Welcome, everyone.  Just a quick intro for my inaugural blog post.  My name is Melissa, my pronouns are she/her/hers, I’m a single mom of one teenager, and a former attorney.  I studied both religion and biology in undergrad, then went straight to law school.  Twenty years later, I’ve circled back to my fascination with ritual and its place in our lives as well as my interest in how understanding biology can make growth and change easier.  As a life coach and a death doula – although I’ve also been called a life coach for the dying and I’ll take it – I bring an activist mindset to helping my clients shift their perspective, to rediscover worthiness, and to approach both living and dying with curiosity, compassion, and joy.

Often the content I create arises from the mood in my social circles, both three dimensional and social media-based.  Sometimes I notice that several people have posted a blog about a certain topic, or several people are facing loss, or folx are just generally struggling.  So now that I have officially launched The Village Witch, I’m making this the official home of these musings and my general rambling about how I think the world works.

OK, now that’s out of the way.  Let’s get to the blogging.

Cartoon image of an elderly woman with gray hair dressed in a dark cloak stirring something in a big black pot over a fire

Over the last week or so, I’ve noticed several posts about people wrestling with their demons.  I think this can be a helpful metaphor sometimes, when we feel like we really are literally fighting destructive or damaging urges.  I will never tell someone that a framework or viewpoint that is getting them results they like is wrong.  (Actually I will never tell someone that a framework or viewpoint that is getting results they don’t like is wrong either.  I’m here to offer perspectives, not issue edicts.)  I also think that for some of us, framing our struggles as wrestling with our demons can be a source of ongoing shame rather than a source of change.

Pink and white image with text saying When we think about wrestling with our demons, what we're really talking about is fighting against parts of ourselves.

In my experience, it is often very powerful to decide that all the different versions of ourselves, over the course of our lives, were worthy of love and were doing the best they could.  It might be easy to look back and wish we had done something different, but at the time we did what we did and unless someone has a T.A.R.D.I.S. I don’t know about, we can’t change how we acted in the past any more than we can prevent the Library at Alexandria from burning.  What’s done is done so we might as well decide to be kind to ourselves about it.

When we think about wrestling with our demons, what we’re really talking about is fighting against parts of ourselves.  They may be parts of ourselves that we hold with deep shame or resentment.  But they’re us.  And even for those of us who are not religious, or whose religion does not include the concept of embodied evil, there’s a broad cultural understanding that demons are somehow evil.  Or at least generally pretty bad.  So we are trying to change how we act, how we show up, how we respond, by telling ourselves that we have to fight our innately evil or at least generally pretty bad natures.

Now like I said.  I’m not here to yuck anyone’s yum.  So if the concept of fighting the evil within fires you up and helps you show up how you want, gold star!  Please continue.  That is completely valid and I will happily help you with this campaign.  And if it isn’t working, if you keep fighting and fighting and fighting but it seems impossible to ever win, you aren’t doing anything wrong.  You just need to shift your perspective.

If that’s the case, let me offer this option.  What would it feel like to sit down with your demons, offer them a cup of tea, and ask them what they fear?  What they grieve?  What they mourn?  What makes them want to hide? Anger is a secondary emotion and all this rage that is fueling our demon’s endless fight has a source that we can address.  This isn’t necessarily an exercise in excavating every bullshit thing that has ever happened to us; often is it enough to recognize that right now we are scared or sad without having to pull at every thread that makes up that tapestry.  What would it feel like to look at all these demons and see that every single one of them was borne of our basic human need for safety?  What would it feel like to stop viewing them as demons and just see them as a hurt, sad, scared part of us that needs a hug and a nap?  What would it feel like to integrate all the different parts of ourselves instead of denying the parts that might have been hurting the most for the longest?

Pink and white image with text saying What would it feel like to sit down with your demons, offer them a cup of tea, and ask them what they fear?

Here’s the thing, and you will hear this from me again and again in different ways, shame is not a tool for change.  And there’s a biological reason for this which will be another post.  But the point is, telling ourselves stories about how we are bad, broken, flawed, evil, generally pretty bad keeps us locked in shame and shame is not where we thrive.  Shame is stultifying, it keeps us frozen and static.  When we believe that we are fundamentally flawed, we are often so busy covering all that grief and sadness and fear with anger that it makes complete sense to feel like part of us is a demon.  But that’s not a universal truth.  It’s just one possible version of a story about ourselves.  And the one thing we can always, always control is the story we tell ourselves about who we are.

The opposite of shame, in my experience, is curiosity.  Shame says “I am this way because I am bad.”  Curiosity says “I wonder why I am this way.”  Curiosity opens up new possibilities, and gives us a chance to treat ourselves with compassion.

Next time you have that feeling of demons needing to be wrestled, maybe give this a try.  Take a deep breath, get a glass of water, and give your demons a sincere thank you for trying to keep you safe.  Maybe go for a walk if you can.  Even if all you can do is stretch a bit, even if literally one deep breath is all you can summon, pause.  In that pause, the entire universe of possibility exists.  In that pause, you have started telling a new story about yourself.  However powerful those demons, those parts of you, may be, and whatever havoc they have created in your life, you are allowed to tell a story about yourself that is based on curiosity, not shame.

Pink and white image with the text saying Shame says I am this way because I am bad. Curiosity says I wonder why I am this way.

P.S. – this is hard work, not that of an afternoon.  It happens, like new and difficult skill, with time and practice.  Don’t shame yourself about the fact that it’s hard to unlearn shame.  If it were easy, everyone would have already done it.  Don’t worry, this will be a future blog post too.