Slaying the Demons.
September 19, 2016
In labour, when all the demons of terror and overwhelming pain threaten and attack a woman, we need to bring in the monster-slaying-big-guns.
We can either put them to sleep with an epidural, although the demons will continue to lurk un-confronted in the hidden depths of our unconscious, or we can slay them with the incredible Power of Gentleness.
A soothing touch, a soft word, a sure warm presence of reassurance destroys the fear that feeds the demons. They will initially loom very large and then will gradually shrink to a size where the woman can find her own strength. This empowers her to move through the gateway of fear guarded so fiercely by her demons, and to surrender into the mighty power of her labour.
So it is in the maternity wards, where the demons of frustration, resentment and obstetric violence lie waiting in the hearts of burnt-out midwives, ready to pounce on an unsuspecting HIV positive teenager, or a refugee from Somalia with no common language to communicate her needs. Once again the knight-in-shining-armour with the most power to slay these demons is called ‘Gentleness’. The demon that is fed by compassion fatigue shrinks away to nothingness when confronted by the gentle, listening ear that belongs to someone’s open heart. When the midwives felt listened to, valued and appreciated, their capacity to endure the intensity, responsibility and demands of a twelve-hour shift in labour ward grows in leaps and bounds, and given time, their frustration is most likely to melt away.
Treat the demons well. Invite them in for tea and scones. Listen to their anger and their fear. A powerful process that was developed within the Buddhist tradition is called ‘Feeding the Demons’. When they come knocking on your door, welcome them with a friendly face and open arms. Do not be afraid of them, simply listen to their stories. Underlying all our anger, rage, bullying and aggression lies fear, and all the fear ever wanted in the first place was to be gently loved and listened to.
It does take great courage though to face demons, both our own and those of others, because they are likely to feel threatened when we see them for what they are. Initially they will spit, strike and hiss wildly. The reason demons and dragons spew fire is because as an archetype that is their defence. The demon storm is likely to get wilder before it subdues. And it is hard to face it down with gentle strength. The root of the word ‘courage’ is ‘couer’ or heart. To maintain an open heart when the demons gather in armies and turn on us requires integrity, truth, authenticity and great resolution. Sometimes when the power of gentleness exposes the demons they can get very big and very angry.
It might sound patronising but we are all just children having tantrums in the supermarket because we’re afraid we won’t get the sweetie we want. Recently I felt under attack from a woman who in my eyes had turned into an ogre whose only mission was to make my life hell. I had so many stories running through my head about what I would say to put her in her place. I was mad and angry and bristling with aggression. When I invited my own monsters in for tea, it became very clear that she was simply mirroring my own insecurities back at me. In fact she was giving me a gift to work through them. I still don’t like to think of it, and I need to be very gentle with myself to hold the image of me that she evoked.
People like Donald Trump are the biggest babies of all. He has too many toys and not enough real love. Confront him and his posturing grows out of control. If we had patience and really listened to his fear, his demons and those of his cronies would initially get bigger and angrier, but when demons have nothing to feed on in terms of reaction from us, they must eventually deflate. He would probably not have very much left to say other than “Duh”, because all of his rhetoric is based on fear.
I once asked Mother Mary in meditation how she healed people. She smiled and said, “I don’t heal them.” “Huh?” (or “Duh?” I sounded a bit like Donald.) Not the answer I expected. I looked at her for clarification and she replied, “I understand their pain.” In two simple sentences this Archetype of gentleness whose open heart has the power to slay demons more effectively than an arsenal of nuclear warheads, gave me enough wisdom to last me a lifetime.