As children we are exquisitely vulnerable to evil. And this is why we are naturally equipped with a vast array of built-in defences and processing techniques.
For some reason we lose respect for these effective Self-preservation techniques through puberty. They are taken-for-granted and considered ‘childish’ because we are now big and strong and can defend ourselves against evil.
And yet so many grow-ups take prescription medicines to counter depression, use drugs to suppress feelings, spend years in therapy, lash-out in anger at others, have breakdowns … these are grown-up coping mechanisms.
Child’s play is crucial and deeply healing for children. Good-versus-evil and learning right from wrong are fundamental human themes. And yet, as grown-ups we seem to forget much of the natural skills of scaring off evil we were born with.
As children we used deeply effective techniques to lessen the impact of evil upon us. Our primal instinct default position was to always turn to the positive. Let go of grievances easily. Be more attracted to things that made us happy than those that made us unhappy. We processed and released our pain through drawings, paintings and other art.
We used our imagination to replay a frightening experience using our toys who might fight each other and always the “good” toy (us) winning, where perhaps in real life we lost. Cowboys and Indians. Monsters and heroes. Soldiers.
We role-played anger, fear and sadness with our friends. We even dressed-up to make it more ‘real’. We made boundaries and used ‘safe words’.
Fact is, we were better equipped psychologically as children to defend our Selves from evil than as adults.
My daughter who is 6 years old is very keen on gargoyles at the moment. To her, it is simple common sense that in order to protect a building, and those inside it, from evil or harmful entities you put something even more scary on the outside of it. A ‘grotesque’.
Her best friend who is 7 years old has had a recurring nightmare about a black dog for as long as she can remember. Black dog dreams are archetypal. And let me tell you, if you could hear this child’s detailed description of this dog that ‘haunts’ her you’d be scared right out of your pants too.
He is black, shadowy, has no eyes, no expression, he’s unpredictable, feels malevolent, you can’t understand him or communicate with him, but he seems to want to bite legs off …
And, after much sympathetic and practical help from her parents; consideration of anxiety, role-playing, discussion, a homoeopathic remedy, this child has found her own solution. She asked her mother to buy her a Cerberus.
You know – Cerberus the terrifying three-headed, black dog of – that’s right! Archetypal mythology! This ‘grotesque’ sits on her bedside table.
Now, would you have thought of that perfect solution as a grown-up? Or would you be discussing it with a therapist?
Let’s remember these tools we had as little people, which we used so very effectively and intuitively.
I did this once, completely without realising it, so I can’t take any credit for being clever with this.
Visiting the Sacre Coeur in Paris, a city that resonates deeply with me, I bought what I thought of at the time a super-kitsch souvenir. That’s it in the picture above. I didn’t even know it was Archangel Michael when I bought it.
Fast forward to me coming out of an unhealthy relationship with a guy, (who, weirdly, looked exactly like the guy St Michael is sorting out) and noticing my little statue.
Then came the blinding insight that this little statue represented my childish “yeah, screw you buddy!” angry feelings followed by a more rationale understanding of how I loved, in a new way, this famous example of ‘good vanquishing evil’ and how looking at it helped me and made me feel stronger.
So if something evil is scaring the pants off you, remember what you did when you were little and wise – just go get yourself its grotesque version to scare that nasty away.