What's in the gallery?

We dissolve stuck and rewrite patterns. We apply radical playfulness to life (when we feel like it!), embarking on internal adventures (credo of Safety First). We have a fake band called Solved By Cake. We build invisible sanctuaries, invent words and worlds, breathe awe and wonder.

We are not impressed by monsters. Except when we are. We explore the connections between internal territories and surrounding environment to learn what marvelously supportive delicious space feels like, and how to take exquisite care of ourselves. We transform things.* We glow wild.**

* For example: Desire, fear, worry, pain-and-trauma, boundaries, that problematic word which rhymes with flaweductivity.

** Fair warning: Self-fluency has been known to lead to extremely subversive behavior, including treasuring yourself unconditionally, unapologetically taking up space, experiencing outrageously improbable levels of self-acceptance, and general rejoicing in aliveness.


Monster-Watching: Some notes.

So I spend a lot of time with my monsters.

Sometimes I have negotiators or moderators. Sometimes my monsters get cookies. Sometimes they don’t (not all monsters like cookies).

And it seemed appropriate to give some more information about the what, why and how of monsters, in case you want to talk to some of yours.

So. What is a monster?

A stuckness. A block. A wall.

Internal criticism. Old stuckified beliefs about what is true (like the outsider complex).

Anything you think to yourself (or about yourself) that hurts.

But why monsters? I don’t want monsters!

You don’t have to have monsters, sweetie. Of course not!

Some people talk about the Inner Critic. Tapes. Pictures. Voices. Stories. Narrative. Gremlins. Someone I know has flock of birds — the Flock of Stuck. Fi has her goblin (Mike). And, of course, Jung knew about the shadow.

These all work. Substitute whatever you like when I say “monster” — it’s okay by me.

The reason I go with monsters is this: as metaphors go, this one has helpful elements. Enough to make Metaphor Mouse proud. Because the monster metaphor is about transformation.

Here’s what pretty much always happens.

When you’re working on a stuck or sitting with a hurt or working through the layers, you eventually discover that your stuck just wants to protect you.

Your monster means well. It’s just going about it all wrong

Your monster is small and vulnerable and fuzzy. And it just wants to know that you’ll be okay. And that’s why it makes itself so big and fierce — to scare you into letting it take care of you.

And once it knows that you know, it can turn into something else.

When we actually interact with our monsters (and recognize their intentions, while still letting them know that it is not okay to keep freaking us out like that), they change shape.

From big, bad wolves and scary, menacing shadow creatures … into pocket-sized playthings with enormous googly eyes.

From that sense of dread because ohmygod something horrible is Right Behind You … into Sulley from Monsters, Inc.*

* Best tagline ever: “We Scare Because We Care”.

From Max‘s initial impression of the Wild Things roaring their terrible roars and gnashing their terrible teeth … to his realization that they can’t hurt him.

They’re just fuzzmuffin furball playmates, as vulnerable to loneliness and hurt as he is.

Talking to your monsters is all about witnessing this transformation.

And really, being the one who initiates that transformation by showing up and being genuinely curious about the monster and your relationship with it.

We don’t kill monsters. Or hunt them. Or scare them.

We talk to them.

We let them know what we need to feel safe and supported and loved.

We find out what they need. Where their safety is.

We are curious about them. We are curious about ourselves.

I don’t mean to imply that they’re not scary. Because they are.

It’s super important to acknowledge the scariness of the scary (because encountering a monster really is terrifying).

And that has to happen before we can recognize whatever good intentions or old, out-of-date defense mechanisms might be behind the scary.

Eventually you might realize that whoah, your monster is a total sweetiepie fuzzball. Or that might never happen. Either way, we start with noticing how uncomfortable it is to be frightened.

That’s the starting point. Permission to be scared. And to ask for help. And to have other people stand up for you to negotiate and document the experience.

Would you like to meet some of my monsters?

Obviously you’ve already met my fear and my hurt and my anxious and my stuck.

But some of the physical representations of monsters who live in my house.

This is Diki.


He is a very menacing dragon.

And on the right he’s dressed as a pirate duck. Along with Selma who’s dressed as a pirate dragon. For Purim.

(Thanks, Elizabeth the Bee for surprising us with hand-made costumes! You rock!)


Schmooasaurus is below left. He is a super-schmoo.

That’s Miflatzon at bottom right. Pictured here with his girlfriend Sophie, who is French (and not a monster at all).

He is my little Monsterchen!


Please note him rocking the sovereignty crown, which was a present from Deborah.

It’s not that all monsters are as cute as these guys.

Certainly most of mine aren’t. *shudders*

When we’re in the scary, we’re really in it.

And so I don’t in any way mean to imply that the fear isn’t legitimate or that our perception of how mean they are is wrong.

Of course not.

Just that the more we actively learn about our monsters, the easier it is to recognize their hidden motivations. And their extreme fuzziness.

I keep the monsters I already know around so that I can remember how something that used to terrify me is now familiar.

So that I can remember how I used to believe my monsters when they said I wasn’t a writer. Or when they told me I would fail miserably.

I can remember how useful it was to discover that they were just trying to keep me from getting hurt. And what happened when I stopped being impressed by them.

Some of them went away. Or morphed into other things. And some of them became schnoogly friends who sit at my side while I write to you.

You do not have to like your monsters.

You do not have to become friends with your monsters.

You don’t have to be grateful for them or appreciate them or anything. Blech. Not required!

There are no shoulds in monster-watching.

You get to have negotiators and protectors. You get to have support and love. You get to have hand-holding when you want hand-holding and to be left alone when you want to be left alone.

The point of the watching isn’t to scare you. Or them.

The point of the watching is to find out what happens when you bring attention to your world and your experiences.

And maybe to be surprised.

Comment zen.

We all have our stuff. We’re all working on our stuff.

We try to be patient while interacting with our stuff. We don’t throw shoes or give advice. And, of course, we give everyone’s monsters or non-monsters lots of room to be what they are.

*blows kisses at Commenter Mice and all the Beloved Lurkers*

59 Responses to Monster-Watching: Some notes.

  1. helen
    Twitter: SneakyEli

    Best tag-line ever, indeed! :)

    I think Seth calls them the lizzard brain.

    We Scare Because We Care

  2. Kathleen Avins
    Twitter: spiralsongkat

    I think one of my monsters is a dragon, who wants me to stay safe in my cave and hoard my treasure, and not risk sharing it with the world. It’s fairly easy for me to love this dragon, but can be difficult for me to persuade it to let me venture out into the world!

    Thank you for sharing those pictures of your monsters, Havi. So dear!
    .-= Kathleen Avins´s last post … This probably shouldn’t surprise me… =-.

  3. Hiro Boga
    Twitter: HiroBoga

    Hi Diki! (And Selma and the rest of the muffins.) I love the costumes Elizabeth made!

    Maybe we could have a Monsters’ Ball, and bring along our motley crews to keep each other company. :-)
    .-= Hiro Boga´s last post … Blowing Bubbles, Exploding Patterns, and the Myth of Stuck =-.

  4. Cairene
    Twitter: thirdhandworks

    Yes! a Monster’s Masquerade Ball!
    (and -oh- the cuteness! Elizabeth the Bee? Best ever.)
    oxo C
    .-= Cairene´s last post … A Month of Sucker Punches =-.

  5. JoVE
    Twitter: jovanevery

    I’m so glad you have real monsters. I have been thinking about getting some so I can take them when I do talks about writing for academics. I think I still need to work out how that’ll work. (In my experience, academics have lots of monsters.)
    .-= JoVE´s last post … Considering going on to PhD =-.

  6. Anna-Liza
    Twitter: Divina712

    Wow, I wander off for a while and when I come back, you greet me with a perfect-for-me-today post again.

    How’d you do that?
    .-= Anna-Liza´s last post … Pollyanna Sings Happy Birthday =-.

  7. Another Beth says:

    I just realized while reading this that to my monsters I’m a monster. All the no-shoulds and all the get-tos apply to them too. So one of my monsters now has a protector & is feeling much better. She is even thinking about leaving her cave to look at the stars. Thank you


  8. Riin
    Twitter: happyfuzzyyarn

    I don’t know what my migraine monsters look like. I’ve talked to them about how I don’t like it when they squeeze my eyeballs, but they still do it. Maybe I could bribe them?
    .-= Riin´s last post … New stuff =-.

  9. laine says:

    My monsters are sometimes Demons on a Boat:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z-wyaP6xXwE But I keep steering away towards shore since they can’t actually hurt me.
    Link can also be found here: http://www.getselfhelp.co.uk/metaphors.htm for people (like me) who don’t like clicking on random You Tube links.

  10. Kelly Parkinson
    Twitter: copylicious

    I love these costumes. How can you not be nice to a monster who is wearing a pirate costume? Elizabeth, you are amazing. Havi, I almost want you to have more monsters so they can all get costumes. I want a whole pirate monster infantry! Ah well. Maybe I’ll focus on giving my own monster a starter wardrobe. I think he would look nice in a tennis skirt.
    .-= Kelly Parkinson´s last post … How to Get an Awkward-Free Testimonial (Take 2) =-.

  11. katana
    Twitter: artistkatana

    oh thanks. i am having such a sad day. i’m going to go draw some monsters now.

  12. SusanJ says:

    Wow- Another Beth, what a fabulous insight!! It never occurred to me that to my monsters, I’M a monster, trying to make them come with me to all kinds of scary places.

    Ah, yes, time for even more compassion!
    .-= SusanJ´s last post … The Myth of “I don’t feel like it” (Part I) =-.

  13. Wormy
    Twitter: SecretWormy

    I am very pleased to meet all your monsters – they appear to be well trained in fuzziness.

    I am mostly bored of being scared of my monsters and thus when they are playing up, attempt to ignore the scariness because, really I’m thinking, “Oh here we go again… blah, blah, blah.”

    It is perhaps not so compassionate, thinking about it. Actually, thinking that maybe one of my monsters tells me that fear is boring and if I am boring, no one will like me much.

    Oh goodness.

    Often, I also feel like I have no time for my monsters and so I tell them to go away and come back another time. They don’t of course, they simply go undercover and wear funny coats and cause more havoc because I’ve convinced myself that they’ve listened and gone away.

    Oh goodness.

    Sometimes these comments bring surprising revelations.
    .-= Wormy´s last post … The best day off ever =-.

  14. Josiane
    Twitter: kimianak

    Oh, the awesomeness that is our dear Elizabeth the Bee! Those costumes are fabulous!
    .-= Josiane´s last post … A (huge!) shift in perspective =-.

  15. Katy
    Twitter: katytafoya

    *ugh* must have a chat with my monsters, but I’m just not feeling it just yet. Which of course means they’re working their magic after all.

    .-= Katy´s last post … Social Networking in Plain English =-.

  16. Kate T.W.
    Twitter: Kate_TW

    Thank you for sharing those most cuddly monsters. I love the idea of cataloging the fear monsters I used to have– see where they are now, who they have become– The visual part of it is really helpful.

    The chant I keep in my head as much as I possibly can is from Letters to a Young Poet by Rilke. It begins, ‘How should we be able to forget those ancient myths that are at the beginning of all peoples? The myths about dragons who, at the last moment, turn into princesses. Perhaps all the dragons of our lives are princesses, who are only waiting to see us, once beautiful and brave. Perhaps everything terrible is, in its deepest being, something helpless that wants help from us…”

    Like you with your no ‘shoulds’ Rilke uses the word perhaps. Perhaps it is so. Worth looking into.
    .-= Kate T.W.´s last post … Moonday Experiment– Unleashing Your Wild Creativity =-.

  17. Sonicsuns says:

    Interesting metaphor

  18. Andrew Lightheart
    Twitter: alightheart

    The bit I keep forgetting is to acknowledge the current situation – that the monsters are pretty good at being terrified and here I am (hi!) being terrified.

    Even knowing that the terror will most probably turn out to be groundless doesn’t help.

    Good reminder – I’m feeling some Stuck and Overwhelm around some stuff today, so will head back with some more gentleness.

    (Could also be because I’m about to be home alone for 2 1/2 weeks – yay! boo! yay! boo! boo hoo! still yay!)
    .-= Andrew Lightheart´s last post … On Being Certain – Robert Burton – Lazy Book Review #2 =-.

  19. Ilana says:

    I watch a lot of TV. I watch a lot of American TV, which is odd because I live in Israel. But anyway…
    So I’ve been watching Ghost Whisperer (I know!). And reading this post really brought into focus the message of that show. In every episode there is a very scary ghost who has some unfinished business and is causing problems for those s/he left behind. And the main character (Melinda, for those who haven’t seen it), recognizes that there is a ghost, overcomes her own fears and helps the ghost finish whatever is holding them in the world. The ghost hangs on because of love, fear, protection, needing forgiveness – any of the spectrum of emotions. As the episode progresses, the ghost becomes a lot less scary – visually and emotionally. After working through the unfinished business, the ghost goes into the Light, where there is love and forgiveness or whatever it is that they need. These are usually not Melinda’s ghosts, but she helps so many people move past the stuckness that the ghosts are causing.
    Every episode is a lesson in how to recognize the ghost holding you back and in true Hollywood fashion, the issue is resolved within the hour – which is kind of inspirational.
    So to quote Keanu Reeves: “Whoa.”

  20. Lauren
    Twitter: ltrouton

    Thank you! Between this post and the teleclass, I have a lot to think about. I guess I better go carve out a little quiet. *hugs*

  21. Danielle
    Twitter: somaphile

    I love this. Selma looks so freaking cute in costume!

    As usual, very timely. Thanks for the reminder to not take my monsters (or myself!) too seriously. It’s so helpful.


  22. R.M. Koske says:

    The first time I tried talking to my (at the time) biggest monster, I realized I couldn’t do it. At all. It was way too scary. So my mediator and I had a nice discussion about what it might take to make me feel safe enough to do it. And somehow I got terrified that it didn’t really matter what I wanted, the monster was *right there* with us even then.

    Which it was, because it was much on my mind. The mediator shooed it away, and I got the strongest sense of embarrassed hurt from it that I was able to relax a bit. I still haven’t spoken to it, but it came and sat a long distance away and we both drank tea and peeked at each other out of the corners of our eyes without making eye contact.

    His name is Donald.


  23. […] And I get to wander around in there checking things out.  Listen, people talk to their monsters; this is doing the same thing except I’m going inside my self (my head/energy […]

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  27. sarahhf
    Twitter: shfitch

    This is so perfect! I’ve been thinking a lot about my monsters lately, but I hadn’t thought of such a clever and demystifying way of looking at them.

    My two, um, “favorites”:

    The monster who says “you can’t let anyone help you! If you do, how will you know that you’re smarter than them? And if you’re not the very smartest of them all, what are you worth? Not much!” (this monster is named Rabbit.)

    And the monster who says “you can’t finish this project, because once it’s finished, what on earth are you going to do with yourself? Don’t you know you’re only good at one thing?” (this monster is named Penelope.)

    I get that my monsters are trying to keep me in my comfort zone. I’ve always tended to define myself by my intelligence and writing skills and nothing else, but grad school made this a million times worse by letting me think of myself as just “a grad student” and not giving me any time to be anything else. It wasn’t until I found myself coming up on the deadline for graduation, totally locked up on finishing one last incomplete assignment, that I realized that something in me really didn’t want me to move on.

    I guess the monsters are just scared, and trying to look out for me. It’s been a real project trying to convince them that just because I’m good at writing and research doesn’t mean I can’t do anything else, and it won’t be the end of the world if I have to do something that I’m NOT very good at. I think they’re starting to come around.

    Again, thanks for this post. I’m going to share it with my friends, I think it will help them, too.

  28. […] Havi is so excellent at knowing what to say to different things monsters tell you (and wrote two really helpful posts on dealing with […]

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  36. Helen
    Twitter: flyingblogspot

    I love this post – thank you!

    Ever since I read it, my monsters look like the Alot from this webcomic: http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/2010/04/alot-is-better-than-you-at-everything.html :D
    .-= Helen´s last post … Tiny Shop is Tiny =-.

  37. RichardAlois says:

    A monster is what you see in the pic below.
    .-= RichardAlois´s last post … My Life As A Monster =-.

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  50. Kate
    Twitter: greatjustgreat

    I just bought the Monster Manual and talked to my first monster. Which admittedly felt ridiculous while I was doing it. But it was worth it to identify this one, a really loud monster whose full name is “Kate has to work all the time or she’ll end up destitute and lose the love and respect of everyone important to her, in addition to her home and all her possessions.” I call her Marge. After we talked and agreed that Marge could try, *as an experiment*, not to yell all the time, I felt an amazing physical sense of relief. Something shifted under my ribs, on my right side, and got a little bit lighter and I actually laughed. Havi, thank you so much for everything you do.

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