Wendy Palmer is writing a new book on “Dragons and Power.” It’s about how to cultivate benevolent dragon energy. Quoting Wendy:
The power within us is like a dragon. In order for our dragons to become protectors they need training. We need to have a way to keep our dragon energy from running wild and becoming destructive.
I love this concept of an inner dragon and can’t wait to read Wendy’s book. The concept puts me in mind of the DreamWorks animated movie “How to Train Your Dragon”.
In the movie, a young Viking boy (Hiccup) creates a relationship with a dragon he names “Toothless.” Hiccup’s dad and the other Vikings in Hiccup’s tribe fear the dragons and want to exterminate them, but Hiccup befriends Toothless, and gradually they develop a relationship. Toothless learns to trust Hiccup, and Hiccup no longer fears the dragon’s huge fiery energy, but instead rides and guides it with courage and love.
I think we train our inner emotional dragons in similar ways, by befriending and guiding them. Conflict often triggers our emotions, which sometimes burst on the scene as wild and potentially destructive energy that feels uncontrollable — like Hiccup’s dragon.
Sometimes I feel like I’m being driven, controlled and generally jerked around by this energy, like being attacked from inside myself.
Who’s in the Driver’s Seat?
If I am enraged or grief-stricken, I can be overwhelmed by emotion and lash out at others or myself. The untamed dragon energy is loose and in the driver’s seat. Repressing the energy only encourages the dragon to get stronger or pop out at unexpected times.
In aikido, we learn to disarm a physical attack by stepping into the energy, joining it and guiding it in ways that protect giver and receiver.
Similarly, guiding (befriending) my emotional power takes the form of understanding where it’s coming from — Am I standing up for something? Has a past injury been aggravated? What “button” got pushed? — so I can return to the driver’s seat.
Some of the ways I do this:
- Breathe and center myself, and tune in more deeply to what’s going on in my mind and body.
- Acknowledge the dragon by naming it, locating it in my body, and rating it on an emotional Richter Scale. Wow — It’s a 10! There’s a lot of charge behind it. What’s cool is that as soon as I begin to investigate the energy — shed light on it — it begins to shift. Now it’s only a 6!
- Watch the emotion as it changes. Like the weather, this too shall pass. Just wait a minute, until I’ve achieved a more balanced place from which to take action.
- Appreciate the positive intent behind the emotion. What value is it defending?
Training the Dragon
Especially in conflict conversations, if I don’t train the dragon I usually regret it. I say things that might feel important at the time but that eventually undermine any purpose I might have had. I create enemies out of potential allies.
In my last post — “The In-Between Place” — guest author and actor Susan Poulin offered a great example of taming her dragon so that she could be heard and achieve the results she was looking for.
Instead of trying to kill the dragon of our emotions or letting it have its way with us, we can learn to befriend ourselves and appreciate our positive intent so that we can be simultaneously assertive, respectful and connected to purpose. And get our message heard.
The Guest House, by Rumi
This being human is a guest-house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture.
Still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
— The Guest House
From: Say I Am You, Poems of Rumi
Translated by John Moyne and Coleman Barks