Sunday, November 24, 2013

It's the Holidays! Welcome Your Personal Demons!

It's the Holidays! Welcome Your Personal Demons!
by Melissa Klein

 Buddha Remembers His Past Lives by Melissa Klein

“Attachment is the root of suffering.”  - Buddha

Holidays as a trigger-time
When I was planning the Personal Mythology series of workshops for the Fall/Winter, and thinking of a logical order of topics I realized that the Personal Demon workshop would be falling right before the Christmas/Hanukkah season. I thought…. “Well, doesn’t that just make perfect sense!” 

Holidays tend to bring out so many personal demons - I think because they become a condensed metaphor for life. We play out our family dramas at the holiday table. Things that were thought to be over, done with and that we had grown out of come to light around the swirl of parties and celebrations. Gifts become grounds for competition, manipulation and obligation rather than tokens of affection. And… if you aren’t a part of that “picture perfect” American Dream, it can be an isolating time. Many people have recently experienced such huge financial hardships: loss of “secure” careers and homes. Being gay. Being divorced. Being single. Being disabled. Being either too young or too old to be taken seriously; all of these things point to being on the outside.

"All great changes are preceded by chaos." -Deepak Chopra

Dare Disturb the Universe by Melissa Klein

Not Measuring Up Demon
My own relationship with the holidays has been conflicted since the age of 9. I loved the lights, the tree and the cool holiday crafts that I got to do at our church. I also loved Hanukkah, (which I still really enjoy) celebrated by our Jewish friends in Saint Louis. My younger sister relentlessly counting presents and noting that she was ahead - not so much. Even though my mom tried to control that damage by explaining that things cost different amounts and that really we got the same… to a nine year old, it translated into not measuring up. 

Being picture perfect and hating it
When my family lived in Philadelphia, a large part of my dad’s job involved publicity and fundraising; he was the director of the Morris Arboretum. We lived in a beautiful Victorian house that was provided for the director by the arboretum. Because Christmas was a major part of the fundraising season, our house was used to entertain important donors. Professional florists came in and decorated our house. It all had to be “authentic” Victorian (or at least as close as we could get to it in the 1980s!). 

No more tinsel, and most of the beloved decorations that we made in church were not considered “good” enough to be displayed in this new environment and so were either thrown away or packed up. OK - I admit the decorations made out of a salty dough recipe that were supposed to keep forever but went moldy definitely had to go, but not the toilet paper roll and pipe cleaner horse!

One year, Philadelphia Magazine asked to photograph us as a featured family in their holiday special. We dressed up in these totally dorky dresses and had to simulate decorating the tree, pretending to put on the same ornament over and over so that the photographer could get the right shot. I hated it. When I saw the photo in the magazine, I wondered if this is what it looks like from the outside? When you are inside, it feels completely different.

Maybe it's easier to like someone else's life, and live vicariously through them than take some responsibility to change our lives into lives we might like. -- Tish Grier

The Have-nots Demon
Fast forward to young adulthood and feeling the internal pressure of not measuring up. Being single surrounded by marrieds and wondering if I would ever have a holiday that wasn’t fraught with anxiety about a relationship that was going nowhere or processing another breakup. Being a struggling artist working shit jobs when others had professional careers. Seeing ads and gift suggestion articles in magazines for items for my loved ones and realizing that any one of those items cost more than my entire budget for the holidays.

The most important thing is to be whatever you are without shame. — Rod Steiger

Calling in the Animus by Melissa Klein

The Grinch Converted
A few years ago, my husband and I decided to opt out of the holidays that year and go to Victoria, BC. We carefully informed both sides of the family. And you know what? None of my family members cared about the presents! Some of them gave token gifts, some not and some did their usual thing. They completely supported our decision that year - and there was no push back, guilt, or weirdness in anyway - ever. They cared about us not the stuff.

The A-Hah and Oh-Duh
All of those years that I had been feeling weird about the holidays and not measuring up, was all internal. I was letting myself be controlled by a false belief about prosperity and career status. It was all inside. I had created a perfect cocktail for unhappiness and a perfect place for my Personal Demon to live. 

Humans are a tribal society - we are hard-wired to conform. That’s a large part of how we have survived and thrived as a species. We are not comfortable being outside of the herd. Some hardy souls have a greater tolerance for being on the outside, and some of those become great leaders. But most people like to be on the inside, where it seems safe.

The pressure to conform is always present, but it’s really up to me to decide what to do with it. While there are always those people who will look down on you for almost any reason, they are not the ones who are on your side. Maybe they never will be.

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent. — Eleanor Roosevelt

The Grain of Truth in the Lie Demon
Why did those false beliefs fall on such fertile ground to be internalized? While there are all kinds of reasons that could be pointed to - from family history, birth order, a competitive environment, marketing, consumer society, etc. I believe that at the heart of it, for whatever reason, was a feeling of inadequacy. That was the grain of truth that made the lie seem believable.

Look in the mirror. The face that pins you with its double gaze reveals a chastening secret. — Diane Ackerman

Embracing the Truth 
The truth of feeling inadequate made me buy into the lie of having more and that others were measuring and/or judging me. But it wasn’t the real truth - which is that my real friends and family will love me regardless of my success or failure. Ironically, in my family I’m seen as someone who is able to give great gifts - and I’m often approached for advice about what to buy for others. Of course, being an artist, I sometimes produce a piece that I just know is “_______’s” from the minute the inspiration hits.

What I am is good enough if I would only be it openly. — Carl Rogers

Red Riding Hood Talks to Her Animus by Melissa Klein

Make Peace with Your Demon
Talk to it. Call it out. Call it out by name. Let it know that you know it’s not true. Reassure it. Because at the heart of that feeling of inadequacy is a desire to self-protect. It just became distorted in that desire to be helpful. Forgive it, but don’t let it off the hook. 

And….. Happy Holidays!


If this article interested you and you want to explore this more in-depth, I will be offering a workshop about confronting and overcoming your Personal Demons. It will be a combination of entertaining storytelling, art history, discussion and right-brain art exercises. 

What are Right-Brain Exercises?
A picture is worth a thousand words and helps to galvanize your emotional forces to create positive change. Many times we become inundated with a tidal-wave of words or become demotivated by all of the “shoulds” in life - which make it hard to see things clearly. 

Right-brain exercises are a playful use of visualization techniques to see concepts in a new light. Using simple materials like ink, paper, sand, collage, and doodling - you will be able to engage your visual side and have it communicate with you in a way that is outside of words and creates a clear picture of issue and new possibilities. 

It’s not about creating art, its about using art to create a new perspective. — Melissa Klein

The Happy Factor
People get really happy when they are given permission to play like children before they knew if something is “good” or “bad” — they can’t fail. Remember the joy of mud pies before they were “dirty”? Accessing problems from a positive and humorous perspective is more motivating to create change.

Journal of Journey
Your Journal is included in the workshop and is something that you will take away with you as a physical reminder - and to add onto as you gain new insights. This is about creating lasting change and keeping inspired.

Personal Demons
Sunday, December 15 

6717 Marshall Road
Bainbridge Island, WA 98110

Space is limited - reserve your place!  Tuition: $80 per workshop

Please call me at 360.809.0083 or email me at to reserve your place. 

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