The Harry Potter series has given us many vivid and compelling images. One of my favorites is the “Dementors.” Bullies can act like Dementors. They can torment us and suck the joy out of any wonderful moment or out of our plans for a wonderful future.
Some people also have personal, inner Dementors that suck the joy and commitment out of their lives.
In addition to the pain caused by their harassment, abuse and bullying, external Dementors are like energy vampires who can suck our will and determination. They can make us see the world as a hateful place. At home, at school, in friendships or at work, people afflicted by these bullies seem to trudge through life, waiting for the next attack even though they never know when it will come.
Usually overlooked are our personal Dementors that can whisper loudly in our ears or mind at any moment. But they’re most often active around 2 AM. Since they’re part of us, inner Dementors know our every hesitation, weakness, sin, anxiety, fear and self-judgment. They know exactly how to put us down for maximum effect. They know how to best undercut us when we feel good or to cut us down by self-bullying, negative, self-talk.
Using blame, shame, guilt, and remorse or recrimination, inner Dementors rub our nose in every imperfection. Sometimes wordlessly or sometimes in a parent’s voice they can destroy our confidence and self esteem. They can blacken our future and make us give up.
Even though we can hear those Dementors at 2 AM in our parent’s voices, we eventually discover that it’s we who are holding ourselves back and destroying our lives. It’s like that scene from “Star Wars,” in which Luke Skywalker is being trained by Yoda and he must go into a cave to fight Darth Vader. He wins the fight and rips off Darth’s helmet only to discover his own face behind the mask.
What can we do at 2 AM? Our personal Dementors tend to come when we’re at our weakest, in that state between sleep and waking. In that fog, we’re less able to gather ourselves and resist. So a good response, when we can’t fall right back to sleep is to wake up completely. Get out of bed, take a shower; wake up.
Our “Monkey Minds” need something to pay attention to all the time so give them something useful to do. When we’re fully awake we can resist more effectively. We can see the lies in all the put-downs. We’re not really that bad. We’re only that bad when viewed through eyes that don’t love us, that hate us, including the hostile eyes many people grew up with. We can talk back to those hostile voices, send them back to the people they really belong to and let our own versions rise up and pop like bubbles in soda.
When we can look at ourselves through eyes of love and understanding, we can connect once again with our strength, courage and determination to do better. Like Ebenezer Scrooge, we can leap out of bed each morning and grab another chance to do better. No matter how many times we’ve failed, if we have another day, we can do better. We can use our caring for ourselves as a springboard to be at our best.