Fighting Demons

From "Dennis Prager talks to Dr. Stephen Marmer, member of the clinical faculty of the UCLA Medical School and a psychiatrist in private practice in Brentwood, CA, about whether we can rid ourselves of our demons or just hope to control them?"

Dr. Marmer talks about choosing people who will repeat bad things we experienced in our early years while tricking ourselves that we’re doing otherwise.

Dr. Marmer: "Dr. Robert Stoller, of blessed memory, used to say that we’re attracted by the excitement and tension of whether the person that we’re with is going to hurt us in the characteristic way that we were most vulnerable to. A person who has no capacity to hurt us, we’re going to find boring. We’re drawn to people who will challenge us in our areas of vulnerability and the key to whether this will be a success or not is if the two of you are committed to growth rather than to repetition."

Dr. Marmer: "Consciously, they seek to undo [the damage of their childhood], but unconsciously they choose people who repeat some of the same… The thrill is — can I go into the danger zone and prevail this time while in my childhood I couldn’t.

"It’s a variation of the Groucho Marx line about not being a member of a club that will have you."

"Until you stop an addiction, it’ll be impossible for you to deal with the underlying problems."

Dr. Marmer says that people from happy childhood are unlikely to develop addictions.

"Life challenges only become crippling if they latch on to some vulnerability from childhood… If the current event latches on to an unfinished childhood event, that’s when it becomes a demon.

"A patient who has had many childhood illnesses…that person grows up to be a hypochondriac, to be fearful, to over-react to dangers, and stunts his life accordingly. That person is vulnerable to inflict that same over-concern about dread of disease to their children."

"I would call alcoholism or any of the addictive things a demon on top of a demon. They become things unto themselves in addition to an earlier problem. If you have a demon of alcohol, then you’re trying to escape from something."

Dr. Marmer says you should ask if your romantic partner is basically kind, that you can communicate clearly, and that you are both committed to growth.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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