I remember dating this girl one time who tried to tell me a relationship should never have disagreements, conflict or arguments.
I was like, “I actually believe that is what defines great relationships. How you work through conflict. How you both process your anger, individually, and together.”
As you can imagine, things ended soon after that conversation. As I am someone who has not only met his monster, but overindulged in his monster on far too many occasions.
She was the sweetest, kindest woman but she had not met her monster. She was not willing to meet her monster. She was not willing to work with her monster. In fact, she didn’t even believe she had a monster.
But, WE ALL HAVE A MONSTER. Some of us are just more acquainted with it than others.
So you might be wondering…
WHAT IS YOUR MONSTER?
OUR MONSTER = OUR ANGER
OUR MONSTER = THE DARK CORNERS OF WHO WE ARE
Our monster is the explosive, reactive part of us. The part of us that feels that PING! inside of our body when something is said or done that rubs us the wrong way.
The monster is the part of us that tells us where our boundaries and limits lie.
Our monster is the part of us that is capable of evil, that is capable to do and say hurtful things.
Call it your shadow, your rage, your anger, the dark corners of your being that can rise to the surface in those gritty moments.
The monster is the fires of your hurts. The unprocessed anger and rage you carry from past experiences. The parts of you that rise to the surface when you’re triggered in the present. The parts of you that rise to protect you when you feel your safety is threatened.
WHAT MADE YOUR MONSTER?
Our monster is made in a variety of ways….
This could be something like growing up in a family system where we witnessed our parents arguing all the time and yelling and screaming at each other. Because of this family system, we were exemplified a toxic and unhealthy example of how to express our anger. For this reason, we will try to repress and avoid our anger to avoid replaying the toxic expression of anger we learned from a young age.
This could also be being the subject of a parent’s anger or unprocessed shame. If we were the subject of a parent’s undigested anger or shame, we will do whatever we can to avoid turning into what we were privy to in the relationships with our primary caregivers. We experienced first hand how UNSAFE anger is so we create an adverse relationship to anger as a way to protect against the lack of safety we learned to associate with it early on.
Also, we can hold undigested anger when we’re angry at our parents for certain things we have not been able to forgive or let go of. Perhaps they were not the parents we needed them to be, they were never around, they never told us they were ‘proud of us,’ constantly criticized and shamed us, nothing was ever good enough, leading to us believing we were fundamentally flawed, f*cked, defunct, not competent, capable, special or good enough.
This can result in us possessing a fierce monster inner critic that strives for perfection because nothing was ever good enough growing up or we could never do anything well enough to earn appreciation, validation or acknowledgment. So, now, our monster has turned on us internally, slowly ripping us apart from the seams.
This could be simply growing up in a family where it was unsafe to express our emotions. We were trained emotions were weakness or when we expressed our emotions, we were not supported in our experience. In fact, we were probably shamed for our experience or our experience was invalidated to the degree we learned to repress our emotions whenever they arise.
When we don’t learn to express our emotions, they go unrecognized, unconsciously controlling us. Without a relationship to our emotions, our monster is allowed to wander freely, undetected, causing a ruckus without a solution. Even worse, we start to believe the voice of our monster, whose presence we can feel, is because something is fundamentally wrong with us. Its voice becomes the voice of our unworthiness. Its voice becomes the proof we’re not enough. And we do whatever we can to distract ourselves from the call of the monster – we live in our work, run to the bottle, chase perfection, stay perpetually busy, live in our phones and the pollution of the digital space.
Our monster can be an amalgamation of unprocessed emotional debris. Residual rage left behind from early experiences in our family dynamic. Experiences of abuse. Trauma. Hurt. Pain. Unprocessed emotional material from a breakup – an ex that we have never been able to forgive. An ex who was unfaithful. Experiences of betrayal. A parent who is a boundary bully, invalidates our emotional experiences and invades our personal space on a regular basis. A parent who abandoned us, left us out to fend for ourselves.
The monster is the fires of our hurts that get activated. The monster can explode externally (for those who overindulge in their monster), or implode internally (for those who try to keep their monster hidden in a faraway cage).
It’s also important to note: when we’re entirely disconnected from our monster, it can be because there are parts of our past that we’re not yet ready to meet. As if the monster lies dormant within us, until we’re at a point in our evolution and integration until we’re ready to begin to open the doors to its secret lair.
This can happen from repeated exposure to boundary violation, family enmeshment (parent pleasing can lead to fear of accessing the monstrous anger directed at the parent), lack of safety to ever meet the monster, or continuous invalidation and manipulation from the parent, exposure to the parent’s rage (overindulgence in their own monster), can lead to the child seeking to adeptly blend themselves into whatever way of being they need to be in order to be safe, or not an object of the parent’s rage in the family system.
This can mean locking the monster away deep into the caves of our being.
MEETING YOUR MONSTER.
Real truth time here…the safest people have a close relationship with their monster. They have got to know it well. They have befriended it and embraced it into their home like a misunderstood friend.
While meeting the monster may seem unsafe, actually not meeting the monster is even more dangerous.
The more we meet our monster, the less power it has over us, thus the more power we have ourselves, thus the safer we become, to ourselves and others.
When we’re not willing to meet our monster, our monster controls us from the inside and plays us like a puppet.
When our monster controls and plays us from the inside, rather than meeting it head-on and learning to work with it, we become fundamentally unsafe.
That’s because our monster attacks others.
Our monster gets projected onto others.
Our monster eats away at us from the inside.
WE DON’T TAKE CARE OF OUR SIDE OF THE FENCE.
We don’t say what’s really true for us. We act of integrity within ourselves. This is when the monster is let loose off his leash and allowed to roam free and sh*t all over the place.
“The monster feeds on PEOPLE WHO ARE OUT OF INTEGRITY. It eats those who are out of integrity from the inside out for f*cking breakfast.”
When we’re triggered and in a moment of fragility, our monster jumps out of its dark hiding space deep inside of what’s been boiling and brewing inside of us for years and scares the living sh*t out of those we care about.
It even scares the sh*t out of us.
It shocks us to our core – HOW ARE WE CAPABLE OF THIS?
Our very own rage can be terrifying when we do everything in our power to deny or condemn it. When we deny it, we don’t get to know it, when we don’t get to know it, we can’t learn how to work with it, to use it, to soften it, to integrate it, to tame it into a deeper, more intimate being.
This is why we do everything we can to run away from our monster.
We disassociate from it.
We put on our “happy face” like the JOKER.
We engage in spiritual practice to try to rise above the rage.
We try to pretend it doesn’t exist.
But it does. It lives deep inside of us, controlling us because we refuse to acknowledge it.
This is what people call POSITIVITY BYPASSING.
The refusal to acknowledge our pain and anger. And the belief that we can transcend it without dealing with it.
“OH, I JUST HAVE TO THINK HAPPIER THOUGHTS! I JUST HAVE TO BE MORE KIND!”
While those are all gracious platitudes, you need to enter the fire-breathing, dark confines of the monster’s residence.
Without doing so, your niceness just creates fragile armoring that is simply not strong enough to keep the monster in its cage.
Something will come up, you will get triggered, provoked, and that nice mask you’re wearing will get ripped to shreds by the sharp talons of the monster within.
You will go from SAINT TO SATAN in 6 seconds.
Your rage is not the problem, but your denial of it is.
The belief that true enlightenment means to rise above your own pain is so completely untrue. True enlightenment is the acceptance of our reality. Part of our reality is our capacity for rage and the angry monster within.
Actual enlightenment and integration requires you to move through your pain, not rise above it.
To meet and fully embrace your monster and learn from it.
To engage with it, without letting it destroy, control or overtake you.
To carry it inside of your fiery heart, using its fires to speak your truth powerfully.
To allow it to rest comfortably beside you as a guide to help you live and love cleaner, more truthfully, more honorably, more connected to self.
But when we are committed to avoiding and repressing our monster, we feed the beast.
The monster gets bigger, stronger, fiercer, and scarier.
The more we deny it, the more we fear what will happen when the monster is let loose.
From working with so many clients in harnessing their rage, it’s often the fear that if we tap into the anger then the anger will swallow us in a fiery pit of rage.
We will destroy everything in our path. The monster will possess us and we will run rampant in master ‘F*CK SH*T UP’ mode.
From all the years avoiding its fire, it’s mounted and mounted to the extent there is fear we can’t control it.
ONCE WE LET IT FREE – IT WILL BURY US ALIVE.
If we grow up in an angry or emotionally unsafe environment where our inner world is constantly being invalidated, we may repress our anger as a way to avoid or steer clear of the patterns of our family tumultuous family system.
The fear of being swallowed by our anger is our fear of turning into what we were most afraid of growing up.
Then, when the rage comes, when the monster is activated, it feels all too familiar, spiraling us in even more rage and enthralled with shame because we fear we have become what we have disdained.
If we don’t have space to express emotions in the family and don’t learn healthy examples of emotional release, we may repress the emotions, burying the monster deep down into our cells.
If this is stockpiled by a parent who bashed our boundaries, invalidated our experience, betrayed us, manipulated us emotionally, or acted through lenses of their own undigested pain and trauma, then the monster may loom large, deep underneath the surface.
Over time, these karmic connections can continue to compound the rage of the monster, but with no ability to safely breathe and release its fires.
See, when we grow up in an angry home or an emotionally volatile home, we may fear emotions because we fear of ending up like our family system.
But living through the fear, denying the core emotion, is actually how we end up becoming what we’re most afraid of.
“Volatile emotional expression are the screams of emotional repression.”
A healthy emotional world is a commitment to honoring emotional experiences as they arise.
So, by turning away from the monster because of our fear of him, is actually us actively creating the environment we so desperately wish to avoid.
Our salvation is on the other side of our fear of the monster. Bringing it out of its cage and into our hearts. Working with it. Learning from it. Seeking to understand it. Allowing its voice to be safely heard.
Emotional safety inside ourselves is only possible one way – MEETING OUR MONSTER.
No matter how happy go lucky we are, WE ALL have a monster.
In fact, in my experience, it’s usually the “happiest” people who have the largest and fiercest unmet monsters of all.
You know, the NICEST people are usually the ones who are THE LEAST NICE TO THEMSELVES.
And the way these nice people deal with the fire of their monster is by taking the hit internally. They save face on the surface, but deep on the inside, the fires of their anger and pain are burning them often.
People pleasers live off of self-abandonment to avoid rejection or abandonment of others. But this very self-abandonment is what feeds the monster its special treats, activating it, creating a chaotic, war-torn, internal world.
Over-committing, under-delivering, breaking promises, acting out of integrity, are exactly what activates the monster mutiny on its keeper, ourselves.
The monster, spinning its sadistic powers, turning mind against body, mind against emotional world. Rather than creating a free-flowing, heaven-like, internal eco-system, we pour toxicity into the internal world with shame, feelings of hopelessness, and the monster sees a victim, it preys and takes advantage.
So, we bite our lip, we constrain the fires to our best ability, but it begins to come out in passive-aggressive comments, in negativity and complaints, like little growls from a hungry monster, until it can’t contain itself any longer and feeds away on our insides until we f*cking explode.
The monster runs rampant. Destroying everything in its path. The saint becomes the villain.
THE REASON: the saint didn’t want to admit they also contained a villain within them.
The story of heaven and hell is a story of an internal human reality.
We all contain a heaven and a hell. Humanness does not live in black and white, it lives in a nuanced reality, between raging fire and bright heavenly light.
The monster makes friends with those who enter his cave, and it swallows those who hide from him underneath their beds, trembling, in fear.
YOUR MONSTER IN RELATIONSHIPS.
The best relationships are defined by how effectively a couple works through conflict.
And if someone doesn’t believe relationships should have conflict — it’s likely they’re using a positivity bypass to hide the fact they are repressed or disassociated from their own anger in an attempt to protect themselves from their own undigested anger.
This can happen when we haven’t processed our anger from past experiences or we learned anger was UNSAFE and HURTFUL through the way we witnessed anger being expressed in our family systems.
A relationship without conflict, anger or arguments is a relationship with complete emotional repression. This is NOT a trusty worthy relationship. As it’s two people who are completely disassociated from their truest needs and put on this positivity bypass that things should just be great all the time.
People who are happy ALL THE time or don’t ever get angry are the scariest people of all because they DO NOT express their anger. They hold their anger and shove it down. So the anger builds and builds below the surface.
Until they eventually get so flooded they can’t control it anymore and f*cking explode like a volcano and verbally rage vomit all over you like molten hot lava!
IN OTHER WORDS: they do not process anger in a healthy way where they can clear the emotion effectively. Anger controls them as they fear it and avoid it until the anger gets so loud that it literally overtakes them. To the extent that anger becomes destructive and damaging.
“I’m feeling really angry right now. A part of me is really angry.”
Where you can feel anger while still maintaining compassion for the subject who provoked your anger.
Healthy anger is when we can be in the anger without punitively striking the object of our anger. We can hold them in our hearts while being in the fires of our rage.
This is where anger can be used for good. It can be transformative and purposeful. Constructive rather than destructive.
It becomes really destructive when anger morphs into aggression, which is the epitome of unhealthy anger.
I am going to act through the anger of an unmet need, that I have not communicated or accounted for, aggressively, in hopes of triggering a response out of you.
Whether this anger is our own shadow being reflected back to us, undigested emotional debris and anger from our past that keeps getting triggered in our present, or a passive-aggressive release of unspoken contempt and resentment.
This can be so emotionally unsafe, relationally, because safety is built-in containers where partners can be trusted to SPEAK UP AND VOICE THEIR TRUTH.
To say NO when it’s NO. To say YES when it’s YES.
This allows your entire nervous system to relax because of your partner’s commitment to self-honoring their inner world. When you have a partner who molds, accommodates, and self-abandons to please others and avoid conflict or discomfort, you know they can’t be trusted.
THIS IS ESSENTIALLY SAYING: healthy love is when both partners can be trusted to meet their monsters regularly.
When both partners are actively engaging with their monsters within, their monsters don’t grab hold of the relationship in a dirty, malicious way that preys on the integrity of the connection.
But when the monster does come, can you hold onto it with love?
Can you take its ferocity and use it in a way that is not damaging or hurtful to your partner?
Can you make space for your monster and love at the same time?
Can you let your monster lead you to the door of a more open-hearted, vulnerable space?
A relationship without monsters is a relationship full of smiles and daggers in the eyes.
Elephants so big in the room there is no room for love.
Your agreements and relational culture around conflict will determine how successful or unsuccessful you become as a couple.
When conflict arises – does it really reek havoc and pull you apart?
Do your breakdowns lead to several days? Even several weeks of things feeling “weird” and “off”?
Can you be with your monster long enough to soften you?
Or do you let your monster derail you into anger-charged survivalist responses that damage what you love the most?
I’M TELLING YOU: the portrait of an emotionally safe couple is two people with monsters on leashes, everyone smiling.
That is true relational safety.
Safety is not created with an adverse relationship to anger; it’s created by befriending our anger.
Trusting we can be with it, without it swallowing us whole.
So, I ask you this question:
HAVE YOU MET YOUR MONSTER?
HAS YOUR PARTNER MET THEIRS?
IF NOT, IT’S TIME YOU LEARN HOW TO SAFELY ENTER THE CAVE OF YOUR RAGE.
BEFRIENDING YOUR MONSTER.
You befriend your monster by meeting mini-monsters in micro-moments.
When that little PING! goes off, do you speak up about it or do you swallow it?
Do you build a relationship with your discomfort in regular small moments?
Small things don’t become big things when you make contact with those mini-monsters regularly.
When you ignore those micro-moments, you starve the monster, and he gets a little bit hungrier every time you don’t have that hard conversation, speak your truth, honor your needs or connect with that part of you that gets activated.
Healthy connection to anger is a healthy connection to our anger in small doses. It’s our ability to connect when SOMETHING IS NOT SITTING RIGHT.
Do we connect to that piece?
Do we speak it?
Do we clear it in a safe space?
Do we set up a boundary that is being prompted by that piece of anger?
Do we advocate for a need?
Do we use our anger to connect to a more intimate, tender piece of us that is lying below?
Think of micro-dosing your anger.
If you don’t microdose your anger, you overdose on your anger = RAGING FREAK THE F*CK OUT.
Micro dosing our anger is about micro-dosing moments of self-honoring that lead to self-connection and personal empowerment.
We excavate and clear our internal systems readily. This excavation process clears the lines the monster loves to feed off.
Every time you honor your anger in a small moment, you’re feeding your monster, keeping him happy, at bay, at peace, slobbering away content as can be.
He is happy because you’re working with him, as a tandem team.
He wants to be respected. He wants to be honored. He is here to help you live and love more honestly. He is here to help protect you.
When we don’t honor the mini monsters in those micro-moments, the hungry monster begins to feed away inside of us. He begins to salivate at the mouth. Sinks his teeth into our insides, gnawing away at us until we finally release and PURGE HIM!
The denial of the mini monsters is what creates the macro monster implosions and explosions.
So honor your mini monsters – those micro-moments when something does not feel right, does not sit right, brings something up inside of you that activates something hot and fiery.
Explore that mini monster with curiosity – what is trying to come through me right now? What can I learn here? What can I explore and uncover?
For me, personally, I overindulged in my big monsters. I overindulged in my rage. I was hot and reactive, with a fiery temper.
For me, befriending my monster was like walking into my dark cave asking my monster, “What is really going on Mr. Monster? What do you need Mr. Monster?”
Like Cindy Loo Hoo crawling up to the Grinch’s mountaintop lair, showing him kindness, a warm smile and an open heart.
I befriended my monster in the same way.
I asked him how I could help him. I asked him what he needed. I told him I was here for him.
With his back arched, breath of fire ready to rock and roll, he looked at me stunned, shell-shocked, confused why I was there and I wasn’t afraid, then he slumped his dragony shoulders, smiled back at me and sat down in a chair.
I sat with him for a while.
I told him while others were afraid of him, I wasn’t. I told him while he might look scary, I knew he was all bark and no bite.
He smiled back at me warmly. I could tell he was relieved to finally be able to take down his scary dragon front for a second.
He told me he was upset. He told me he was frustrated. He was sad. He felt hopeless. His anger and breath of fire was pushing everyone away. It made him feel lonely. Isolated. Those he loved turned away from him in his pits of rage. While he wanted his anger to bring those he loved closer to help him, it did the opposite. His anger was hurting him.
I told my monster that I understood. I told him that I could see he was in pain. I told him I knew the scariness was just a front for something much deeper inside. I could see a hurt little dragon inside my big dragon who just wanted to be understood.
I asked him if he could stop trying to be scary all the time. If he could bring me into some of his parts behind the scariness.
He told me it would be challenging, but he would do his best because he wasn’t happy being so scary.
He told me that being scary is all that he knew, and he would probably go through an identity crisis without the scariness and he was scared of who he was without the scariness, but he said he would try.
To be honest, I think he was tired of being scary. I think he was only being so scary so someone would come and help him, console him, be kind to him.
I think he only acted scary because, he, himself, was scared.
I knew my Monster was just sad, hurt and in pain. He just needed someone to be able to look past his growls and fiery breath to find something much deeper inside of him.
I wanted to be that person for my Mr. Monster.
I asked if we could work together and be friends, not enemies.
He smiled and nodded.
I reassured him that I would need his scariness in times of threat.
He danced around in excitement, his big teeth grinning out of his mouth.
I reassured I would need his connection to scariness and rage to protect me and help tell me where my boundaries were. I told him just how important this job was in my overall satisfaction, happiness, and connection to myself.
My monster nodded his head, understanding how important his job really was.
I told him we would need to come up with a strategy when he was feeling lots of scary feelings coming on.
He agreed. I asked him if he could breathe light cinnamon fire into my chest whenever the scary feelings were coming on.
That way I would know to come visit him in his cave and see how he was doing.
That way I could stop hurting the people I loved and be there for my Monster in the way he really needed me.
A tear came across my monster’s scaly face. He told me nobody had ever cared for him so much or taken an interest in him.
He told me the scariness was his cry for help. Nobody had ever taken notice, the more they didn’t take notice, the angrier he got.
I told him I understood. That’s why I came to meet him. I knew he wasn’t so scary; just misunderstood.
Inside of my big Monster was a smaller, more wounded Monster, who just wanted to belong and be accepted, to be loved and cared for.
I gave my Monster a hug. I told him how great it was to meet him and I’d be back soon.
He hugged me back a big monster hug. He drooled a little on me.
He asked if I would come back and visit him in his cave often.
I told him, “Mr. Monster, we’re teammates remember.”
This cave is our office.
He nodded excitedly.
I will see you soon Mr. Monster.
Mr. Monster waved goodbye, a big wide monster smile across his monster face.
BEFRIEND YOUR MONSTER. He’s not so scary after all. Just misunderstood. The cave of his lair might be scary at first, but what you will find is something tender and sweet. A part of you that is deeply intimate. A part of you that is deeply vulnerable. A part of you that deeply yearns to be seen.
HAVE YOU MET YOUR MONSTER?
I know it’s not easy, but just know, the most emotionally safe thing you could ever do is enter his cave and befriend what you find.
Previously published here and reprinted with the author’s permission.