In Freudian psychoanalysis and object relations theories, healthy positive development sees us acquire a critical agency referred to as the superego. Optimally our superegos moderate us. They keep us in check without exerting undue aggression on us.
Growing up I learned to be very careful around my father. On a good day he was a very nice man, but things could change very quickly, and when they did he became a different person.
When he was feeling good, he was easy to be with, generous, kind. But then all of a sudden, he would change and when that happened you had to be careful around him. He became suspicious and touchy. Drink did not help. It looked to me like he would go into himself. Like he would become caught up in a kind of inner conflict. When that inner demon got hold of him there was just no reasoning with him. You kind of had to be patient and sit it out.
I sometimes wonder whether I acquired something of that from him, that same inner demon? I know I can become suspicious, anxious, maybe a bit paranoid. My girlfriend will be texting sometimes or checking her social media, and I can feel myself want to see what she’s up to. I have learned that I have to remind myself to let it go. Forget about it. But I do have to remind myself. Otherwise that inner demon gets hold of me and then I’m much more emotionally unstable. I’m glad I have learned this now. I’m glad I haven’t become like my father who never found a way of managing his inner demons.anonymous client
What are Inner demons?
You can think of an inner demon as that private voice that whispers in your ear reminding you of things that have gone wrong. The inner demon is a kind of uncertainty and anxiety point. It’s a voice that suddenly gets activated and sees problems everywhere.
Typically, the nature of our inner demons, their critical tendencies and so on, can be traced back to the kinds of families we grew up in.
In psychoanalysis and post-Freudian object relations theories, a healthy positive psychological development sees us acquire a critical agency referred to as the superego. In optimal conditions, our superegos moderate us. In suboptimal conditions, we may inadvertently internalise a critical superego.
- If you grew up with a parent who could suddenly be very changeable or suspicious. A person who wood profoundly alter the environment you were in, then that is likely to have had a dysregulating effect upon you.
- The inner demon is like your personal dysregulation point becoming activated.
We can’t expect our families or other people to want to change how they live, but we might be able to become more conscious of what we are like, and the inner demons that operate within us.
Jungian Psychotherapy, Complexes and Inner Demons
In Jungian psychotherapy we have a model of psyche which emphasises the fact that at different points our consciousness becomes located and fixed upon a particular sense of identity. A complex in this model is a kind of autonomous area of mind that has certain independent characteristics. When we’re in the grip of that complex we can lose track of what we are like when we feel more stable settled and balanced.
An inner demon is like a complex
- It’s a particular area of our minds, less socialised. We don’t have control over it and we don’t have control over when we become driven by it.
- Left unchecked this kind of destructive complex can have a very negative effect. It will see suspicion and doubt where none may be intended, and make it very hard for us to value the work we do.
- In psychotherapy it becomes possible to recognise the characteristics of this inner demon complex.
The more we recognise it the more we stand a chance of being able to spot when we are getting caught up in it and so become able to step back and break the hold that it has over us.
So instead of seeing signs of treachery, betrayal, suspicion and anxiety in our partner using social media or texting or emailing, we become able to remember that the anxiety we are experiencing is part of that inner demon that we have.
Learning to recognise when the inner demon is becoming activated and has taken control is important because it gives us the chance to use that energy differently. When we find a way to work with the inner demon we grow. We increase our area of consciousness. We learn about ourselves, we become more balanced people.
Inner Demons and Positive Psychology
Positive psychology takes the view that we can talk to our inner demons, that we can reprogramme them. So, when we recognise the negative critical inner demon voice, we develop a positive mantra to say over the top of the negative voice.
This might work well for some people, but to my view this has an artificial quality.
I think we do better to find a way of engaging with what is happening to us, with the way the inner demon part of us is becoming mobilised, and to engage and relate with that part of us. When we do that, we increase the scope of our consciousness. It is like increasing our bandwidth.
The more we can become conscious of what is happening to us, of who we are and what we are like, inner demons and all, the more settled our emotional experience becomes.
Remembering that we all struggle with inner demons is helpful. It keeps us humble and reminds us to keep our feet on the ground. It’s fine to have a weakness, inner demons, but it’s much better if you know something about them and learn how to live with and compensate for it.
Talking confidentially in psychotherapy may be a route to learning more about your inner demons. The more we learn about them, the less we are held hostage by them. The more we learn, the more we develop and grow as people.
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