Harnessing Your Demons:
Making Your Demons Work for You instead of Against You – Part 3


Although depression is an important red flag that something is wrong in our lives and needs to change, it is often difficult to figure out what the cause might be. Many issues cause depression:

Understanding depression requires carefully picking apart your issues and tackling them one by one. Often the best first step is to begin regular exercise. This may not be a cure, but it’s often the beginning of one. Exercise will help clear your mind and may ease figuring out what is causing your depression.

Some people believe that depression is a genetic condition, which would mean it’s  physically rather than mentally caused, so altering the body and its chemistry through exercise, meditation, relaxation, posture, massage, laughter, good nutrition and hydration, among others should reduce or stop depression. If depression is genetic, then transmission would probably be something like diabetes, where susceptibility to the condition is inherited rather than the actual disease, therefore self-care plays an enormous role in how a genetic malfunction is expressed.

Working on multiple levels (physical and mental, i.e., self care and self-talk) and continuous, never-give-up action will be needed no matter what the cause. Allowing depression to cause inactivity is a recipe for increasing pain no matter what the cause.

Proper Job or Message: Many possibilities might apply to depression:

Approach: Use methods that affect both the mind and the body. Only using those that affect the mind will be far less effective.

Subdue: Beating this demon begins with an iron determination that you will win, that you won’t allow depression to make decisions or run your life. Look for every opportunity to experience the deepest, truest, most lasting pleasures. Never think that you can go even a day without your full array of self-care measures.

Counter: “These depressed thoughts running through my mind are not reality, just phantoms that I don’t need to take seriously”. “My mind creates these demons that live only in my mind, and my mind can stop creating them.” “I don’t need to listen to or believe this demon.”

Dismiss: “I refuse to allow negativity to own my mind and life.” “Nothing my demon tells me (i.e., it’s a negative statement) is ever true.”

Distract: Identify the most effective distraction for when depressed thoughts pop up – music, a movie, comedy, comics or jokes, nature, pets – and keep it ready for use at any moment. You may not be able to escape to the woods or a beach on a moment’s notice, but nature videos are widely available and effective.

Laugh: The most powerful technique for banishing demons is to laugh at them. They hate it and there is much to ridicule about any depression demon (pompousness {thinking depression is the answer to anything}, officiousness {taking charge of your being without considering the impact}, drama {“oh my, it’s all just too much} – you will find more).

Gratitude: Write a daily gratitude list – it’s powerful preventive medicine against demons of any kind. It's hard to stay depressed if you are truly focused on gratitude.

Transform: Shifting the energy that this demon wants to suck up into energized activity is also powerful. The depression demon wants to make you wallow in inactivity, which makes depression worse. Refuse. Take every scrap of energy you can muster and apply it to constructive action against the causes of your depression.


Loss is an unavoidable part of life. However, when grief prevents engaging in normal activities of daily life, especially long after the loss, consider what else your grief might indicate. Difficulties with acceptance? Blaming? Guilt? Confusion over the meaning of loss or how to commemorate the loved one? An excuse to no longer make an effort in life? In hoarding, prolonged grief often translates into acquiring and keeping because inanimate objects can’t leave.  
         Intractable grief is most common in people who shut themselves off from contact with the outside world; living in a private bubble magnifies grief and closes off opportunities for feedback, support, distraction, or help from others.

Proper Job or Message: Loss and grief remind us that life is short, far shorter than most of us would like, that we need to make the most of every minute, that we are fragile and vulnerable, and that we should treasure our loved ones at every opportunity.

Approach: The grief demon can be hard to shake off because survivors usually struggle with guilt. So the place to start may be by subduing the guilt demon. This may require working on multiple levels: forgiving yourself for real or imagined lapses or errors, examining the reality of your expectations, and forgiving your loved one for leaving you. 

Subdue:  You have to assert your right to be happy despite your loss and to lead a full and happy life. You must refuse to believe that moving beyond grief dishonors the person you loved, that remaining stuck in grief shows your love for them, or makes up for any failings you imagine you had.

Counter: What would your loved one say about this demon or your grief? What activity might help reduce your emotional obsession?

Dismiss: Possible mantras: “It’s time for me to live in the present.” “It’s time for me to participate in life and re-join the world.”

Distract: Anything that works – music is especially good because it can help productivity and is energizing. Put other activities, goals, and causes, in your life rather than only living in your grief.

Laugh: It’s hard to paralyze this demon with laughter but can be done. Invoking laughter must be done without triggering guilt. Funny videos, especially of animals are generally safe sources of humor.  

Gratitude: Give thanks for every minute that you had with your loved one, even if it was messy and fraught.

Transform: Use the energy now locked up in pain to crusade against whatever caused the loss of your loved one. If you can’t work on the causes of your loved one’s death, perhaps a related or other powerfully needed cause would engage your heart and mind.


One of the most common paralyzing demons, perfectionism often prevents getting anything done by causing seemingly opposite effects:

Perfectionism is based on the fear that nothing one is or does is good enough. This pervasive sense of inferiority and fear often also makes people feel that they don’t deserve to have good things happen to or for them or to be happy. You don’t deserve to feel this way but perfectionism demons are vicious and aggressive. You must guard against this demon in all its many aspects to ever have any peace.

Psychologists have many theories for why some people suffer from perfectionism but again, the cause matters less than the results, so the focus of anyone struggling with this demon must be on dealing with what the demon demands that you do and think. 

Proper Job or Message: Perfectionism keeps us from goofing off, doing sloppy or thoughtless work, from not bothering to follow proper procedures or instructions. Perfectionism allows us (if we follow its dictates) to take pride in our work, to experience the satisfaction of a job well done, and to be exhausted from real labor rather than merely passing time.

Approach: Start by identifying all the ways that perfectionism exists in your life. Then identify where it’s not doing what it should: anywhere your work or life needs improvement, where you need greater consistency, thoroughness, or follow-through. Consider where help becoming more reasoned in your approach to tasks might be useful. Read books on overcoming perfectionism.

Subdue: This demon is practically begging to be put to work. Find a task worthy of this demon’s skills – accomplishing some big, important goal, like making your home sparkle, getting a degree, becoming an exercise fanatic, becoming employee of the year – and let it go to town where it's helpful.

Counter: If perfectionism keeps you working on minor tasks to the detriment of more important activities, use a timer for less-important tasks; set a maximum amount of time to spend on them and stop when the time is up. Do your most important tasks first so that you never have a chance to neglect them.
         If getting started is your issue, deny yourself every other activity that you would normally do instead of what you need to be doing until it is done. Use a planner to help identify each day’s most important activities (color coding your tasks makes staying on track easier).

Dismiss: Sample mantras: “I don’t need to let perfectionism rule my life.” “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”

Distract: For the “can’t get started” type of perfectionism, sneak up on a needed task by doing a very small, self-contained bit of it, such as wiping down a counter rather than cleaning the whole kitchen, neatening a drawer instead of re-organizing your whole bedroom, or writing an outline rather than jumping into the report you need to write. For the “can’t leave well enough alone” type of perfectionism, only allow yourself to do the very most minimal part of it.  

Laugh: The stuffiest demon of all, perfectionism offers many opportunities for humor. Ridicule the born-bureaucrat mentality that wants to turn even the smallest task into a federal project. Poke fun at perfectionism demons that urge you to procrastinate by envisioning them as snails that leave a trail of unfinished projects in their wake.

Gratitude: Sample gratitude statements: “I am grateful for the opportunity and willingness to take the trouble to do things right.” “I appreciate that it’s easier to learn to dial it back than to develop standards where they never existed before.”

Transform: The energy locked up in perfectionism can work wonders when released to work on the activities that really matter in your life. Apply perfectionism to building constructive habits, especially for self-care and emotional health.


Stress doesn’t occur because others are mean, obnoxious, or unfair, or you have too much work, pressure or demands. You feel stress because you believe that this reaction is a natural, normal, and unavoidable response to difficult situations. We often feel stress because we’re under pressure to change but don’t want to, must adapt more quickly than we feel comfortable with, or are unhappy with a change that has occurred despite our resistance. There’s no object or event that is automatically or inevitably stressful; stress is a matter of perception and resistance. It is entirely a phenomenon that happens inside us, our reaction to an external cause. We tell ourselves that our stress is in reaction to what is happening outside but that’s only partially true.

Proper Job or Message: The proper role of stress is to tell us to take care of ourselves or to rest. Without it, we could drive ourselves past any reasonable limits to accomplish our objectives. Stress sets physical, emotional, mental, and time limits on our ability to work, engage, and think in service to any goal.

Approach: The message of stress must be followed even when you accept that stress is entirely an internal reaction. That message may mean that you need to take better care of your body and psyche, adjust your thinking, or adjust other’s demands of you, but some change is needed to prevent breaking down.

Subdue: The first step to getting control over the stress demon is probably meditation or deep relaxation so that you will be more attuned to messages from your unconscious. You need to learn why you push yourself (or allow others to) in neglect of your own needs, what your real priorities should be, what you do and don’t owe to others or can give without harm, and what is the most beneficial response to events.

Counter: Tell yourself, “No task is more important than my health.” Sign up for a massage. Go for a swim or a run. Go walk on the beach or in the woods.

Dismiss: Tell yourself, “This feeling of stress and overwhelm exists only in my mind” (but listen to the message at the same time). Tell yourself, “I don’t need to enlarge my distress by horribilizing it in my mind – I just need to take care of myself more and not let myself go so long without respite again.”

Distract: Watching a movie (or doing any other activity that keeps you still and distracted for a long time) is often an effective remedy for stress demon freak-outs.

Laugh: Although there is plenty of material for laughing at the stress demon, laughing at anything will reduce its power over you. 

Gratitude: Sample mantra: “I am so grateful to have a full, busy, engaging life; yes, it gets hectic, but that’s better than being bored.”

Transform: The stress demon burns up lots of energy, so getting it under control through constructive action (exercise is highly effective for this purpose) will help on many levels.

There are lots more negative emotions and thoughts that we could work on, but this is enough to show how the process works. I would love to hear your stories of using this process or these tools to put your demons to work doing what they ought to do.


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© Gloria Valoris, 2015

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