I was recently reading a chapter on Compassion Focused Therapy by Paul Gilbert and encountered the following description:
engage with the compassionate self and then ‘see in one’s mind’s eye’ a
specific aspect of that self which is troublesome. One can imagine oneself
when anxious, and practise imagining looking at one’s facial expressions –
how we look when anxious – the thoughts and feelings going through our
minds. We then just imagine having compassion for that anxious self we
see in our mind; how we would like to help, what we like to say. There
are similar processes with many aspects of the self, including the angry
self, lonely self and self-critical self. If people feel a little overwhelmed
by this you simply bring them back to their breathing and refocus on the
compassionate self and, when ready, start again. In some ways this follows
standard de-sensitisation practice. There is a 1,000-year-old practice
that is very similar to this called ‘Feeding Your Demons’ (Allione, 2008).
Here the person imagines feeding the troublesome part of the self so that
it gets what it wants, and they see how it changes.
This intrigued me, so I Googled “Feeding Your Demons” and found the following youtube video which talks a little more about that approach:
The method seems similar to the Non-Violent Communication approach Rufus May uses when he talked to the voice of a voice hearer that adamantly wanted to kill her – rather than fight with the voice, Rufus looked at the wants and needs of the voice and how to actually help it out. (Rufus tells the story of this interaction at
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SARayODS_90 ) It turned out that the voice represented the dissociated anger of the voice hearer, and with continued dialogue and understanding, the voice became an ally rather than an enemy.
The Rufus May youtube video also explains how the voice continued to want to express itself independently of the voice hearer, and at one point asked for, and was given by the voice hearer, it’s own facebook account! It turns out that the voice (named Top Dog) now also has its own Twitter account, which I know because I received a tweet from him a few days ago. The tweet read as follows: “Voices hear voices too – we hear you! If you are fed up with us then chances are we are fed up with you too!”
That makes sense to me. Feeding demons sounds scary, and it is true that we have to resist giving the demons what they initially say they want (for example, the death of the voice hearer) but real healing may require finding a way to give them what they really need.