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The truth about the monsters under your bed

My bed sits high off the floor. In fact, I have a little bitty staircase helping me get into it. Isn’t that ridiculous? But I tend to be over the top in many of the things I do, and my bed is but one reflection of this. Also, my bed has no skirting. So, walk into my bedroom and you get a fantastic view of what’s under it. Now you get where I am going. Nobody wants the underside of their bed on display. We use it to hide things, as storage for things we can’t find a place for, it is perfect for kicking something under we don’t want company to see. Let’s be honest, especially for those of us with wood floors, all our dust bunnies are underneath there having a little dust bunny party. Add in a very fluffy white cat and it’s downright gross. One of the things I have learned with this bed is my threshold for gross is pretty high. I can live with it. Again, my bed, and its underbelly tend to tell the story of me. The story is a little too honest for my liking.

As a child, I don’t remember being afraid of monsters under the bed. However, I have worked with children who, come nightfall, are certain there is something nefarious awaiting them right under their own bed. A lot of times, an exposed foot would be tempting enough to call Monster out, so they use their sheets as armor to protect against the vile creature. Getting up for a nighttime restroom break is unfathomable. The danger is too great. I have even instructed parents to spray Lysol under the bed. It is commonly known fact amongst us therapist types that Lysol will stop Monster dead in his tracks. All of these are temporary fixes, none of them address the very real fear something unknown is lingering and is dead set on causing us harm. So eventually we address this fear. The answer is really simple and perhaps the most difficult thing of all. At some point this child must leave the safety of his bed, grab a flashlight, put his feet on the floor and look under it. It is the only way. He must know in his being there is nothing to fear. Parents can help, but ultimately it is a journey he must make on his own. It is perhaps the bravest thing he will ever do, to look the demon under his bed in the eye. Except we know how this ends. Once our child finds his courage, he has already won. All that is left is to see for himself there is no demon. Do this enough times, and he realizes he is safe.

We know there are no monsters under the bed. Or do we? The underside of my bed had become a metaphor for some of my fears. Fears perhaps you also have. I am not enough. I am way too much. There is something in me which is broken, and I will forever walk around with a limp. Something is going to be taken from me. Something is going to come my way I am not equipped to handle. Someone is going to hurt me. I am going to hurt someone else. I will not be accepted. I will be alone. I will not be liked. I will disappoint somebody important to me. I will not live up to my potential. Somebody I love will die. My own body might turn against me. I will miss out on a precious opportunity. I will leave my potential untapped. I will never fulfill my purpose. I will go down a path never meant for me and suffer the consequences. Do these sound familiar? Everybody’s fear list is a little different, but I imagine there is a common thread between us all.

I recognized the mess under my bed was in fact reflecting a lot of what was going on with me emotionally. To keep sane, I repeatedly ask myself what I am afraid of. Left unchecked, my mind will eat its own self for the fears creeping in on it. Taking time to identify my fears is the first step in coming face to face with my demons. It is my first step in restoring myself to sanity.  I am what I refer to as an experiential person. I am the person who needs to write the letter and never mail it. I am the person who needs to weed the garden as I weed away the unwanted things in my life. I am the one who must cull the clothes and items for Goodwill to make space for new things in my life. It should not surprise you in addressing some fears, I literally had to get under my bed and pull them out one by one, name them and then put them in the trash. But here is the thing. Just like those kids with the fear of the monster, I have a fear of addressing my fears too. Oh, I know they are costing me peace, but for far too long I will pay that price. Looking a demon in the eye is not for the weak. Being deeply afraid of addressing what has the potential to harm us demands a courage only a few of us will ever know. No wonder the demons and the mess of life gathers under our bed, out of sight, hidden even from ourselves.

Here is the challenge. Grab your flashlight. In my case, I lean on my God to be that flashlight. Put your precious feet on the ground, no matter how unsteady they feel. Stand up in your fright, and ever so gently shine your light under the bed. Look around really good for the thing causing you to lose your peace. Look around for the things meaning to harm you. There is nothing there. At least, nothing worth the price you have been paying because you didn’t want to fight them. I once described the process of fighting my demons to a friend. He had done this himself. He listened to my experience and said, “Tracy there is no such thing as fighting demons. The moment you are willing to fight them, they are gone.” My friend is incredibly wise. My friend is incredibly right.

This is not a onetime deal. Even after you clean up the fears under your bed, they may come back. They may bring meaner and more threatening friends. But the instruction still applies. When you’re ready, stop using sheets as your armor. Quit trying to make yourself comfortable when all you must do is take that restroom break. Stop it with the Lysol already. Put your sweet feet on the floor and shine the light on those demons. I promise you the moment you are willing to be brave enough to face down those demons, you’ll find there are none there. The demons are defeated, and you’re crowned the victor the moment you become willing.