The Devil On Your Shoulder

This is an interview I wish I could do with every child or adolescent.  It is so classic that I think most children can see themselves in it, and most adults as well.  We all have a “devil” sitting on our shoulder telling us we can’t, shouldn’t, or won’t. The beauty of Integral Deep Listening, particularly for a child who is suffering from such self-criticism and fear of failure is that after they have done an interview they have a way of understanding and dealing with very real yet very subjective and difficult to control feelings.  IDL externalizes fears and hopes, limitations and potentials, in such a way that we can clearly see them and decide what we want to do with them.

Follow the awakening process of this lovely, thirteen year-old girl as she grapples with timeless issues of fear of failure at school, disappointing a parent, and disappointing herself.

As you read this interview, see if you can remember what life was like for you as a child…

What are three fundamental life issues that you are dealing with now in your life?

1 Black outs during tests at school

2 Disappointment from Father at poor math grades

3 Disappointment in myself

Which issue brings up the strongest feelings for you?

Black outs during tests at school: It feels like I had blanked out.  I wish time would stand still!

If those feelings had a color (or colors), what would it be?


Imagine that color filling the space in front of you so that it has depth, height, width, and aliveness.

Now watch that color swirl, congeal, and condense into a shape. Don’t make it take a shape, just watch it and say the first thing that you see or that comes to your mind: An animal? Object? Plant? What?

A devil!

Now remember how as a child you liked to pretend you were a teacher or a doctor?  It’s easy and fun for you to imagine that you are the shape that took form from your color and answer some questions I ask, saying the first thing that comes to your mind.  If you wait too long to answer, that’s not the character answering – that’s YOU trying to figure out the right thing to say!

Devil, would you please tell me about yourself and what you are doing?

I am on her right shoulder.  I whisper into ear that she can’t do it!  Then I see how sad I can make her!

Why do you want her to be sad?

No idea, but it’s fun to aggravate her!

What do you like most about yourself? What are your strengths?

That I can be so mean!  The meanest thing I can do is to get at her so much that she has a meltdown and cries and really believes she can’t do anything…. I can aggravate her, convince her of bad things, I also put pressure on her.  I’m good at that!  I whisper into her ear that she HAS to go home with good marks!

What do you dislike most about yourself? Do you have weaknesses?  What are they?


Devil, you are in Ambrosia’s life experience, correct?  She created you, right? What aspect of Ambrosia do you represent or most closely personify?

More or less – her consciousness created me. The part that scares her, the part that tries to make her feel wrong and a failure!

Devil, if you could be anywhere you wanted to be and take any form you desired, would you change?  If so, how?

I’ll be happy to the end of my days to sit on Ambrosia’s shoulder and scare her!

(Continue, answering as the transformed object, if it chose to change.)

Devil, how would you score yourself 0-10, in each of the following six qualities:  confidence, compassion, wisdom, acceptance, inner peace, and witnessing?  Why?

Confidence:   9

Compassion:   1

Wisdom:   8  Ambrosia tells me everything she’s afraid of, that she is going to take a test the next day.  I know it all!  I witness whatever she feels so I know what to whisper into her ear, and she’ll fall for it!

Acceptance: 9 I’m only happy when I manage to completely to destroy Ambrosia’s self-confidence.  I would not accept if she didn’t have a meltdown!  I particularly enjoy it when she collapses in a math test – anywhere that it’s most important for her future life!  I would can also accept her when she has self-confidence, but it depends on when and how…It can’t be in an area that really matters for her future.

Inner Peace: 5

Witnessing: 5 When she is having trouble with her parents or doing sports I can lean back and just watch!

Devil, if you scored tens in all six of these qualities, would you be different?  If so, how?

I don’t think I’d be a devil any more if I had a ten in all…I would still be a devil when she took tests, but I might be more like an angel at other times.

How would Ambrosia’s life be different if she naturally scored like you do in all six of these qualities all the time?

Then she might not have a lot of the friends that she has.  Her friends are very important to her and respect her a lot and they love her for her compassion.  If she didn’t have her compassion they wouldn’t want to be with her.  If she had a nine in self-confidence I wouldn’t exist!  I wouldn’t have been created in the first place if she had such self-confidence.  She never would have had a bad conscience.  She never would have that guilt!   As long as she doesn’t do well on her tests I can handle her having self-confidence.

If you could live Ambrosia’s life for her, how would you live it differently?

I wouldn’t do blackouts because having them means I don’t have self-confidence!  I would still try to make her fail at German.  So far I haven’t succeeded….

If you could live Ambrosia’s waking life for her today, would you handle Ambrosia’s th

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