After ten years in a shared custody arrangement, our sixteen-year-old had called a dinner table meeting to tell us that he’d decided to go live full time with his other family.
If you’ve been in this boat, then you know how challenging the situation can be. The silence around the dinner table was deafening. My wife’s face transformed into anguished sorrow. Anger raced through my bloodstream like a runaway train.
Why now, after everything that we’d gone through? The changing of households every two weeks for a decades, and now he was telling us he didn’t want to live with us anymore. Why was he abandoning us?
My demon of not good enough fueled my anger, trying to get that boiler as hot as possible, not caring if it exploded…not caring who it hurt. My demons were ready to be unleashed—on others.
I had a choice. In that moment, at the dinner table, I could have exploded in anger. In the past, I’d been exposed to explosive moments of hate and rage. I knew that this moment was important. Deep in my gut, I knew this moment would forever change the path we were on as a family unit.
I made a choice. I made a choice to be open, transparent and vulnerable.
I spoke my truth to my son—raw, unfiltered and adult truth.
I spoke to him man to man, letting him hear how this decision he was making was—and would—impact us. I spoke the hard truths to my son about why his mom and I made the decisions we did, why we had our rules and why we had always made these difficult decisions over the course of his life.
My own tears dripped of my cheeks as I opened up my heart.
In the end, he chose to live with us. In his heart, he knew we wanted to give him all the opportunity to be the best he could be.
I could’ve easily let hurt turn to rage, but on that day I didn’t. What was best for our family won. My demons didn’t.
I, like you, have my demons. We all do. I’m not immune to being beaten, battered and bruised. My demons can wake me up in the morning, serve me lunch in the afternoon and then put me to bed in the evening. Yet, I’m a man who like many others has made a conscious effort to be the best man that I can be. I take this seriously. I know I’m worth the effort.
It’s a knock down, bloody and bruising battle that we face on a daily basis. We have to “Kill the Quitter inside.” We have to be willing to act from a place of awareness when all our demons want us to do is react.
What are some common internal demons? It might come at you wearing a face like one of these:
- The relationship with your parents — “Am I going to be just like them?”
- Your current level of success in your job — “Am I really doing what I love?” or “What have I been put on this earth to do?”
- The battle of fitness and diet — “Will I never look down and see my penis again?” or “If only potato chips weren’t so tasty.”
- Your sexuality — “What does intimacy really mean to me?”
- The relationship you have with God — “Do I have one?” or “Do I need one?”
- Your relationship with yourself — “Have I lost contact with who I really am?”
To understand how best to go up against these demons is going to be different for everyone, but I’ve found success by sticking to these three strategies:
1. Look your demons in the eye. The demon isn’t going away. Likely it’s been with you for a long time. Just like that annoying pimple on your back that you can’t reach, this one too has to be popped.
Like any bully, if you stand up tall, take a deep breath and look it in the eye, chances are it won’t look quite so powerful; it’ll actually shrink right before your eyes. The thing that makes a demon so powerful is the baggage that comes with it. If you stand up and see it for what it really is, it won’t seem so big, bad and ugly.
If it’s truly horrifying, then you can see it on your terms and spend some time really looking at it, questioning it, probing it for weakness.
2. Be in a position of strength. You can’t win when you don’t have the energy, will or time.
It’s pointless to try to battle a demon when you’re running on empty. These battles are important. We only have so much time here on this earth. Living the life we were meant to live means we have to win these battles and win them without losing too much in the process.
If we constantly go up against our foes while not being prepared, we lose. Plain and simple; the demon will find that weakness and kick your ass.
When you decide to battle, make sure you’ve taken the time to understand what tools are going to be needed. Be rested, well-fueled and focused solely on the mission at hand. No distractions. Pack your rucksack with the supplies you need and head onto the field.
3. Take small bites. Sometimes the best way to eat an apple is one bite at a time.
It’s rare that we solve our life’s problems in one day. Usually it takes time to work through the more complex issues of our life. Taking on our demons is no different. We may want the instant gratification, but the reality is we have to earn it.
I’ve found that by isolating small pieces of the bigger puzzle and solving them first is a sure-fire way to tackle and ultimately beat the bigger problem.
If you’ve looked your demon in the eye, met it on a field of your choosing, one can then take apart its armor piece by piece before making the final push for the kill.
If you do that, you’ll succeed every time.
The demons are important. I’ve come to understand mine. This isn’t to say that more don’t pop up once in a while. When they do, I have a strategy.
Hopefully, one day they will abandon you in search of less formidable foe. If you remember the three strategies above, you might have less stress surrounded with their constant presence.