Wouldn’t it be wonderful to get rid of all obstacles in your life? Just imagine how much easier you could obtain your goals – money, power, love, success, self-actualisation – if only you could kill the dragons that stood in your way.
But life is never that easy, is it? Still, there is hope. For those who dare, anyway.
Let’s say your goal is a treasure chest. To get to it, you must surmount obstacles. No path is ever straight forward, and your path to the treasure leads into a deep, dark cave. And in that cave dwells a living, breathing dragon.
Now you have two options.
The Longest Road
Staring into the mouth of that cave, your first option is to backtrack. While the path forward is through that cave, you tell yourself there must be ways around. You may find one, too. Yet when you follow it, you soon end up before the exact same cave.
So you ask an experienced guide: you hire a coach to tell you how to scale your path and where to take which turn. A good coach will show you the most direct route (a bad one results in costly meandering) and help you reach your destination—
—at the mouth of, you guessed it, the same cave.
Next you decide to hire a helper. Someone to fight in your stead. But even if they do go in, they will not find your dragon. Their own, maybe, but not yours. Yours will still be waiting while you linger outside, getting no closer to your treasure.
There are no two ways about it: to find the treasure, you must go through that particular cave. You cannot evade that confrontation if you wish to reach your goals.
People can spend their days moving to and thro that cave: excuses, addictions, distractions. All means to keep moving without actually getting anywhere. At great cost in money, energy and time, they avoid having to face the dragon. Sometimes for a lifetime.
Many parables will tell you these evasive tactics are a waste of time because the cave is empty. There never was a dragon, only your fears.
What this take neglects is that to your mind, fears are only too real. The dragon is real. It may be big or small, but it has sharp teeth and a viciously flammable breath.
And what you want is right behind it…
Into the Dragon’s Lair
The other option is to go in – or did you forget there was a second option?
You’re shaking, terrified, but you go into the cave. Maybe you donned a harness, maybe you bring a friend who has your back. Maybe you even brought a sword. How you did it doesn’t matter: your first victory is that you went in at all.
The dark extends, but you know that sooner or later you will find that dragon – or it finds you.
When you are face to face with those fiery eyes, again you have a choice. But who has time to consider options?
You attack! A fierce fight ensues. At great personal cost, you battle the dragon. The dragon retaliates, of course, and proves a formidable opponent. For reasons you will soon understand, this beast will always be evenly matched to you.
So you fight, you bleed and you suffer. And again there are two possible outcomes. Either you lose – by retreating or, depending on the type of dragon, physically dying – or you win.
Let’s say that you win. You plunged your sword into that scaly breast and the dragon sags to the ground.
For all of a few moments.
As the big head rears and lets out a roar, you realise in terror that dragons are immortal! You may have won this round, but now you are right back where you started. Which is facing an irate dragon that is impossible to slay.
Conquering Without Shedding Your Blood
Go back to the moment you faced that dragon for the first time. What would happen if you didn’t attack? What if instead of charging, you took off your helmet and dropped your sword? Would the dragon hurt you? Maybe it will lash out, but dragons are intelligent.
More than that, this dragon knows you. It knows your strengths and weaknesses, in battle and in life. It senses what you will do next before you realise yourself.
Because this dragon, this adversary, is an inseparable part of you.
People often speak of vanquishing our demons. Something that is evil and must be destroyed. But how can you destroy something that is part of who you are without destroying yourself?
That is where the taming of dragons comes in.
When you see an animal that is hurt, and you wish to help it, is your first instinct to kill it? Doubtful. So approach your dragon as you would a feral animal. Not with hostility, but with respect for its strengths and the reasons it is irate. Get to know it. When you stop wanting to kill it – which is impossible – you can tame it. You might be able to befriend it, even, but at least you can cease the hostilities long enough to move past it and reach your goal: your treasure.
Truce and Treasure
We tend to get so wrapped up in battling our dragons that we forget why we are engaged in combat in the first place. We spend our lives fighting, often because we were raised that life is a battle. That you must fight for what you want or it isn’t worth having.
So rarely do we realise that this just isn’t true.
Yes, facing your dragons is scary. It takes constant effort to keep your relationship with them stable. But if you value your time and your energy – your life – maintaining that truce is worthwhile.
I have a host of dragons myself, some more dangerous than others. On occasion, I share my experiences with taming them, hoping you will find my methods useful. Because once you stop fighting your dragons to reach that treasure, every next cave on your life’s path will be less daunting.
What are your most vicious dragons? Let me know in the comments, so they can feature in a future Taming Dragons post!