Have you ever seen the movie Monsters, Inc.? It is a briliant DreamWorks movie about, you guessed correctly, monsters. Monsters that hide in your closet and come out at night to scare the hell out of you. Monsters that will try to scare you to the max, because the harder we scream the more energy they get. In this movie, we meet Sully, a top scarer who holds the all time scare record. At first sight, Sully looks like a very large, huggable blue bear, but, at night, when he comes through your closet door to scare you, he seems to be this gigantic terrifying monster. And we meet Boo, a little girl of about 3 years old who is scared of closet doors because of Randal, her assigned monster.
Like Boo, we all have monsters in our closet. When as children we are confronted with pain we cannot not deal with, because we have no vocabulary yet to frame it or no adult present to put it into words, we put it away. We literally store it, so we can deal with it later, when we are old enough to put it in perspective.
It’s a situational thing. During the day, 3-year old children will not mention their monsters, they will play in their rooms as if nothing ever happened. But at night, when they go to bed, they are afraid of the dark and the monsters it holds. A closet isn’t just a closet anymore, it’s monster territory. Like little children, we not only become scared of the pain that’s inside of us, we become scared of the situations in which it shows itself.
Its a developing thing. With helpless frustration, parents watch their 3-year-olds become more afraid of the dark every night. And it seems there is nothing they can do about it. Stored away pain will come back to remind us it’s still there, untill we have adequately dealt with it. It will come out of the closet every time we’re confronted with a similar situation. It doesn’t mean to scare us, but it does because we are reminded of a pain we didn’t understand and therefore was unbearable. And every time, we’re confronted with a similar situation and the pain we do not dare to confront because it feels completely overwhelming, we add to the fear. Accumulating pain upon pain, our monster gets bigger and bigger.
It’s an irrational thing. Fortunately for parents, when children reach the age of four, the child gains in reason and can be persuaded to believe that monsters don’t exist. Of course, they do and kids don’t really buy into it, because they will only go to sleep when there’s light in the hallway and their door is open, but to most parents that’s good enough. As we get older, we kind of forget about the monster. We actually become very good at ignoring the monster and anything associated with it. Although, on the surface everything feels okay, the pain that resides just below the surface is still as real as it when we met it for the first time. And every time, someone touches on the subject of our pain, our stomachs tighten as this pain bursts through the surface. This feels so terrifying that instead of feeling fear, we often experience a sudden burst of anger or sadness which we project outward. This results in an out of proportion reaction to what just happened, usually leaving the recipients of our outburst baffled, angry or sad.
The good news is that it’s a curable thing. We all have our assigned monsters, monsters that scare us the most. The top scarer is called ‘You’re not good enough’, closely followed by ‘No one loves you’. We either have a few small monsters in our closet or one humonguous monster. It really doesn’t matter, the recipe to get rid of them, is the same. For it to go away, we have to acknowledge it’s there and look it in the eye. We have to have the guts to sit in the dark, to watch our closet door open, to watch and hear that monster come closer, to feel the deep fear and pain arise, to resist the overwhelming urge to look or run away, to get sad or angry. When we do and have the courage to just sit still and do nothing, to look at it without judging it, we will finally see that the monster that causes our fear, in reality is just a huge, very huggable, blue bear, who scares because he cares.