Many religions believe in the concept of the “devil,” a word that conjures up images of an evil being hurling temptations at you. In reality, the devil is not an external being that we’re powerless to; the devil comes from within and is the product of a doubting ego that makes an individual feel like a victim and contributes to low self-esteem.
Temptations aren’t thrown at you either. A temptation is just one way of describing stress, which is something you experience when you perceive obstacles as threats to having your needs met. When your needs are not being satisfied, you might experience one or more of these seven biological responses:
- Fight or flight
- Restful awareness
Fight or flight and reactive responses can be deeply damaging to your physiology, psychology, and relationships, while the remaining five higher responses can be therapeutic and nurturing.
A victim mindset, or belief in an external devil, is a product of the reactive biological response. You might have a reactive response—which is typically activated by a physical or emotional threat—to protect your ego.
You might react when you feel your boundaries have been violated and are compelled to defend yourself. Again, it’s typically the ego that feels threatened. When this happens and you are reactive, you fall back on old habits that help you control the situation or environment and manipulate other people to get whatever it is you want at that time.
When you attribute your response to threats as coming from malevolent forces that exist outside yourself, you take the responsibility for your reactions off yourself and foist them onto imaginary beings. “The devil made me do it,” is an oft-heard expression, indicating that if it weren’t for this external entity, you would not have reacted badly or succumbed to some other temptation.
The concept of an external devil creates fear that there are threats you can’t control, which can cause even greater stress. And, while life is full of change and factors that you sometimes cannot completely manage, you’re able to take charge of the way you interact with the world.
Still, when we have been steeped in the idea of outside forces working against us, we can find it very difficult to accept that the true devil is actually the part of us that confuses our ego-mind with who we really are, pure consciousness. Placing the blame on external sources such as the devil, takes away our own ability and personal responsibility to move beyond the reactive response into the higher, more beneficial responses to life’s myriad challenges—behaviors that ultimately elevate everyone involved and cultivate greater joy in our lives.
One way we can access the higher biological responses and move beyond mere reaction is to employ Dr. Deepak Chopra’s STOP method. When faced with our personal devils, we can simply:
- Stop what we’re doing.
- Take some deep breaths.
- Observe how the body feels and where we feel those feelings.
- Proceed with kindness and compassion.
By taking a moment to assess the situation and understand where your reaction is coming from, you’re better able to confront your inner devil and make more compassionate, conscious choices.
After practicing such a method over a period of time, you will begin to notice that your reaction to as well as the circumstances themselves change. For example, people with whom you may have had tumultuous relationships with in the past now begin to see you as a person who is thoughtful in how you deal with difficult situations, choices, and temptations.
Another important way you can quell the devil within is to commit to your meditation practice. By simply practicing meditation, twice each day, you will begin to feel more grounded, confident, and better able to shed the old insecurities and victim mentality that no longer serves you.
Releasing a long-held belief, like that of an external devil, requires self-compassion and non-judgment. The philosophies that have been handed down or that you have discovered on your own were simply what you needed at the time. However, as you move into states of greater awareness in your life, you’re free to let those old beliefs go and open yourself to new, richer opportunities for true happiness.