History & Evolution
"I'd Never Want to Leave You Alone with a Bully""I'd Never Want to Leave You Alone with a Bully."
Beware the Jabberwock
"Don't Worry - Just Draw"
The First Monster Drawing
A Monster a Day...
Miss Needy Monster
Interview with a Monster
Sheep in Wolf's Clothing
The Process of Uniting
A Different Kind of Monster
No More "Monster"
Refining the Steps
"You're stupid, horrible, and hateful. You're a failure - you've failed so many times before, and you thought you were actually moving forward! You've deluded yourself into thinking you're going somewhere, but you're NOT. 'Cause you're stupid, and you can't figure out anything in your life. There’s no reason for anyone to love you. People say they do, but they’re just codependent. You’re a horrible human being..."
The time was 10:30pm. I was alone in my Dallas loft, in bed, trying not to wail too loudly for fear I’d wake the neighbors, as this demon's sinister soliloquy clamored in my head. My body was shaking wildly from the rush of emotion, and I knew I needed to talk to someone – anyone. I needed to not be alone, facing this intense blackness charging through my heart. Even if what it was saying was true (which, intellectually, I knew it was not), pain can be highly persuasive, and at that moment I needed another voice to counteract this oppressive one.
Those who know me would have been shocked to hear that statements like these were percolating inside me. Since I was a child, I have been known to my friends and family as a bubbly, entertaining, “ray of sunshine” – exclaiming joy about the most mundane tidbits of life, laughing and finding hilarity in the most unexpected places. I have been the touchstone for many friends in crisis - frequently encouraging them to love and forgive themselves.
I have also always been a very emotional and sensitive person, and sometimes my support of others has caused me to ignore and neglect my own needs. Having learned in recent years the importance of balance and honoring my emotions, I thought I was making progress. How could I, so readily a voice of empowering words, be plagued by this banshee of cruelty and wickedness?
To be clear, I would say this wasn’t so much a voice I was hearing as it was a message or a feeling coming from somewhere inside me. Whatever it was, it had beaten me senseless into a slumped, sobbing puddle of pain, and I needed help.
It was too late to call my East Coast friends. My best friend was on Pacific time, but I knew at this moment he was tending to his little girls before our nightly call. So I called my mom. A professional psychotherapist who has guided me through many dramas and tears, I usually do not call her right away when I am suffering. I would much rather deal with my problems on my own. But tonight… tonight I needed someone. And she was in my same time zone.
Her kindly voice answered, and I slobbered some words about how I was in terrible pain, and I just needed someone to sit with me through it. For half an hour, I gurgitated the horrible thoughts and beliefs knifing through my head and heart. She listened kindly, as she always does, and simply sat and was present with me, offering a few wise words here and there.
At the end, I thanked her, and she responded, “Emily, thank you for calling me. I’d never want to leave you alone with a bully.”
. Wow. I had never thought of it that way before, but, yes, that was exactly what it felt like: a bully.
Beware the Jabberwock
Seeded with this image of a “bully” inside me, I went to my favorite coffee shop the next morning and started writing an article: “Living With a Bully Inside Me”. As I observed this inner bully’s movements and mannerisms, I noticed that my mind began to associate it with Lewis Carroll’s famed monster at the outset of Alice in Wonderland
: "The Jabberwocky":
Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!
"The jaws that bite, the claws that catch"... Yes, this was how the bully felt inside me the night before – ripping and shredding away at my insides for not being this or for doing that. The Jabberwocky became my point of reference for the bully.
However, it occured to me that this Jabberwocky was more than a bully. A bully is someone you encounter as a child on a schoolyard. A bully is someone that pushes you around and can be disciplined by a principle. A bully is human. And this energy within me felt more powerful than a human with many non-human-like features and qualities. This was, in fact, a monster.
"Don't Worry – Just Draw."
As I wrote about the monster and how it ravaged my insides with its long, sharp fingernails and giant teeth, I caught glimpses of its appearance. In my mind, he had fuzzy green hair, huge fangs, and expansive hands with long claws – rather like a green version of “Sweetums”, the Muppet ogre with large, yellow eyes who is always chasing after Kermit the Frog and company.
Eventually the words came to a halt. Writing my thoughts and feelings had taken my catharsis only so far because images of the monster still lingered. Suddenly it dawned on me – what if I draw
I pulled out a sheet of paper and some crayons and started scribbling, repeating like a mantra, “Don’t worry what it looks like. Just draw...” My intention was to re-create what I was seeing in my mind’s eye. Though I am not an illustrator, I thought perhaps I could do a suitably accurate rendering of this Monster – enough to silence him for a while...
The First Monster Drawing
I scribbled and scratched at the page, choosing colors to which I felt drawn, adding as many details as I could, letting go of judging or intellectualizing or trying to figure out what it all meant. As he materialized, I was surprised by how different he was than what I see in my mind’s eye. He still had some of the same features, but this Monster’s head was round, his fur was mostly black, and I was shocked to find myself drawing streams of blood from his claws and fangs! Whose blood was this?
It was mine.
Epiphanies came to light as I scribbled. This Monster had a strategy: he'd lay in wait for me to feel really happy and joyful, free of the old pain and fear, and, with a quick flick of his sharp fingernail through my tiniest peephole of doubt, he'd jump out of his dark corner again and slash away at my insides, laughing, “Ha! You thought you were safe!” And I was smothered again with fear and depression.
When it came time to draw his face, another epiphany came to light: he was smiling. "That doesn’t make sense," I thought, "he should be growling and grimacing, not gleefully smiling back at me!" But the more I tried to “turn that smile upside down”, the more he smiled back at me from the page.
It finally dawned on me – he was, in fact, smiling at me
: a dark and menacing sneer! Having conquered me in battle the night before, this Monster was triumphant: sneering at me the way he always does after he has shredded all traces of joy within me.
Writing about and drawing this monster proved to be an exceptionally cathartic and therapeutic process – a process that literally seemed to extract him from my energy field. Afterwards, he felt much less menacing, less scary, less intimidating, and less overwhelming - because he’s not in here
anymore... he’s out there
. He had less power over me because he was less powerful – because I was giving him less of my power to play with. Now he was just a picture with words on a page.
A Monster a Day…
Drawing monsters became a daily habit for me. With each drawing I did, I feel lighter and freer. Whenever an emotion arose, I sketched whatever images I got on a notepad in my purse. These emotions weren’t necessarily as looming or angry as the original Monster. Sometimes they were pretty trivial. And sometimes they didn’t come out as full-grown monsters with eyes, ears, and fur. Sometimes they simply manifest as a puddle on the ground (“I Don’t Care” Monster), a glob of melting tar that goes “Bluh bluh bluh…” (Unmotivated Monster), or a bunch of tangled scribbles with no form at all (Codependency Monster).
When I didn’t have time to draw a Monster, I make a note of whatever came to mind (i.e. the name, like “Procrastinator Monster”), and I drew it later on. Sometimes I drew a Monster even when he or she wasn’t throwing a tantrum, just grumbling a little. This is how “Miss Needy Monster” first made her presence known.
Miss Needy Monster
Triggered by a comment, Miss Needy Monster
would push her way into a conversation I was having. She didn’t succeed (I masked her pretty well while struggling with her internally), but, after one episode, I finally sat down and dumped her out onto the page. I was surprised and delighted by the details that came to light. She had qualities and characteristics that I never would have predicted, yet they made perfect sense!
Her hands and arms were the first things I saw. They were large and fat and muscular because she was constantly grabbing things with them – energetically pulling on people. They reminded me of Little Red Riding Hood’s wolf: “The better to grab you with, my dear!” And of course she came out large and hulking because that is how she felt within me – an overpowering, massive, uncontrollable, fat beast of overbearing insecurity. She was so fat she couldn’t carry or control her own weight, so she threw it recklessly around everywhere she went, forcing me to constantly bring myself back to an emotional center.
Her face and hair looked like a make-over disaster: bright blue eye shadow, thick black mascara, bright red lipstick, bright pink blush, and a large, curly mass of blonde hair. She looked nothing like me, and yet, while slapping these bright swaths of colored wax on the page, I understood why: In her desperate desire to get others to meet her need for attention, Miss Needy Monster prettied herself up with tons of make-up, a big set of bulbous crimson lips, and massive amounts of hair-sprayed hair. All of her features pointed to a kind of anxious, agitated, trying-too-hard-to-please energy about her. She smiled chronically, yet her clownish grin masked terrible sadness and loneliness.
Miss Needy Monster desperately wanted to be loved and acknowledged and told, “You’re okay.” I also found myself writing comments on the picture: “strong arms and muscles for grabbing people” and “teddy bear – something to squeeze” when she didn’t have others around. I wrote down statements she made and beliefs she carried. When she didn’t succeed in getting her needs met through being super-nice and super-pleasing, she instantly got very angry and critical and screamed, “You’re not giving me what I neeeeeed!”
For years, no matter how glowing and immense the praise I received, I often struggled against this needy, never satisfied part of me. And now, in a simple crayon drawing, here was the answer – and the relief: Miss Needy Monster.
As I allowed her to pour onto the page, I felt myself release and relax. Now that I had finally given her the attention she desired from me – to be acknowledged and heard – she felt at peace. And so was I.
Interview with a Monster
As I continued this habit of drawing Monsters, I recalled an exercise some therapists do with their clients. When a client says, for example, “I feel like there’s a wall in front of me,” the therapist will ask them questions like, “Can you describe the wall? What does it feel like? Look like? Taste like? Smell like? What does it say to you?” In this case, I was drawing what I referred to as a "monster" – a personification of an emotion, thought, belief, or other energy inside that rises up in response to certain situations, perceived situations, or potential situations. This made me wonder: can I talk to a monster? Can a monster talk to me? Perhaps we can have a conversation?
No, I didn’t want to go there. The intimacy felt too raw, the danger too great.
Then one night, a few weeks after my first monster drawing, I laid in bed, struggling with some intense emotions. Instinctively, I grabbed my notepad and drew what I identified as “Critical Monster.” I scribbled and scratched. However, no amount of drawing could completely calm his stormy aggravation. Agitated and frustrated, I eventually fell asleep.
Suddenly, a few hours later, I woke to a start with questions flooding my head: “Who are you? Where do you come from? Why do you want to hurt me? What are you teaching me? How do you feel about me?” - questions I desired to ask of this Monster... and questions it desired to ask of me. I made a list of these questions and went through each one with the monster. Many of the answers surprised me:
ME: How old are you?
MONSTER: I'm very old – far older than you, your parents, your grandparents, and great-grandparents. I've been around for a long time – passed through your ancestors.
ME: What are you teaching me?
MONSTER: I'm here to show you where the mines are in the minefield. As long as I'm telling you what's wrong with you before anyone else can, then I'm protecting you from their criticism. Why won’t you do what I tell you to do?
ME: Because you're MEAN to people, and I never want to be mean or hurtful to ANYONE! Because you're hurting ME! I know you think you're trying to be helpful, but you're NOT! You hurt me and everyone around me every time you say or feel or think or do something that's hypercritical - every time you pick someone's behavior apart!
As I answered the last question, an amazing thing happened: Critical Monster's face changed from angry and sneering to sad and sympathetic! His expression transformed from, “You’re terrible and awful!” into "Gosh, I'm sorry. I didn't realize that's what I was making you do."
Why did this happen?
Sheep in Wolf's Clothing
An emotion, thought, belief, habit, etc. is not us
- it is simply a part
of us: a part that evolves to protect us when we’re children and can’t adequately defend or support ourselves. It is simply doing what it was created to do but may have outgrown its usefulness. Or perhaps it is still useful – it just needs a different focus or to learn new ways of protecting and supporting us.
Living with Joy
describes this beautifully:
Every single part of you has a gift for you and is there as your friend. There is no voice within you that does not have the intent to help you. It may be that it does not have an accurate picture of what you want, or it was set up many years ago and is still operating from an old program. The part of you that experiences fear, for instance, may be trying to protect you in the best way it knows. Your journey in this lifetime is to bring all those parts up into your higher vision and purpose.
As we struggle with various emotions and patterns, we are often struggling against the part of us inside that is saying, “But I’m trying to protect you! I don’t want you to get hurt!” It is simply doing its “job”: what you or someone else subconsciously trained it to do. And if it needs to resort to anger, screaming, apathy, resistance, or some other feeling to get your attention, it will.
The Process of Uniting
As long as a part of us has not been adequately heard, acknowledged, and understood, it will continue to demand attention. Once we realize these parts of us aren't actually trying to hurt
us, but rather trying to prevent
us from getting hurt, we can treat them as allies and allow them to speak and feel heard.
When I give a part of me its due, listen to its message, and honor its existence and purpose in my life, then, like a tantruming child, its cries subside, it calms down, and it no longer inhibits my ability to take actions or simply feel at peace. It deflates to a more human scale, and I am surprised and relieved to discover that, in fact, this part of me that feels like a scary Monster has fears and desires just like I do.
Like “Sweetums”, the giant ogre in The Muppet Movie who is aggressive and scary as he chases after Kermit and the gang, his intention isn't to hurt them - he just wants to “go to Hollywood”, too, and join in their fun!
The fact is, these “Monsters” within us aren’t really Monsters at all. They are parts of us yearning for our love and attention and doing whatever they can to get it. They are truly sheep in wolves’ clothing.
Therefore, when we listen to this part of us, when we engage it in conversation and open up an even flow of communication, when we stop treating this screaming part of us as something to fight against
and instead give it our love and attention, it stops screaming. It stops fighting. It stops doing what it was trained to do. It stops treating us like an adversary as well - because it no longer feels like one. It has finally been heard.
A Different Kind of Monster
That is not to say that all internal Monsters are our “friends”, per se
. Sometimes they are direct remnants of true human “monsters” in our lives – people who abused us, traumas we experienced, or simply hateful voices in our heads that have gotten out of control. They are worthy of the drawing and interviewing process as well, but sometimes they may require a bit different approach...
Twice have I encountered monsters within me with whom I just couldn’t be friends. I took them both through the Process, but afterwards their aggression continued. I finally got so fed up with being bullied that I spontaneously turned around, faced them head-on inside me, and said aloud, clearly
“NO MORE. ENOUGH. I WILL NOT SUBJECT MYSELF TO YOUR ABUSE ANY MORE.
I am telling you now to STOP."
I resolutely declared my power and liberation before them. It took a few rounds of standing up for myself in the face of their abuse, but eventually they both disappeared. Now they don’t abuse me any more.
No More "Monster"
For a long time, I called this process "The Monster Process". However, after receiving feedback from friends and clients, it became clear that the word "monster" was too menacing and not universal enough. After all, one friend of mine calls these parts of her "fairies". Another calls them "aspects of The Ego". Another calls them "Pain Bodies" (à la Eckhart Tolle). So I brainstormed an alternative to the Monster Process and came up with The Drawing Out Process®
- providing the dual meaning that, by drawing
these parts of us, we are also drawing them out
Refining the Steps
Turning this emotional release technique into a palatable series of steps for the general public was a process in itself, as different parts of us have differing energies, different needs, and may require additional steps for full resolution and release.
One key component I discovered in my own emotional journey is to ask this part of you what it fears. These parts of us behave the way they do because they're scared. So, simply asking it, "What are you scared of?" and letting it speak can serve to discharge a massive amount of the negative impact it has on your life.
Also, like children yearning for attention, these parts of us desperately want to know that they're doing a good job - even if it what they've been doing hasn't been very helpful at all! So to simply say, "Thank you. I know you've been working so hard to support me," can also make a huge difference in helping them release themselves of their perceived responsibility.
While it has often been enough for me to simply pour these parts of me out onto the page, some people require a higher presence to fill the void. Hope Tackaberry
, my dear friend and the first person besides myself to experience the Drawing Out Process®
, was hugely instrumental in helping me refine the additional steps needed to address these different energies. After having the process done on her many times and experiencing marvelous transformation as a result, she began applying it in her own coaching process and witnessing her clients' transformations as well. Through her practice with them, she discovered and suggested additional steps. Her wisdom and partnership has been invaluable to me in refining the Drawing Out Process®
- not just because of the steps she added but also because of her constantly and emphatically encouraging me to share it with the world!
Click here to experience the Drawing Out Process® ...