Written by: Jorinde Berben
Image credit: Image by Xandra_Iryna on Pixabay
The last few days I have seen dragons pop up in a few different forms.
My children go to a Waldorf school (I’ve written about why in my post 10 Ways in Which Waldorf Education Shaped Me (and Why my Children Go, Too) and yesterday, we celebrated Michaelmas, a festival that celebrates how St. George tames the dragon with the help of the archangel St. Michael. In the Waldorf tradition, the feast focuses on ‘Courage‘ as we head into the darkness of Autumn and Winter. We also need courage, however, to face our inner struggles. In our school, close by the seaside, we celebrate the festival by building huge sand castles with the school, that make up our defense against the sea. There’s also singing, a play in which St. George tames the dragon and frees the princess, and, of course, food.
What I love about how we celebrate Michaelmas is that St. George doesn’t slay the dragon. He doesn’t have to kill it. He only needs to tame it. I’ve celebrated this festival many, many times, and I’ve always loved dragons, the meanings they carry in different cultures (the luck they bring in Chinese culture), the art work that’s created of them. It wasn’t until an EMDR session last year, however, that I made a more personal connection with dragons.
It was a pretty intense session in which I had come across lots of fear and feelings of unsafety that I still carried from my childhood. My therapist then led me through a guided meditation to a ‘safe space’, a place where I felt completely at ease and could leave my inner child without having to worry about her. But it was also be a space that I, as my adult self, could visit whenever I needed it.
By the end of the meditation, my safe space appeared to have a large dragon wrapped around it, protecting me from the outside world. It was kind, gentle and strong. Its body lay curled up around the space, much like in the image above that I came across just now.
Friday, during another intense EMDR session, the dragon returned.
I saw the image of myself in a cage that both held me captive and protected me from people around me that were trying to get to me. When my therapist asked me what would happen if I opened the cage, the dragon appeared. It placed itself between me and the other people. This time the dragon was fierce. It roared and lashed out. It was incredibly angry, and that anger made me feel safe.
It isn’t too hard for me to connect the image to the last few weeks of my life, or my whole life in general. My anger has been my shield in one way or another for many years. It used to be turned inwards, raging against my sense of self-worth as I was too afraid to be angry with others. But in the last 5 years or so, as I’ve grown stronger and learned to love myself more, my dragon now faces outward, and it’s not always pretty. I try to subdue it, but it costs me tons of energy.
When we hear about inner dragons, we often get the idea that we need to defeat them, that we should get rid of them. And if not that, then maybe that we need to control them so that they become less harmful.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t really see how I am going to control a dragon! I’m just a human being. I’m tiny in comparison.
So how do we approach something so wild and fierce, something that we know we could never conquer if we fought it?
Have you ever seen that scene in the Horse Whisperer in which Robert Redford approaches the horse for the first time? He doesn’t try to overpower it, or trick it in any way. What he actually tries is to gain the horse’s trust. He shows the animal that it doesn’t need to fear him. That it is safe with him.
I believe we need to do the same thing with our dragons. My anger is there for a reason. The dragon wants to keep me safe. So the only time it will lash out is when it believes that I am unsafe. My job is not to teach it to stop lashing out. I rather want it to lash out when I’m actually in danger. What I can do is show it, or rather show myself, that some of these situations that feel unsafe are actually not dangerous at all. I can learn to feel safer and deal with the issues that have created this feeling of being threatened in my life.
The energy that fuels that dragon is life energy. You might even say the dragon IS life energy (this is also the symbolism in Kundalini traditions). If I try to subdue it or supress it, it will come out in other distructive ways. It might make me depressed, or physically ill. What I really want to try is to gain its trust. I want to whisper to the dragon horsewhisperer style, tell it that I’m safe and that I’m so glad that it is there.
For me, that doesn’t involve fighting as much as it does standing my ground. Perhaps that’s what St. George is really doing as well. He’s standing his ground.
St. Michael gives him the courage to uphold what’s right and true, so that the dragon knows that he doesn’t have to roar anymore.
Knowing that this anger is not something to get rid of gives me a huge sense of relief. There’s so much strength there that I don’t just want to let go of.
What are some of the dragons you are facing in your life? What are they trying to do for you? How are they keeping you safe? And how could you approach them in such a way that they wouldn’t feel the need to roar?