Minds, Monsters and the Making of Mentors

How moments of self-destruction hold the key to a freer, richer, more creative and more connected existence

The Mind Monster Project is a platform for people to explore their blocks, fears, vulnerabilities and greatest mistakes. The question we ask is this:

If you could see the part of your personality that causes self-sabotage, what would it look like?

Monsters

I’ve asked thousands of people this question and the answers vary widely. Some see a devil, goblin or gremlin-like creature. Some see a version of themselves or someone else from their life. Others yet (many of us, actually) see something way less defined than those things; we see a blob of slime, a dark shadow or a block of ice.

I call these parts of the personality “monsters” because they are, of course, entirely fictional. And yet, they can still feel utterly terrifying whenever we sense them lurking in a darkened corner of the mind. Or worse, when we look back on our behaviour and realise they’ve taken over and made us do something we regret horribly.

Monsters come in many different shapes and sizes, and they can behave in vastly different ways. But we all have them. It doesn’t matter how together we seem, nor how beautiful, successful or popular we might appear to others, we’re all struggling with something.

Hiding that vulnerability empowers our fear. By meeting, expressing and sharing the monsters of our minds, however, we can take that power back.

The futile fight

It’s natural to want to battle our monsters. As if we’re disciplining a naughty teen, our instinct is to criticise and punish. But here’s the thing:

Monsters don’t realise they’re monsters. They think they’re our saviours.

Monsters are just desperately trying to repeat the reactions that have kept us safe in the past. There is no unconscious behaviour without positive intention. Regardless of how undesirable the real-life result might be, we choose our self-sabotaging reactions because some part of us believes those reactions will protect us. In the case of our monster-decisions, the programming is faulty because it’s based on outdated information. Not because it’s evil.

This means that we can give up the futile fight. And it’s a good thing that we do so because fighting our monsters only ever makes matters worse, no matter how we try to do it.

Perhaps we attempt to cut our monsters down to size by restricting or punishing ourselves? Or to silence them by keeping ourselves quiet and small? Perhaps we try to defer them onto others using anger, blame or resentment. Maybe it’s our preference to drink them into oblivion, numb them with drugs or try to overachieve them out of the picture so we can finally feel good about ourselves…

None of these strategies work because they’re just attempts to fight self-sabotage with self-sabotage. They only ever add fuel to the fire.

Ultimately, the monster is an aspect of the self, and you simply cannot wage war on yourself and then emerge victorious.

The magic of acceptance

But none of this means we need to just put up with our most self-destructive tendencies. We don’t. Learning to accept rather than resist our monsters allows them to evolve into something much more desirable.

Acceptance, however, is a difficult thing at the best of times. And this is particularly true with our monsters. How can we accept something that we’ve spent our entire lives resisting?

This is where the Mind Monster Project can help. In using creativity to explore and express our monsters, we get to give the unruly parts of the Self forms, names and personalities. Drawing and writing about our monsters builds a narrative around them and this humanises the shame, fear or regret that we feel. It means that we open up the opportunity to converse with these parts of the Self, to understand their motivations and, ultimately, to learn from them and grow as people.

It takes a little courage and a healthy dose of lateral thinking, but when we dare to face our self-sabotaging behaviours and emotions, they can even become our greatest strengths. Every challenging experience we face and every mistake we make has within it a lesson yet to be learned. Heed that message and your monster will cease to be monstrous. It’ll become your mentor.

So, what’s your monster’s lesson?

Once you can answer that question, you will have the key to solving your self-sabotaging problem, whatever it may be. That doesn’t mean it’ll be easy. We hide these answers from ourselves for a reason. You can hop over to the Mind Monsters website to meet your monster and get started whenever you’re ready.

For now, I’d like to introduce you to Bob, a monster of the mind intent on procrastinating and causing distractions. I think we all have a bit of Bob in our lives.


Monster Profile

Monster name: Bob
Contributor: David T (therapist)

Bob, a procrastination/distraction monster

Q1. What kind of self-sabotage were you thinking of when drawing your monster?

The name “Bob” came to me while I did the exercise so I went with it. Initially, I thought it was boring and plain. It was only afterwards that I saw the connection: my monster is related to how my mind leaps (bobs) from one job to another. Yesterday, I was constantly distracted and procrastinating, like I was floating at the surface of deep water. So, now the name feels very relevant.

Q2. If your monster could speak, what would it say?

He doesn’t speak, just growls, scoffs and is generally incoherent. Grumpy!

Q3. Where does your monster live?

In my hand(s), possibly because the example of procrastination I was thinking of involved me constantly switching (bobbing) between my laptop and my mobile, getting nothing down.

Q4. Where do you think it might have come from?

Far behind me, in the distance.

Q5. How does it make you feel?

Frustration comes to mind as the overriding feeling. Frustration that I let myself get so distracted and lose focus.

Q6. What kind of future would it create for you if left to its own devices?

A slow and lazy one.

Q7. (The big question) If your monster were here to teach you a valuable lesson — something that would benefit you greatly moving forward, but that might well be hard to hear — what would that lesson be?

He’s teaching me that what was genuinely helpful multitasking earlier in my life has become a hindrance. He’s reminding me that it’s more important and useful to focus on completing individual tasks, one at a time — to not get distracted and stay disciplined.

When I remember to accept him, rather than resist, he looks different. He changes name too, becoming S. T. A. M. (Single Task Action Man), and he’s much bigger than Bob.

Ultimately, Bob crops up to remind me when self-acceptance is needed, and S. T. A. M helps me to get the job done because when I operate from a place of self-acceptance, I can remember that I am in control of my behaviours (not Bob).

Single Task Action Man, the result of self-acceptance and autonomy.

Thank you for visiting The Mind Monster Project. Want to join the movement? If so, you can meet your monster here. Expressive writing submissions are also welcome. And you can support the project by connecting on Instagram or joining the Facebook Group.