Skip to main content
Ages 13+
Under 13
Leonora in the Morning Light (1940) by Max Ernst

Transforming Your Demons Into Allies


There is a way to give voice and body to the emotional stowaways in your conscience

Nearly all cultures and mythologies of the world refer to the dark and marginal aspects of the human psyche using different names: the Greek daimon can be understood simply as a spirit or a voice that counsels. The Hebrew Satan embodies the sense of revolt against any and all law. But beyond the theological point of view, and speaking psychologically (i.e.; in relation to the emotions), these angels and demons may translate into allies or foes, emotionally and energetically, and who advance or limit our faculties. Making ourselves aware of these passengers within our consciousness can help us to relate, in a healthier and fuller way with ourselves. It may also help us to see the blind spots through which fear, indolence, depression and even addictions will manifest themselves, and these may be regarded as demons.

One method to do this is a mix of therapy, meditation, and mythology conceived of by Lama Tsultrim Allione, founder of the Tara Mandala Retreat Center in Colorado, USA, and author of the book Feeding Your Demons, and introduction to chöd meditation. A Sufi proverb counseled that: “If a demon visits you while you meditate, one should put that demon to meditate.” In a similar spirit, Allione has devised a method for recognizing those awkward sources of blockage and pain within us. These will teach us much about ourselves.


Define Your Demons

The first step is to locate the demon within your body. As with any type of Eastern meditation, the most important thing is to cultivate a sense of purpose and to define a motivation for the practice. This may begin with a creative block, a work or partner problem, or a trauma. In the meditation posture that most suits you, you should feel yourself in your body and ask: “In what part of the body is this demon localized? What shape does it take?” From there, try to sense its color, its texture, and any other clue that your imagination dictates, allowing yourself to be carried away by the sensation. This can be unpleasant at times because it is a matter of “feeding” the negative emotion to the point where one feels it vividly within the body.


Personify the Demon

The next step is the personification of the demon: imagine it departing your body and taking on a body shape of its own. Try to imagine down to the smallest details: a face, (if it has one), and it’s facial expression. Does it have a gender? Clothing? An emotional state? Then, ask the following of the demon: “What do you want? What do you need? How will you feel when you get what you really need?”

With your eyes closed, try to change places with the demon: imagine yourself in its place, feeling what the demon feels, and seeing from the demon’s perspective. Answer the above questions using the voice and emotions that the devil wakes up: “What I want is … What I really need is … When I get what I really need I’ll feel …”.


Stay with the Demon

Finally, we need to try to convert the demon into an ally. Return to your own body and imagine the demon in front of you, dissolving your own body into a “nectar.” Like the nectar of flowers, the nectar you become has the quality of being both the food and the emotion of what the demon really needs. Imagine the demon feeding on this nectar and nourishing itself until it is completely satisfied. During the process, notice how the demon is transformed by ingesting what was needed. Once satisfied, you may feel a change in the presence of the demon. If this is the case, ask: “Are you an ally?” If an ally has not appeared, invite this new one to appear in front of you.

With this ally, you now need to ask the same set of questions you asked of the demon, with the previous emotional connection: “How will you help me? How will you protect me? What promise will you make to me? How can I reach you?”

Change places with your ally, and answer the questions using your own voice and gestures, just as you’d done with the demon. Now imagine that the ally dissolves within light, and within yourself. Notice the color, the temperature, and how the luminosity enters every cell of your body. Once this is done, allow yourself to be dissolved in the sensation and then rest in the new and renewed awareness of the great work you’ve just done.

Giving body, voice, and form to our mental and emotional states is a therapeutic path that relies on the imagination and serves to inspire us to face day-to-day challenges with new energy.


*Image: Leonora in the Morning Light (1940) by Max Ernst / Creative Commons

Related Articles