Ask the Loveologist: Feeding Your Demons

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. They grow into demons as we ignore and refuse our emotional experiences that are the life blood of our identity. The demons that run our lives come in 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 every thing 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. The ancient Buddhist practices of working to embrace our dark places was first recorded over a 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 identify and attend 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 attempt to cut off from ourselves makes great sense. Instead of battling with the places that scare us, this practice shows us how to 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 learn to sit, anyone with the willingness and a little bit of courage can learn to embody your feelings and listen.

Dismantling and integrating our internal demons has the added benefit of helping us to develop the skills of attending and turning towards our feelings before they become the monsters that can control us. The better you get at learning to look at what makes you afraid, sad, angry or anxious, the more you realize that there is no real form to these feelings. Their intensity grows from through our unwillingness to see them. With practice, dealing with the emotions that have kept you locked away from your own life is as simple as turning your awareness towards the experience as soon as it comes up. Emotions that are witnessed do not intensify, they resolve and literally vanish before your eyes. The shift from being controlled by our emotions to being governed by our awareness is subtle and profound. Emotions don’t stop happening, they just stop keeping you from a life of your choosing. Try this and let me know how it goes.

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34 comments

Kamia C.
Kamia T.7 months ago

I think it's better to "quit" looking, just live your life, find the things that fuel your passion and enjoy that. Then, if you meet someone with similar interests, goals and lifestyle, voila! And if not, at least you don't look back at every day as if it were a waste.

Diane A.
Diane A.5 years ago

This explains very well what I was not able to describe to a friend of mine. I have just sent them this article. I always seem to attract the articles I need here on Care2. :)

Em W.
Em W.5 years ago

very helpful-thank you

Low B.
low beng kiat5 years ago

By noticing that the mind is continually making commentary, one has the ability to carefully observe those thoughts, seeing them for what they are without aversion or judgment. Those practicing mindfulness realize that "thoughts are just thoughts."

Jewels S.
Jewels S.5 years ago

The advise to check out some Buddhist practices is spot on. It helped me a great deal. I learned how to let go of taking everything personal. I learned how to be alone and be ok or even happy about it. I haven't found who I want to be with yet but I am ok with experiencing the process and trust that when it is right, I will be ready. That is a very far place from the roller coaster ride I was on for ten years after the break up but I did lose a brother and that added to the process as well.

Chinmayee Jog
Chinmayee Jog5 years ago

Majority of us, at one time or another, suffer heartbreak, as I did recently. I gave myself one week to suffer, cry, mope, not eat, grow thin, not sleep, and work like a dog - basically I embraced my misery. But through it all, I used the very basic Buddhist precept: this too shall pass. Every time I suffered and thoroughly felt my anguish, I also reminded myself that in time, this pain would lessen, if not fully go away. I would move on. And yes, there is fear, fear of finding someone else who will treat me the same way, fear of never finding someone else, and so many other fears, but really there is nothing to be scared of. Everything falls into place, just live life for each moment, not for the past or for the future, and soon you will find that you are happy without depending on anyone else for your happiness :) Have an amazing life, you deserve it, we all do!

Amitav Dash
Amitav Dash5 years ago

Borrowing from the therapies that are taught to women who've suffered from miscarriages, I developed a therapeutic strategy called "mourning the loss." The hardest part is properly identifying what the loss actually is, because often it's not as simple or obvious as it seems.

If you can properly identify the loss you've suffered, embrace it, name it, admit that it happened, and maybe more importantly grieve over that loss, it will pass from you eventually.

If you don't begin to feel more relieved over time and still battle the same emotions, or still battle the same demons after this process, go back and examine if the loss you mourned was really the loss that occurred from the event. For many of us, there can be something deeper that it touched that we didn't realize or weren't able to admit -- often it's a loss that has been repeating itself and taking us further from experiencing true healing.

Trauma and stress can be productive events that force us to examine the fears and losses in life that we've never done before. Don't shy from a chance to heal yourself and better understand why you do the things you do and react the way you do. The only way to truly heal — if you really do want to — is to let many things about yourself fall away, so the true person you want to be underneath it all can emerge and claim happiness.

Judy P.
Judy P.5 years ago

I just read this article and I'm with Stephanie P -- there is not enough how to information to go on -- rather vague. Life does go on and we do adapt to new things and we can come out from under the ether and move on in our lives. It's a one day at a time process -- After my 1st husband walked off and left me with two of his kids to raise, I had no other choice but to continue to work and provide for them since he just flaked out on financial responsibility. After dating and not really intending to remarry, someone eventually came into the picture and I'm now remarried. So, you go through the pain as a process and pick yourself up, dust yourself off and get on with living.

Tom Rose
Thomas Rose5 years ago

I never thought that I could recover but I have. So it goes and so it will continue to do so. Thanks for your help.

Crystina O.
Crystina O.5 years ago

I think the answer to your fears is to be in control of your relationships, not to just float along. Find out what type of man suits you, whether you like things in common or someone who is more opposite to you. Try reputable internet dating sites and go out with more than one man at a time until you feel ready to be exclusive with someone. This process should take up to five or six months. You will feel in control and it will lessen your fears.