Name Your Demons – Remove Their Power
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Thomas Franklin is new (11-17) to thefiresidepost.com. He has no experience with being published as an author. He has a fondness for reading and an appreciation of words. His curiosity is insatiable. He carries the burdens of his youth like Marley dragging his chains of bad deeds. The difference is that Marley's burdens were a result of his behavior. Life just happened to Mr. Franklin. These life burdens shall be the topic of Mr. Franklin's writing. Be kind for he is quite sensitive.

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Name Your Demons – Remove Their Power

The title of this article is not an original thought.  My understanding of the concept is new, fresh, and enlightening.  It took a horrendously emotional event to break the barrier of denial that held my life captive.  Denial is not a bad thing.  Denial is an emotional regulator – denying reality the power to destroy.  We must be conscious of this in order to live a complete life.

In my own case denial held a tight grip over my demons.  I did not even understand the idea that I had demons.  My life was troubled.  Conflict with others seemed the norm.  My use of anger seemed a necessary behavior to manage life.  The problem for me was that the anger mode seemed to be working.  That is the problem with demons.  They are deceptive.  They don’t want you to know they exist.

My family of origin has probably been dysfunctional for several generations.  This is not meant as criticism for the irony is that most families have dysfunction.  One manifestation in my family was an angry father – unaware of his demon.  I learned two things from my angry father.  Anger is dangerous and anger works.  When he was angry people stepped back and gave him a wide path.  What I did not learn was how harmful anger can be.

But anger was not the demon.  Anger was merely a tool of my demons.  I am well into many years of counseling and medical care to sort and neuter those cryptic demons.  Life is complex.  The debate of nature and nurture remains.  Is the son of an angry man destined to be an angry man?  Not necessarily.  Anger can be a learned behavior, one of many responses to life.  Some people growing up in an angry home unconsciously choose to leave anger on the table.  They don’t put it in their pocket.  It is easier to let go of a rope that one never picks up. I was one who embraced anger as an effective communications and management tool.

The demons are well known in the human experience.  We give them names all the time.  We do this because we often see them in others.  Not so much in self.  What are some demons?  their names are resentment, self-pity, hunger, poverty, hate, terror, bewilderment,, despair, depression…. hopefully you get the idea.  These demons are fodder for murder mystery novels, we understand them well.  Shakespeare was a master of threading the demons into his stories.  He is popular because he simply gave voice to something we all understand at very fundamental levels.

In my case there is one demon to rule them all.  There is one demon to rule them all.  My leading demon, the source of anger, hurt, resentment, despair, terror, bewilderment, and depression is fear.

Fear has governed my life for over sixty years.  What fear?  The fear that my father did not love me. The fear that mother loved others more than she loved me. The fear of rejection.  The fear of an angry father.  The fear of hunger.  The fear of emotional pain.  The fear of imagined hurt.  The fear of parental punishment.  The fear of not being in control.  The fear that life would happen with no input from me.  Fear for my family. The nagging deep fear of not being capable, of not being good enough, of failure.

Fear fed my anger.  Fear was the nurturing nanny for my host of demons.  It was in fear that I acted out in anger.  It was in fear of having no control that led to efforts to control others. It was fear of rejection that fueled sarcasm.  It was fear that governed my life.  I was afraid of not being competent.  Afraid every day that my charade would be exposed.  Afraid of what others would think when they learned I was a fraud.

This fear goes back to my earliest memories.  I was about five years old when I threw a neighbor boy’s belt in the corner sewer.  He told my father.  I lied, didn’t do it.  My father walked to the corner, surrounded by a host of neighborhood children.  He opened the sewer and there was the belt.  He used that belt to spank me all the way home.  My crime?  Throwing the belt in the sewer and lying about my action.

I was physically hurt and humiliated in front of the whole of my world.  From my perspective my father took the side of others.  I no longer felt protected by him.  Fear took control.  Life continued with more lies from me.  More punishments by my father.  My mother did not protect me.  My brothers could not protect me.  Please understand that I am recounting the feelings of a child – clearly as an old man I understand my perception was wrong – but it was very real to me at the time.

Anger seemed to work for me.  I got what I wanted.  I won many battles.  But I never won a war.  Fear would not allow me to broaden my view.  I interpreted life through a filter of fear.  Many people saw what looked like an extrovert, a confident man challenging life.  The truth was that I was scared to death of failure.  It was that fear that brought me down.

When our demons rule our life we struggle and fight and feel sick and depressed and unwanted and incompetent and even incredulous that others are so hateful.  The demons throw our life into a tailspin. When we do not acknowledge our demons the world seems insanely biased against us.  We have to fight harder.  We are compelled to either wilt and wither in depression of to swing the heavy blunt object of anger.  We destroy.  We win small insignificant victories.  We alienate. We lose.

Many years of counseling led me down several dead end journeys.  This was not all bad – every branch of the tree has useful information.  But it did take me longer to get down the correct road.  I remember forty years ago trying to identify the demon.  Anxiety a counselor said.  Another said depression.  Another claimed alcoholism.  Poor coping skills?  Poor communication skills?  One felt confident that with some assertiveness training there would no longer be a need for aggression.  Think first, one said.  Feel second.  Well there you go!  The solution is simple.  If life were so easy?

My life filter was threaded with every hurt of my youth and would only allow intellectual or academic understanding of the base problem.   It took the most horrific of hurts, the most horrendous of events, the death of a young man – the ultimate fear released the Kraken.  It was only this level of exposure that the demon of fear could be exposed as the one that rules all.

Over the years I have named several demons – or I thought I did.  If naming them takes away their power then why did they continue to harass my life?  I named resentment, and self-pity, insecurity, and immaturity – but they continued to have power.  These are merely the tools of fear.  Fear masks itself and presents as something else.  We are misdirected.

Frustrated after many years of counseling and self-help I thew myself a curve ball.  I did something that had no outward justification.  I attended a meeting of Al-Anon.

Al-Anon is a 12 Step support program for families and friends of Alcoholics.   I did not live with an alcoholic.  I have friends who claim to be alcoholic.  Neither my father or mother drank.  I went to an Al-anon meeting in the basement of the local baptist church out of desperation.  I had been trying with every ounce of anger that I possessed to fix my family.  I was afraid Al-Anon would send me away as not fit for their program.  They did not.

I felt embraced.  This particular Al-Anon group has strict rules about not giving advice.  They share  their experience, strength and hope.  They merely speak about what happened to them and what they did.  They talk about what worked and what did not work.  It took six months for me to start telling them my true story.  It was in the honest telling of my story that I broke down and cried and searched and cried and finally came to fear as the culprit.

Fear does not live peacefully with the spiritual values of love, kindness, generosity, and forgiveness.  Spiritual principles cannot live in harmony with fear.  Fear hides itself behind other bad behaviors.  I learned in Al-Anon that there are three components to spiritual growth.

We must first become aware.  We have to be aware of our demons before we can name them.  It took me a long time because I was so confused by treating the symptoms of fear rather than the fear itself.  In Al-Anon they say things like “Let go and let God”.  I am not very good at that.  I have let go in the past with expectations that God would take care of the problem and the problem was not taken care of. My awareness was a little different,  Life happens, whether directed by God or not – it happens.  That was central for me.  Life happens – it keeps coming at you.  It can be joyous or hateful – but it is there.

The second component is acceptance.  When I finally accepted that I was not in charge, that I was not in control, my life changed.  Now get this – this sounds simple, let go of the reality of life, accept that you cannot change – all great ideals.  I struggled because I could not accept that I had no power to save my family.  It seemed disrespectful and cowardly to openly admit that my family was out of my control.  It seemed cowardly to admit that I was afraid.  It seemed like a cop-out somehow, like I was surrendering in the face of the enemy.  It is the great paradox of my life.  When I let go of my family my life became much more serene and peaceful.

Nothing changed but my attitude.  My family is what it is – but I am no longer crazy.

The third component is Action.  We become aware, we accept, and then we take action.  My action has been in the form of regularly going to Al-Anon and giving voice to my hopes and dreams.  I admit defeat.  I surrender.  Action, in my case, was to stop fighting.  To accept life as it is rather than how I want it to be.

My demon, the demon that rules them all, is fear.  Fear dominated my life and drove me crazy.  I acted like an insane fool.  I was so scared.  My fear for a grandson was so overwhelming that I could not think or act with any clarity.

 

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