Face Your Demons. Slay Your Dragons. Mend Your Broken Heart.

“We all have the dark, ignorant shadow inside us. I have worked endlessly to reveal it and heal it in me.” ~ Anne Lamott

Psychotherapy has been described as the opportunity to explore with a compassionate, experienced guide what is often called the dark night of the soul. It is the journey to face your demons. Slay your dragons. Mend your broken heart.

photo courtesy of Timo Volz, Unsplash

Sounds like fun, doesn’t it?

Well, OK, maybe not fun. But necessary. Courageous. A way to unravel your family legacy of, say, abandonment, loss, abuse, trauma, and/or denial, and to make an actual contribution to world peace (I’m serious.) because you are no longer unconsciously re-enacting patterns set up by your crazy (not a technical term) or neurotic or abusive or delusional ancestors and projecting them onto innocent bystanders, including your children. In fact, you will, instead, be repairing the damage, disrupting the legacy, soothing your worn out nervous system, learning self-compassion, and discovering your particular path(s) to love and to creating a better world.

Granted, I am a psychotherapist, so I see most things through this lens. But I am guessing you will agree, we have a whole lot of unconscious, delusional, re-enactment going on these days. Some might say, we always have; it is just more obvious now. I would have to agree. And I recognize there are a lot of different opinions about how best to address the shadow side of humanity mayhem. In my view, there is no one particular right path or one answer for everyone. And yet. For those of you who see your own demons and dragons running amok, those of you who are brave enough to notice you do, in fact, have a broken heart to mend, this might be a journey you are ready to take.

What I have seen in myself and my clients as we dig ourselves out from under the rubble of our early lives (oh so many therapy metaphors!), is that you build a new foundation. You build a safe home where you can learn to trust and love yourself so you can trust and love others. Gradually, your outer life improves as your inner life is healed. And then, your rainforest mind is free to express itself in its fullest, overexcitable-est, idealistic-est, creative-est ways. I mean it.

Your ancestors will thank you. Your children will thank you. Your demons and dragons will run amok marathons for charitable causes.


To my dearest bloggEEs: Just so you know, this is not an advertisement for my therapy services! I am only licensed to provide therapy in Oregon. (I do consult worldwide but that is not therapy.) Here is a short list of therapists to start your search. And, if you are not interested in therapy at this time (or if you have lost your job due to COVID), there are other ways to do inner work. Several of those resources are described in my first book. (If you want therapy but can not afford it, find a good person and ask for a sliding scale.)

If you have been particularly distressed by recent events in N. America, here are some encouraging words from Van Jones: “Breakdowns can lead to breakthroughs if you use them right. Maybe, just maybe, this much disunity can open the door for unity.” Here is an uplifting song: The Keep Going Song by the Bengsons. And here is an organization working to heal the divisions.

Let us know in the comments how you are doing (avoiding specific political rants–those are not really helpful here–but I surely understand the need to rant). Have you found a good therapist? What else do you do for self-healing? Have you found a furry friend? Do you wear your emotional support sweater? Do you let yourself cry? I am sending love to all of you to help you mend your broken hearts and to give you courage during these difficult times. Thank you for being here. Your love sustains me.

Author: Paula Prober

I’m a psychotherapist and consultant in private practice based in Eugene, Oregon. I specialize in international consulting with gifted adults and parents of gifted children. I’ve been a teacher and an adjunct instructor at the University of Oregon and a frequent guest presenter at Oregon State University and Pacific University. I’ve written articles on giftedness for the Eugene Register-Guard, the Psychotherapy Networker, Advanced Development Journal and online for psychotherapy dot net, Rebelle Society, Thrive, Introvert Dear, and Highly Sensitive Refuge. My first book, Your Rainforest Mind: A Guide to the Well-Being of Gifted Adults and Youth, is a collection of case studies of gifted clients along with many strategies and resources for gifted adults and teens. My second book, Journey Into Your Rainforest Mind: A Field Guide for Gifted Adults and Teens, Book Lovers, Overthinkers, Geeks, Sensitives, Brainiacs, Intuitives, Procrastinators, and Perfectionists is a collection of my most popular blog posts along with writing exercises for self-exploration and insight.

15 responses to “Face Your Demons. Slay Your Dragons. Mend Your Broken Heart.”

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  1. 𝒥 𝑀𝒸𝒟𝒶𝓃𝒾𝑒𝓁 Avatar
    𝒥 𝑀𝒸𝒟𝒶𝓃𝒾𝑒𝓁

    I was already starting the final steps towards recovery when… the world was turned upside down, again, this time, worse than ever, ever before in my life… for a long time, I wondered if it was over for me, if all my hopes for recovering were ill-founded… you ever heard the saying “sometimes the only way through it is through it?” Basically means, sometimes you just got to surrender to it and let it pass, and it will finally pass.

    That’s what I started doing. I literally allowed myself to go crazy. If I was angry, I reacted for the first time in my life instead of trying to be a saint all the time. I freaking made up imaginary friends and talked to them if I was lonely… something I haven’t dared to do since I developed it as a coping mechanism for isolation as a child. I allowed the triggers and flashbacks to come… I showed no more restraint. And after many months of what was beginning to seem like my end, I started to see some light.

    Now recovery has turned into something entirely weird and new. Uplifting, but at a pace I’m not quite healthy enough yet to keep pace with (trauma does eventually start tearing up your physical health, and I have been battling that too for the past five years). And TBH, I’m a little scared of myself, but I also finally understand what all this “disintegration” talk has been about. You’re talking about taking down all the fences I built around myself to keep myself from venturing too far off from standard norms lest I be written off as yet just another crazy eccentric. Doesn’t really matter because I’m still seen as a crazy eccentric, hahaha. 😉

    I don’t think I’ve ever cried as much in my life as I have over the course of a year. I only hope that by March, those tears will have all dried up. There’s already signs of it ceasing. I feel like this all really accelerated what was going to be one long, LONG recovery period.

    Still scared, though. Basically just testing the water with my foot like I used to as a kid. Yeah, thanks for making me bust into tears with that one article discussing a child that didn’t want to jump into the water! lol That was and still is me… always cautious and taking my time with jumps into unchartered territories, wanting to be sure and know everything first so I don’t mess it up.

    So please pardon me while I stop to catch my breath. <3

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      It sounds like your path has been quite hard, J. I hope you have found support along the way. And that you give yourself permission to take your time and be gentle with yourself. <3

    2. renovatio06 Avatar

      Sounds a bit reminiscent of my own journey, J, I feel you there. I found that movies have a strong emotional impact on me and kind of break off the remaining layers of “residue” from (problematic) coping mechanisms that would protect me back then, but keep me from building and mainaining healthy relationships now. Yeah, sometimes only right through the middle of it is the only way. If it’s any solace: I find it to be the most truthful, authentic way (and crying is an incredibly efficient, free of charge tool to release pent up anger, stress, fear… and all kinds of other detrimental self harming feelings, I found. Just my 2 cents, not meaning to take Paula’s post “hostage”…)

      1. Paula Prober Avatar
        Paula Prober

        It’s fine, renovatio06! No hostage taking! And you are describing your own experience versus giving advice, which is appreciated.

  2. renovatio06 Avatar

    Right on “the money” again, Paula! Recently, I’ve been noticing how my vulnerable and still injured aspects of self come more openly and more strongly to the fore (those still hurting aspects of the “inner child”, I guess). In particular, movies that somehow tell a story that reminds me of my own, have a strong – emotional, and thus also healing – effect on me. If I could: “(The Invention of) Hugo Chabret”, find it on the streaming service of choice or … as a birdie told me, there are free streams to be found … (hush… 😉 ). That along with music, film score as of late, seems to do “the trick” and get me ‘broken open’ as it were – and the pain can come out and be released, every tear is another drop into the big bowl of healing potion 🙂

    As far as encouragement: I found this

    to offer some very strong and ultimately positive, uplifting/empowering statements or messages, although to be taken with a grain of salt as it were, in particular her phrase “evolution is good. It may not be kind. But it is good.” The late Barbara Marx Hubbard, a “mutant” as some confidant nicknamed her. I had to chime in her liberating, heartfelt laughter several times, she’s so great and simply adorable! Hope, it resonates with some here. (R.I.P., Mrs. Hubbard)

    Happy and healthy – very belated – New Year, Paula and everyone visiting here!

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thank you, renovatio06. I haven’t looked at this video yet but I have heard good things about Barbara Marx Hubbard.

  3. chris shuraleff Avatar
    chris shuraleff

    Right on Paula…..very well put!!!love ya,Chris

  4. Deborah Nam-Krane Avatar
    Deborah Nam-Krane

    I was very grateful for the drop-in group therapy that’s available to me last Friday.

    As shocking as the insurrection was, dealing with my husband’s relatives has been particularly painful. Seeing some of them ostracized and feeling bullied, even if I understand what people are reacting to, is deeply concerning; in my experience, that only hardens people, it doesn’t make them better. Yet it’s hard to reserve kindness for people who are already lashing out at you.

    Last week — and this week — have been exhausting, but if I’m honest, I’ve been exhausted for a very long time. Trying to use this as a guide to look inward and get in touch with what I need to be a stronger person so when I feel attacked again I won’t feel like I need to hibernate for a month.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Group therapy, support groups, and 12 Step groups can be very helpful. Even online, being with others going through similar losses and anxieties can be reassuring and healing. Thank you, Deborah.

  5. M. J. Cuthbertson Avatar
    M. J. Cuthbertson

    Missing, flawed, false, or mythologized information has me wondering about filing the gaps. I can usually move toward understanding unless the information has been altered or doesn’t exist. Any techniques for overcoming those kinds of impediments?

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      I’m not sure what you’re asking M.J. I generally rely on news from reputable sources. NYTimes, NPR, PBS Newshour, Bill Moyers. Is that what you’re wondering?

      1. M. J. Cuthbertson Avatar
        M. J. Cuthbertson

        Sorry, I was trying to be brief. Apparently, too much so. I was referring to life information, familial information about the origin point at which something goes wrong and becomes deeply affecting. Like the true details of an early trauma a parent experienced which later infected everyone else. Not knowing those details makes it difficult to understand. Discovering those details illuminates a clear path to today’s behavior.

        Example: A friend was perpetually late to every kind of event all her adult life. Everyone teased her about it. Then in her 50s we all found out that she’d been sexually assaulted and abused for several years at school by the family priest. The priest knew exactly where in school she was supposed to be and when she was supposed to be there so had perfect access to her. To protect herself as an adult she never was where she was supposed to be when she was supposed to be there. Turns out all the teasing everyone was doing was really exceptionally cruel behavior on our part because we were oblivious to critical information.

        1. Paula Prober Avatar
          Paula Prober

          Oh, I see what you’re asking now. Thank you for clarification. I would say that the information is often altered or forgotten, either within families or in ones own memory. In therapy, over time, gaps can be filled in through tools such as guided imagery, inner child work, dreamwork, journal writing, and EMDR.

  6. itssue42 Avatar

    Oh Paula, you know us so well. In this disconnected time, your blog is one of the rare bright lights that has helped me hang on.

    Regarding hope, I want to throw in my msg from someone who has been a rabid planetary defender and environmental biologist from the day I was born 65 years ago. We do NOW HAVE HOPE. What has happened this last 12 months may well indeed be the best thing that has happened to humans and the planet in a long time. We were looking at the majority of the population polluting, destroying & breeding incessantly with the end of the majority of life on earth (including humans) being only 50 years or so in the future. This excruciating wakeup call was long enough in duration, and its cause has been well explained even to the masses, and especially to industry and politicians, that enough people understand now what is at stake. They understand how drastically we must change course. They understand that if we don’t, then the next ‘pandemic’ may be next year and may kill a billion.

    So there is enormous hope. There are now major governments and companies worldwide committed to saving our incredible planet and its delirious variety of species, even if only to save ourselves. There really is a reason now for real longterm hope; so we all need to get out there and take part. The world is ready for, and desperately needs, people like us to step up.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thanks for sharing the good news, itssue42!

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