon: I will not be a monster any more. I will guard her sovereignty as I have guarded her life. My wings will be her cloak, my talons will be her sword, my fire will be her shield. I am afraid, but I – am – a dragon. And I exist to guard.

(Mr. H looks deeply moved, and not sure how to honour this speech for a moment, then slowly begins to applaud. Big Sister joins in.)

Big Sister: Rise.

(The dragon rises, as if knighted by a queen. Big Sister wraps her arms around its neck.)

Big Sister: Thank you. (kisses it on the cheek)

Dragon: (stunned) Nobody ever kissed me before.

Big Sister: Oh, you’re going to get plenty of kisses now. She’s going to love you now. Eve? Are you ready to come in here?

(And we draw a modest veil over the massive tearful dragon hugfest that ensues….)

Me: …Thank you, dragon. You are my love for myself. You are. And all this time you’ve been hiding as hate. I love you.

After this talk, I realised one huge key to helping Little Sister (my inner child) feel safe and secure in her own existence while I’m doing grown-up stuff. Dragon! My Dragon is incredibly strong (like whoa, a being this powerful is a part of me?) and exists to guard.To guard my sovereignty. To guard my self. To guard my existence, deeper than life. To guard exactly what Little Sister is afraid of losing. My Dragon was born from that fear, when I was just her age. This huge, fierce, noble being was born from the spirit of that little girl. Bringing them back together is a match made in heaven. What could make a child feel safer than having her own dragon?

Five minutes after I introduced them, the two of them were doing aerobatics over my head. I think it’s safe to say they’ve bonded.

R.Taylor drew this art to celebrate!