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Shadow Work and Feeding Your Inner Demons

Buddhist teacher Tsultrim Allione speaks of demons as “guiding spirits.” The Greek word for demon — daemon or daimon — originally referred to a divine creature and trustworthy guide who could lead us on the path of enlightenment. But our modern understanding of “demon” is of something that must be feared, battled, rejected, or killed.

What happens, though, when we are facing inner demons — demons that arise from within ourselves? The strategies of battling, struggling, killing, or rejecting these demons just won’t work for long because they make us battle, struggle against, kill (physically or metaphorically) and/or reject ourselves.

Quick exercise: read through the following list and notice if any of these resonate with you.

demon of anger

demon of jealousy

demon of resentment

demon of anxiety

demon of fear

demon of self-doubt

demon of self-hatred

demon of sugar

demon of disordered eating

demon of alcohol

demon of depression

demon of inherited trauma

demon of social phobia

demon of procrastination

demon of compulsive shopping/spending

demon of self-sabotage

What do you feel as you read this list? Do some of these stand out as familiar experiences for you?

It’s very likely — pretty much inevitable — that you’re currently dealing with one or more of these inner demons. We all are. (Demon of sugar, anyone???) This list is not exhaustive, of course, and you may have other lurking demons that are causing problems in your day-to-day experience, in your plans for the future, and in the accomplishment of your goals.

Here’s the radical part:

What if, instead of fighting and wrestling with these demons, you fed them what they really need? 

At their very core, these demons are parts of yourself you have deemed unacceptable, inappropriate, or ugly. In essence, your shadows. You have tried to run from them, kill them, battle them, suppress them. Maybe you’ve even tried to work with these shadows and bring them out into the light of healing and transformation. But your efforts and attempts didn’t work for long. Or parts of these demons still remain within you, causing issues and sabotaging your progress.

This is where the practice of feeding your inner demons comes in.

Next time one of your demons pops up, instead of trying to push it away, control it, disown it, or just give in to its crazy demands (for example, eating a whole pint of ice cream — been there, done that!), sit with it for a few minutes. Visualize this demon and personify it. What does it look like? Where does it reside in your body? What sensations does it make you feel? What happens — what do you feel — when you look directly into its eyes?

Once you’ve gotten in touch with the demon and it’s sitting right there in front of you, ask it these three questions:

  1. What do you want from me?
    For example, your demon might say: “I want you to eat so much cake that you black out and escape your life because it’s too overwhelming right now.” Or your demon might say: “I want you to let me be free to do whatever I want” or “I want you to put off dealing with your finances because it’s too stressful.” This is the demon’s primary — usually self-sabotaging or misguided — desire.
  2. What do you need from me?
    Here, your demon might say: “I need you to love and accept me no matter how I look, because I’m beautiful regardless of a number on a scale.” Or: “I need you to relax and enjoy life more.” Or: “I need you to look at your finances honestly and take small steps towards improving them.” The demon will begin to reveal the true desires and needs underlying its crazy behavior. These are, in fact, YOUR true needs and desires — what your soul wants for you.
  3. How would you feel if you got what you needed?
    Now, your demon might say: “I would feel accepted, comforted, and satisfied.” Or it might show you an image — for instance, an image of the beach if you need more rest and relaxation. Stay open to whatever kind of information comes through, and write it all down for future reflection.

After asking the questions, imagine your body dissolving into a luminous liquid (Allione calls this the “nectar”). This liquid is made up of acceptance, comfort, love, and satisfaction — or whatever it was your demon asked for. Feed this nectar to your demon until it is fully satisfied. Notice if the demon changes form, if it says anything to you, and how it feels after it has been fed.

Often, a new being will appear in place of your demon once it has been fed — we call this new being the “ally.” It might show up as an angel, as a beloved grandmother figure, as a spirit animal, or in any other form that feels benevolent, wise, and supportive. If this happens, ask the ally why it is there, how it can help you, and what you can do to access its guidance and support.

Continue with your feeding sessions regularly. Cultivating a dialogue and giving your demon your full, undivided attention — and really listening to what it has to say — begins to loosen up some of its intense grip on you. I recommend doing this work every day for a month to fully transform your demon into an ally and a source of wisdom. Journal your inner demon sessions to record your progress along the way.

Interested in working with and healing your inner demons together? You can book a free discovery call here to find out if we’d be a good fit working together.

You can also check out Tsultrim Allione’s book Feeding Your Demons: Ancient Wisdom for Resolving Inner Conflict.

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