Not long ago I read Feeding Your Demons: Ancient Wisdom for Resolving Inner Conflict by Tsultrim Allione. In the book she reveals an ancient Buddhist practice of making peace with our inner demons–addiction, self-hatred, and so on. She makes the radical argument that instead of trying to constantly battle our inner demons, we should be embracing them. We need to find out what they want from us and how to feed them. Once nourished, claims Allione, these inner demons either leave us or become our allies.
She argues that we should abandon the notion that the best way to heal ourselves from anything we are facing is through brute strength. Instead, she says we need to bring our inner demons into the light:
The approach to feeding rather than fighting our demons provides a way to pay attention to the demons within us, avoiding the dangers of what we fear inside ourselves. Facing and feeding our demons avoids the creation of a raging monster that wreaks destruction both in us and in the world.
She then gives readers a five step guide for feeding our inner demons that involves first depicting our inner demons, then understanding them, then feeding them.
After reading her book, I combined her take on ancient wisdom with my knowledge of writing therapy and set out to see if I could stop fighting with my eating disorder and find out what it wants instead.
Here is what happened:
First, I imagined my eating disorder as a beast. I attempted to draw it, but instead found myself googling images. I finally found one. (See the blog graphic.) As I searched I found my conception of my ED beast changing from a nasty, growling monster to a goofier, childlike figure.
Second, I wrote down a list of questions asking the beast what it wanted from me.
Third, I tried to put myself in the place of my beast and wrote down the answers.
Fourth, after I was satisfied, I sat with my beast for awhile.
Fifth, my beast became my ally. I wrote down all of the promises I made to it.
In end, I figured out that my beast came along for the sole reason of protecting me. It never, ever intended to harm me. In fact, my beast became confused when I tried to fight it off because all it ever wanted to do was make sure I was okay and safe. My beast was born early in my childhood, but never grew up. It wanted reassurance that I would take care of myself. It wanted me to prove that if I was tired, I would rest. If someone was hurting me, I would leave. It fed me all of those years out of love, not hatred or cruelty. Almost like a grandma who has no other way to protect her grandbabies other than with a big plate of food. In the end, we made a deal. My beast promised to stop feeding me if I promised to take care of myself in healthy ways.
It was really hard to let go. Really. I cried. But we agreed that the beast would be my ally, watching out for me. Making sure that I got the one thing that I didn’t for all of the years I struggled: compassion.
I believe this process has been a true breakthrough in my recovery. After the beast and I said our final goodbyes, I felt a weight lift from my chest. Thankfully, I have developed good ways of taking care of me over the years, like meditation, stocking my refrigerator with healthy foods, and so on, but now to practice taking care of me. That is all my eating disorder ever wanted. It wanted me to be safe from people who hurt me. Safe from fists of anger and voices of rage. Safe from teasing by my peers. Safe from sexual abusers. It didn’t know how to save me from those things, so it fed me. Fed me so I would be happy, then numb. Fed me so that the pain would be subdued. Fed me so that I would not hurt myself even more.
The only weakness I could see in Allione’s plan is that if you do not already know and can reliably use tools to comfort yourself and take care of yourself or whatever roles your inner beast was playing, then this technique might not work for the long-term. Allione does say you might have to repeat this exercise more than once for it to be effective. And there are other beasts most of us are dealing with in our lives…like chronic illnesses, co-dependency, and so on. Those beasts all need to be addresses.
I absolutely love Allione’s work! So much so that I would love to teach it to you. What I have done is combined Allion’s concepts with writing therapy into a workshop, much like I describe above.
If you would like to participate in this FREE workshop, please sign up here: christinafisanickgreer.com/wp/inner-demons-workshop. It will take place on Wednesday, June 8 at 6 pm. The night before I will send you a FREE workbook, print it out and have it ready to do some work during the workshop.
I hope you will join me in this new and exciting frontier for getting closer to healing food addiction. We cannot do this alone.
Do you want to have access to our blog posts right in your inbox twice a week? How about tips for recovery and the latest in scientific data and treatment options? Then, sign up for our email list. We would love to share what we know with you.