Monster Work: Hunting for the Inner Beast
by Raven Kaldera
Yes, he’s still down there.
In the basement, where he belongs.
We all have one down there, don’t we? Some of us have more than one. I’m not talking about slaves in your private dungeon. I’m talking about the Beast. The creature who can’t be allowed to run the body, because he’d do something stupid or destructive or embarrassing or perhaps even evil. The part of yourself that you’d like to pretend doesn’t exist. Perhaps you even manage to convince yourself that he—or she—isn’t there. Perhaps you manage to ignore the banging and clanking going on down there...until they saw through the floor and hijack you, if only for a moment.
We’ve all been there, too—“Why the hell did I do that? Where did that come from?” The truth is that the more that you ignore them, the more vulnerable you are to them. It’s when you turn your back that they get you.
Some monsters are dangerous. If they were let loose, they would wreak all sorts of havoc on all sorts of random targets. People would get hurt, maybe killed. Property would not be respected. They would end up head-to-head with the monsters of others, and it would go badly. That’s why we teach self-control, and rules, and boundaries. Anarchy, sooner or later, means that the people with the meanest monsters win.
Some monsters are pathetic. They are limp and clingy and the want to be taken care of, much to the embarrassment of their keepers. They don’t want to take responsibility for their lives. They are needy and weak and little problems are too much for them. They may let themselves be doormats, but there’s a streak of self-satisfied martyrdom in it, or perhaps just a paralyzed limpness. It’s not altruism, it’s screwed up.
All monsters are selfish. They want what they want, and they want it now. They want to run your life, and they usually have lousy judgment. They can’t be allowed into the driver’s seat. Yet you have to live with them, because they are there, and they won’t go away no matter how hard you ignore them.
These are the Rules of Monster Work. They are Rules that I’ve learned from long experience in wrestling with my monster, and with helping other people with theirs. They have always shown themselves to be true and useful, even if they are not politically correct or particularly pleasant.
Rule 1) Keeping your monster locked up and pretending that they aren’t there never works. They will bang and clank their chains, they will slam against the bars, they will keep you up all night, they will shout awful things at you at the worst possible moment. In order to block them out entirely, you must go about in such a state of blindness, deafness, and denial that you will constantly miss things, a dissociating emotional zombie. You will also miss it when they saw through the floor and break out, long enough to make you say or do something you will regret later, before the internal guards lock them back up. You won’t see them coming, and that’s even worse...because then you have to make excuses for them and clean up their messes.
Rule 2) Given that this never works—even though most people have to try it anyway, usually for years and years—it means that sooner or later you have to haul your ass down there to the dark place and face them through the bars. Just finding the door may be difficult. Finding where you hid the key to the door may take even longer. Making your way, step by step, down that dark stairway when you’d rather be almost anywhere else, that can be interminable. Still, it’s better than being suddenly transported there without your consent, via depression or madness or pain or some other horrible happenstance. Go there on your own, while you’re still healthy. It will be better in the long run.
Rule 3) Monsters that you throw into the same locked closet together often fuse. At the very least, they rub off on each other. That means that the things you are afraid of or disgusted by or angry about start to get linked together, often in weird ways. There’s little hope of untangling them, at least not at the point where your monster is pissed at you.
Rule 4) This is an important point, so listen closely. You cannot decide to heal your monster. Let’s say that again: You cannot decide to heal your monster. It won’t work. While some people do manage to get their monsters to change, if you go down there with any hint of an agenda of changing them, they’ll smell it. (After all, they do know you, they do live in your head.) They’ll notice that you don’t love them as is, warts and all, and they’ll rebel and say “Fuck you.” You’ll get no cooperation out of them then.
Rule 5) That brings us to the most important rule of the lot: You must learn to love them as they are, horrid and dangerous and shameful and all. You must find it in your heart to love them, without ever hoping to change them. And no, you can’t keep a tiny corner of your mind hopeful that by loving them as they are, they will eventually heal and change. First of all, they’ll hear that, and they won’t like it. Second, it might not happen. What if you were to go to your grave with them this way, still embarrassing and awful? You’d better find a way to be OK with that. The point of this is to get a better relationship with them, not to change them.
It’s likely that this rule will be the hardest of all. It may take years for you to learn to love them, but it’s necessary. It’s the only way they will cooperate with you. Even if you wrestle them down, if they don’t think that you value them as they are, they will fight you every moment your back is turned.
Rule 6) That said, sometimes you do have to wrestle them down. It’s hard to do this in a spirit of love, but try to think of yourself as the alpha in the little pack of needs in your head, and when members of your tribe act uppity, you knock them back down and make them show throat to you. You don’t hate them for it; you consider it part of the deal of being alpha. They’re testing your strength, to make sure that you are strong enough to be trustworthy. And once you have wrestled your monster down, and he obeys—if only temporarily—he is no longer your enemy. He is now your dependent, and you must hunt for him and feed him. Taking care of his needs is now your responsibility. You can decide which things he can have, and which are just not going to happen, period, but starving him is irresponsible behavior towards someone you want to trust you. He needs something to believe that you really value him.
Rule 7) When it comes time for negotiations, a starving monster will demand the Moon with ketchup on top. They are used to being denied, and they don’t really believe that they’re going to get fed this time—not after all the disappointments and denial and ignoring—so they come up with a truly ridiculous list of demands and claim that they won’t be satisfied with anything less. Don’t be fooled. Don’t give up hope and go away in disgust, no matter how tempting it might be. Start small. Give your inner Beast some little thing that they want, or a mild version thereof. Yes, they’ll want more, but you are the one in control. Give them as much as you can safely give them, then set the boundary. Over time, when they see that they are getting at least some of their needs fed, they will scale back on the demands. They’ll still want those out-of-reach things, but they won’t be constantly screaming for them. There are ways to compromise, but you have to make your way to the middle first.
Those are the Rules, this is the Game. In hunting for and feeding your inner Beast, you may find that one of the things he (or she) wants is a playmate, another Beast who will appreciate their Beastliness. This is where, for many of us, BDSM comes in. If you can find a Beast who wants to play the same game that your Beast likes, you can help to keep them happy. Building them a lovely pen is a good thing, because then they’re less likely to try escaping to the park down the street. Playmates are part of that.
Implicit in this statement is the idea that someone else’s Beast may well be better able to unconditionally love and appreciate your Beast with more ease than you can. Of course, they don’t have to live with it every day, but it may be that seen through the eyes of someone a little more objective—or conversely, through eyes just as Beastly—might give it a little of the acceptance that it wants.
Another way in which we deal with the Beast through BDSM, besides just indulging it and giving it a short holiday, is through ritual catharsis. This can be particularly useful for dragging one’s reluctant psyche through the hard parts of Rules 5 and 6. If you are really too terrified to go down there yourself, it helps, sometimes, to set up a situation where you have the support of others in doing it. You might even need someone to ruthlessly drag you down there, kicking and screaming if necessary. You might need someone to play the part of your inner Beast, so that you can start by seeing what is valuable in them, the projected Beast, and eventually transfer it to yourself. You might need someone to play a role that brings out your inner Beast so strongly that you cannot deny or repress them, in a safe space so that you can be brought back to yourself again afterwards.
Be honest, though, if this is what you want. No play partner can adequately give you what you need if you’re not honest about it. It’s hard to say, “I need this,” knowing that you might be denied, and for some the denial seems so painful that they would rather go without than risk the rejection… but this is just the fear talking. If you ask the Universe to send you a safe place to work with the Beast, they might just oblige. However, if you don’t, it’s certain that they will send you on the Persephone ride there, which can feel like a rape.
Those of us who deal with the Darkness know this well: if you don’t deal with what lives in your basement, it will deal with you. The predator that you chain and starve then has only your mind to prey upon, and he will. He will. Believe it.
Time to go down there with a steak, OK?