Battle of the Subconscious

Growing up, I was obsessed with cartoons. I watched Rugrats and Spongebob before jumping on the schoolbus. I got home from school around 3 o’clock every day, which was just in time to plop down in my favorite chair to catch the latest episode of Pokemon. At night, it was whatever I could catch on Nickelodeon or Cartoon Network (usually Courage the Cowardly Dog).

I always found one recurring theme quite silly – the angel and devil popping up on a character’s shoulders. They obviously represented the character’s conscious and often two polar opposites on the end of a big decision. Our heavenly little figure consistently trying to guide the character towards the better option, while the demonic minion coaxes the character towards mischief.

It was not until I became a young adult going through my own therapy that I understood how prevalent this internal conflict really is. As I delved deeper into my childhood trauma and how it ultimately affected my development, I experienced extended periods of overwhelming anxiety. Many times I could not identify the trigger. A feeling of uneasiness and discomfort would strike me out of nowhere, and it could last anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks.

As I brought awareness to it, it only seemed to grow worse. However, it would wax and wane. I could go months without it, and, then, BOOM, it’s back.

Through introspection and counseling, I finally came to understand the conflict’s source. Deep down my trauma engrained an insecure, childish fiend that constantly sought out emotional connection. This often came out as a sex-crazed man who used his charisma to put on a façade of confidence to accomplish his goal. He would manipulate women in subtle ways through power of suggestion and with boyish charm. The ultimate goal being to engage them in physical intimacy just to feel connected to someone even if only for a short time.

This is my devil.

Okay, yeah. It felt good in the moment. It was fun while it lasted, but it felt so wrong. After the fact, I felt disgusted and ashamed of myself. I engaged in an act for temporary pleasure, but it left me unfulfilled in the long run. It went against everything I stood for.

I wanted to be a genuine person. I yearned for long-term connection with someone while being myself. I value being there for others, making them smile, and displaying blunt honesty in my relationships. I shouldn’t have to fall back on the power of suggestion and subtle manipulation versus authenticity.

This, however, is my angel.

Over the last several years, I have taken a plethora of steps to nurture my angel.

  • Self-care. What better way to nurture your angel than by taking care of it and spoiling it from time to time. If you take care of yourself, you are showing yourself how much you matter and how important you are.
  • Talking about it or expressing it. At least for me, I need to air out my issues. It helps me to get other people’s perspectives and to keep myself in check. By expressing it, this could also be through expressive means like art, music, or writing. It just helps to organize and process what is going on internally. It helps put you at ease and not feel so chaotic.
  • Go with your gut. Don’t do anything that will make you question yourself. Go with your gut. If your intuition tells you that is feels wrong, your gut is probably right.
  • Identify and stick to your values. Some people do not even know where to start with their values. If you need a starting point, try this little exercise. Once you get an idea, then make sure your decisions, actions, and relationships embrace these values.
  • Ensure your goals incorporate your values. Work towards something that you believe in. It will help foster a stronger bond with yourself and your angel. It will also make them easier to achieve.

After a while, your genuine, angelic side becomes a bit more second nature. It gets easier with practice. I do want to get to a point where my devil looks at my angel and starts taking notes for itself.

-The Caring Counselor

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