Take Care of the Monster, by Michelle Slater, MFTI
“I feel stuck.”
There is no getting through this life without a crisis or two. We may find ourselves floundering in our job, moods, health, career, relationships, grief, addictions, traumatic memories, and familial and cultural pressures. Sometimes we might not be able to put our finger on just what it is that is bothering us.
Often we make our way through these challenges without too much scarring. Hopefully we may even pick up some life lessons and coping skills. But every once-in-a-while we can get good and stuck. We can feel trapped on an emotional roller coaster or maybe we just hit a dead end or intensely low point. It is also possible that we have been here before, and we look around and cannot believe that have somehow found our way here again.
Oh, and It isn’t as if we haven’t tried to find a way out of this! We may have tried talking about it, reading about it, stuffing it, medicating it, escaping it… We have tried everything we could think of and then some, and yet we arrive at a point where we are painfully aware that what we are doing just isn’t working anymore.
I have a wise friend, a university professor, who has suffered and grieved deeply. This friend will be the first to show up at the door of a person who is going through a hard time. He will sit and listen with his kind presence, and finally, his way out the door he will say “…make sure you remember to feed the monster.” This doesn’t mean that he is recommending a California burrito or a large pizza. This is his loving nudge to remind us to return to and take care of our most basic needs.
This is our opportunity to return to our most basic, most uncomplicated selves, because thus far we haven’t found the solution to our current challenge outside ourselves.
Now, if we can envision a newborn, their requirements are almost strictly physiological. In fact if we were to use a newborn as our example, we know that an infant needs to be fed, sheltered and they need at least eight hours of sleep each night. If these needs are not met a baby will cry and/or scream until they are! Also, keep in mind that if an infant is in any kind of physical distress, they will not rest until they are tended to. Only once these needs are met can they begin to coo, gurgle, form attachments, and trust.
Let this be our baseline. At this time of distress we need to make sure that we have sleep, food, shelter and safety before we are in any kind of form to go venture out into the world and deal with our commitments, relationships and responsibilities. When these needs become our entire focus, when we “feed the monster” then we begin laying a simple foundation. Without this foundation we are ill equipped to think and reason our way clearly through a normal day, much less a supermarket line.
It may be that we are having trouble getting these needs met on our own and this is when it becomes time reach out to people who will honor what we are currently experiencing. (Note: We are not meant to “snap out of it” nor should we. This is our journey! This is why it is so important to connect with people who truly respect and honor what we are living. )
There are peer advocates, groups and also helping professionals who specialize in loneliness, grief and loss, sleep, diet, addiction, psychology, physiology and spirituality, you name it, and they advocate for us to make sure that our needs are met at those times when we are unable to do so for ourselves. We need to keep in mind that we are not looking for external solutions, but rather we are opening ourselves up so that those who may provide support can help us find our footing.