Inviting your dragons to tea
The first rule of fixing yourself is that you can’t fix yourself. Because if you try to fix yourself then you believe you are broken and if you believe you are broken then that is what you create. The same applies to happiness. The more you try to find happiness, the more elusive it becomes. The proper goal is self-love because you have to love yourself first. I could get on board with loving myself just as soon as I stop perpetually saying and doing the wrong thing, but that seems very far off in the future, and I need to get started right away.
What else? I’m codependent. So is everyone, but I’m like prodigiously codependent. Things started out run-of-the-mill codependent, where I had to meet the needs of others and make them feel good in order to feel good about myself. They started to spiral when I convinced the few people I let in that they couldn’t do life without me. Now that my daughter is ill, the sun rises and sets on calorie intake and a number on the scale. I can’t know if I’m in a good or bad mood without these statistics. This is apparently unhealthy, and I should stop right away. But also keep it up. I should monitor and control my daughter’s every bite, per conventional medical wisdom, or else she will wither away. I must take full responsibility for every aspect of her care. Conversely, I should immediately start living my own life for myself and do what I want to do when I want to do it, and stop meddling in other people’s business.
Instead of trying to control my surroundings, I should choose brave, audacious, shattering the glass ceiling, types of goals that I don’t believe I can accomplish. These goals should be personal and in tune with my true nature. Then I’m meant to change everything I believe about myself using only my brain in order to achieve my big, huge unthinkable goals. And I need to learn how to trust myself and listen to my inner voice. My inner voice is telling me this is a stupid waste of time and I’m going to fail and bring shame on my loved ones who will abandon me once I expose who I really am.
So far, I’m pretty skeptical. On the other hand, my daughter has used nothing but her own brain to will herself into near martyrdom. The brain might be even more powerful and malleable than I thought. Let’s face facts. I’m totally down to abandon everything I believe about myself but loving and trusting myself isn’t in the cards for today. I don’t even know who I am. I need a preliminary step. Something I can sink my teeth into.
I try to find other resources. Ones that say it’s a good idea to repress emotions and never look under the hood and confirm that I don’t have to do what I fear most. That’s the kind of approach I’m after. The self-help literature has a great many disparate opinions and if you look hard enough, you can generally find an expert to validate your preformed ideas. It’s kind of like the news in that regard. Sadly, on this one topic, the advice is unanimous and contrary to the kind of self-help I’m searching for. Also, self-help is not on trend: it’s personal development now. I am supposed to sit with my feelings. I don’t mean feel them and then immediately force them out by squeezing my eyes shut as tight as possible. Ancient wisdom backed by modern science and all the voices in between agree. I must really, really feel them.
Buddhism uses imagery to help us understand things we want to pretend to be confused about. Buddhists say we need to invite our dragons in for tea. I don’t mean hang out with them, making unpleasant small talk until they finally get the message and go away. I mean bake homemade scones with clotted cream and jam and ask them interesting questions and genuinely listen to the answers and regret that time has flown by and hope they can stop by again soon because we’ve grown fond of each other. Oh fuckity-fuck. This is going to be hard.
I’m not up for tackling relationships with other humans and I’m not supposed to yet anyways because I have to learn how to love myself first and I can’t do that until I invite these assholes in. The great news is that it doesn’t matter which one I hang out with. No matter which of these dragons I befriend, it’s all the same. I’m not sure how that is true, but I like the idea of dipping my toes in the water with something not too touchy-feely. How about money? Money in and of itself does not have any emotions or people attached to it. It’s only our thoughts about money that create the attachments. How do I feel about money? I hate money. I feel tremendous guilt and shame when it comes to money. What do guilt and shame feel like? A swirling of heavy dark matter in my chest that could cause me to crash forward into oblivion if I don’t eradicate it. Ok cool. Dragon, would you like milk or sugar? And I’ve been meaning to ask why you make me feel that way?
About the author:
Jane Garland is a professor and researcher who writes about and investigates the theories, science, and real-world attempts to build and strengthen neural pathways in children’s brains. When her daughter developed PANDAS, an autoimmune reaction that scrambled the pathways in her brain, it brought her to her knees.
Once Jane accepted the only way to teach her daughter how to reprogram her brain was to experiment on herself, things got interesting. Her memoir, Lady Jane Tames Her Dragons, chronicles her journey to challenge her own dragons with humor and insight.
You can read her essays on her blog and stay in touch on Twitter.
Header image: exxorian on Istock