There Is No Snake Inside You

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine told me something.  He told me that he had done something he deeply regretted.  That he had hurt someone close to him deeply.  And he was feeling so guilty about it.

“There’s a snake in me,” he said, “And sometimes it just comes out, no matter what I do.”

Those words hit me hard.  Like a ton of bricks.

The thing is, I utter those words a lot.  In my mind. And for more than a decade, in therapy.  Except I don’t use the word snake.  I use words like “demon” or “monster.”

It’s been a lifetime of struggling with the demon, the monster, the snake.

But recently, the struggle has changed.

I am no longer fighting the snake.  Now, I’m fighting the idea that there is a snake.


When my friend told me those words, I thought back to all those dark days in my life, those moments when I saw the demon.

The idea of thinking there is something evil lurking inside you just waiting to come out… something you need to hide away in the recesses of your heart until you let down your guard and it pops up… is a trapping, scary, horrible reality to live with.

It makes mistakes not into temporary difficulties to be overcome.  Rather, they are horrible reminders that we, or part of us, is evil.

The snake can’t be killed, we reason.  And the snake doesn’t live in all of us, because God knows not everyone makes the same horrible mistakes we’ve made.  

So the snake, the demon, the monster, isn’t just a horrible black bile waiting to erupt from our system, it is a judgment of our whole worth, of whether we are good people or not.

I’m writing this piece, screaming it from my heart, because I know too many people like me and like my friend. People who make mistakes and all they can see is their snakes.  All they can see is demons that exist only in them and the other bad people.  The unworthy ones.

The reality is that this self-perception kills us from the inside.  We spend our whole lives acting, pretending. Hiding the snake we see.  And so we feel like frauds, impostors, living holy lives that are really just facades for the gratuitous evil inside.

And so joy in our lives is no longer joy.  It is tainted.  It is relief, not joy. Relief that we haven’t been discovered.  That the snake is in the cage.

And when it does come out, there’s a relief there too.  A relief that we’re showing who we “really are.”  Evil.  Bad.  Or at least, royally screwed up.  Screwups who will never get better, who will only get better at being frauds, not at being genuinely good.


The snake is a lie.  No child in the world thinks he has a snake in his body, in his heart, or in his soul.  It would take a severely traumatizing moment to convince a child that he is inherently bad.

The snake is a learned reality, one that we pick up somewhere along the emotionally perilous journey of life.

A teacher jumping out from behind the bushes who called us a bad seed.  A relative or friend we trust who stabs us back when we hurt them, telling us there’s something “wrong” with us.  Or perhaps moments, experiences, where we were literally raped, abused, or physically attacked.

The snake is a script written by others and implanted in our mind as a narrative to help us understand why we do thinks we regret, things we imagined only evil people could do.  In other words, it serves a purpose: it helps us understand a world, the world in our complicated bodies, that often makes absolutely no sense.

But it’s only a script, and it’s a false one.  Like the child, we are good.  We are good.  We are good.

Do you understand me?  You are good.  Please listen, please imagine I am shaking you and telling you and hugging you.  You are good.  The snake is a lie.


But what is true?  We can’t just escape our narrative, we need to build a new one.  How do we replace this lie that’s been implanted in us?  How do we become children again?  Where self-love is not considered selfish but simply natural and accurate.

The Zohar, the most famous book of Jewish mysticism, tells a parable.

A king wants to test his son, the prince.  Does the son have the moral fortitude to be king?  Does he deserve to inherit the kingdom?

So the king hires a charming, beautiful, intelligent woman.  He asks her to seduce his son, to pretend to be a prostitute.  To do everything in her power to seduce him.

There is no ending to this story.  That is where the story ends.

What follows is an examination of the motivation of the king and the woman.

First, the woman.  The woman is not a prostitute.  Just as the snake is not the snake at all.  The woman is a test, and she is on a holy mission.  She has absolutely no desire to actually seduce the young man.  She wants the young man to succeed.  She cares about the prince, and although she does all in her power to succeed, she hopes, she believes, that the prince will pass.  Or she would not do it.

Now, the king.  Is the king really testing his son?  Or perhaps there is something even deeper happening.  Perhaps the test isn’t the kind we think of.  The kind with letter grades that tell us whether we’re good or bad, successful or unsuccessful.

Perhaps it’s a test in the way tests are meant to actually be: a push for us to rise higher.  An opportunity to grow.

The king, I believe, is not interested in whether his son succeeds, as such, but that his son is pushed to succeed.  I imagine that if the son failed, the test would happen again.

The test, the woman, is no prostitute, and the king is no believer that we are static, good or evil beings.

No, the woman is good, the opposite of a prostitute.  A holy woman.

And the test?  It is not a test.  It is an opportunity.


That snake you see inside of you? It is the woman.  When you succumb to it, you are no more evil than the holiest prince who ever lived.  You are good, do you hear me?  You are good.

And the succumbing, the “failing” of the test, what is that?  Just like with the prince, it is not a grade stamped on our souls, forever branded.  It is an opportunity.  An opportunity to rise higher, even higher, than ever before.

Because the tests will keep coming, the good woman inside of us always wanting us not to fail, but to succeed.   And both her and the king: they know how much they are pushing you, how far it will go.  And so they don’t blame you for failure.  Rather, they celebrate when you learn.

To bring one more Jewish idea: it is said that all the angels in heaven cry out in utter joy whenever we learn from our mistakes and grow from them.  Can you imagine?  The whole spiritual universe is cheering for you, loving you, and completely and utterly invested in you.

And even if you don’t believe all that mumbo jumbo, maybe you can realize what it says about you and the challenges you face.  That failures are opportunities.  That they exist simply to allow us to grow more and more.


The myth of the snake is what is evil.  When we don’t understand the above, we hide the snake away.  We live in fear, and don’t even realize our opportunity to grow.

When we do understand the snake, we look at it.  We take it out of the cage.  And we see it for what it is.

Not a snake. No. A beautiful woman. And if you listen closely she is whispering a not-so-secret message: “You can do this.”


Image credit: the great Tzipora Lifchitz. Please support her work.





11 responses to “There Is No Snake Inside You”

  1. Malka Reyna A Avatar

    Wow! You really took that parable and brought it down to our every day lives! this is soo true! Thank You!

  2. Nina Windia Avatar

    Amazing writing and a big slap to the face. I needed it so much just to know that feeling good about something is not always with a “bad” feeling into it.

  3. Alex Blair Avatar
    Alex Blair


    I’ve only read half way so far but really needed to write to thank you… me greetin’ a bit(ie some tears)…..

    ” The snake is a lie. No child in the world thinks he has a snake in his body, in his heart, or in his soul. It would take a severely traumatizing moment to convince a child that he is inherently bad.
    The snake is a learned reality, one that we pick up somewhere along the emotionally perilous journey of life.
    A teacher jumping out from behind the bushes who called us a bad seed. A relative or friend we trust who stabs us back when we hurt them, telling us there’s something “wrong” with us. Or perhaps moments, experiences, where we were literally raped, abused, or physically attacked.”

    Struck me so hard, and comforted me so much.

    A series of things happened in my childhood. For various reasons, I internalised responsibility and guilt for things and situations were not my fault….at age sevenish, it was deeply disturbing, and terrifying, and a lot of other “ings” that no child should have to encounter. The Big Family a Secret…..back then in the 60s, it was very much a case of “If we don’t talk about it then it isn’t happening”

    However, it was.

    As little as six or so years ago, was still carrying that load of guilt, in my mid 50s. Still scared that what happened would somehow be twisted round and used against me. That I could be arrested, punished. For something which was in no way my fault, but which the other person never ever admitted to, let alone accepted any responsibility for. Denial, and manipulation, and getting other family members to an use me by phone, and letter….ostracise me. The wicked, wicked and uńloving child.

    Then I cut ties with that very close family member, and the load lifted. I spoke to my husband about the depth of my fears….he knew about it, but had not realised quite how deep and dark and awful it was, and what my fears were. I still feel his comfort, now, from when I got into the really detailed awfulness with him. He was always there to support me, he understood, he knew….but he hadn’t known how deep it went, because I had not been Able to tell anyone. Anyone. When I had (another) breakdown, because of this person, I managed to get all the deep rooted stuff out and told him. (I can still feel his love and comfort now, as Im writing this…..he is so far away’ yet so close, in my mind and heart)

    And he was(and still is) my rock and love of my life, my support, my wonderful, sweet, gorgeous best friend, the one who in a sense rescued me from all that, many years back when we married. He’s gone now, and there’s not a day goes by when i don’t have at least one moment of wondering how to keep going without him. Married 35 years, together 40, known him 42)One of the many unhelpful comments made to me when he beamed up( I don’t like the D word)was ” Well, at least you had that long together. Not everyone goes”

    (I know. Saying that didn’t help. Neither did the variations of “It’s a blessing”…..” It’s the circle of life” …..”You would have known to expect that” ( he was older than me) and “He wouldn’t want you to be upset”)

    So, Elad, thank you for this….I was a child who was convinced she was bad, and that feeling stayed with me till not very long ago. Sometimes it was pushed deep down inside, sometimes it was closer to the surface, but always, always there.

    And it’s gone now. There’s a lot of that wee girl, the me that was, who needs to be comforted, still. I’m not quite sure what, if anything, I can do, but I take comfort in things I like doing….reading, writing, fountain pens, a Star Trek(“sci fi was and is a huge source of healthy escape for me), my cats Spock and Data, and some other things.

    And talking about it somewhere safe – and here and Hevria are safe for me – helps.

    Apologies for rambling on…..but what you wrote touched a very painful spot and added a layer of healing, and Im very thankful to you for that.

    And someone please tell me the Hebrew for thankful/grateful! Seriously… in “Im very thankful for….” Or “Im very grateful for….”

    (My experiences in a self help group which helped me but also damaged me have tainted both those words)

    1. Zerach Moshe Fedder Avatar
      Zerach Moshe Fedder

      How wonderful Alex! Blessing for contiued healing!

    2. Luftmentsch Avatar

      Some of this sounds familiar from my own life, although I haven’t worked through it yet.

      And someone please tell me the Hebrew for thankful/grateful! Seriously… in “Im very thankful for….” Or “Im very grateful for….”

      I’m not a linguist and I definitely don’t speak fluent Hebrew. Also, I’m better with biblical Hebrew than modern. But gratitude is hakarat hatov (lit. recognizing the good). I’m not sure how to say I’m very thankful exactly, but the first prayer in the siddur is Modeh Ani/Modah Ani (modah is the feminine form) – “I thank…” I suspect that would probably sound weirdly archaic to an Israeli, but I assume you want it for prayer.

  4. Zerach Moshe Fedder Avatar
    Zerach Moshe Fedder

    Great job, Elad bringing the divine wisdom further into the vessels, chazak oBaruch!

  5. […] article really makes sense to me,,  there is no bad, there is no evil, there is no snake, unless you believe there […]

  6. progressnot perfection Avatar
    progressnot perfection

    One of the most powerful , direct, healing, on the money essay i have ever read for my condition. i needed this read so much. could not have been better timing. i cant thank you enough from the bottom of this trapped heart. thank you so much for contributing such an important fact filling message as i continue my journey toward a happy destiny.

    1. Elad Nehorai Avatar

      So beautiful! Thank you for sharing. I’m so happy it helped.

  7. […] many of us think that there’s a demon inside of us because of the mistakes we’ve made in life.  The kind that haunt us.  The kind where we […]

  8. steven Avatar

    I was jus reading your article, (really late reaponse) and what i was wondering … As we ascent from apes, is there an ape in us? The chattering monkey, the mind that keeps on going, which is still present today, could we say there is something in genetics that relates us to the snake, where did we take part, or are we essential (first building stones) still likewise … It is known that a snake is an always aware creature .. It never sleeps, likewise ppl have the idea that using mind, constant thiking will guard itself … For me that is the snake within … Studies of collective unconscience have shown that ppl all over the world dream about snakes, ppl from all religions, living in isolation from each other, there is no denying … Understand your darkness, is also a way to understand yourself … Understand your mask, denying is the road to selfdestruction, selddenial, witouth the (nessessary) evil one would know what is good, those two are interdependent … When god looked at the snake asking about if he knew about adam and eve eating from the tree, the snake did not bother to answer back as he knew eating from the tree was inevitable ..

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