The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Dragon On Your Shoulder

I have a coaching client who was born with a challenging disability that threatened to crush her spirit.  She came to me three weeks ago, suffering from life-long depression (yes, she has medical support.  I never deal with chronic depression without knowing there is a doctor and/or therapist in the loop), and we started with the following:
1) The Five Minute Miracle: breathing deep and slow for sixty seconds ever three hours. (If you want to change your emotions, change your focus and physiology)
2) A letter from her “child self” to her adult self, written with her non-dominant hand (this is NOT an intellectual exercise, and if you have never done it, it is likely you have no idea at all what will come out), and back from her “adult” self to her “child” using the dominant hand.    
3) The “Child Story” which is a simple-language fairy tale, about 200 words, about how she grew up to be the person she is today.  
4) The “future history”--her life story from today until the day she dies.  Often written as an obituary.

After a week she told me she was disturbed--SHE ACTUALLY FOUND HERSELF BEING HAPPY.  For the first time in adult memory.  She was experiencing spontaneous joy.  And was unsure how to deal with it.    That’s another topic, but what i wanted to share (with her permission) was a “fairy tale” she wrote about her life.  This is a modification of steps #3 and #4, and I found it wonderful.

               Once upon a time lived a maiden named M. She did not look like other little Girls, but as all human children are special and fair, so was she. She began life as a tiny whirlwind of laughter, love, music, and color, quite certain she was something very ALIVE and therefore Magnificent.
            When she was still very small, the adults in her life, who were powerful and well-meaning and who seemed very wise, fitted her with a special pair of Glasses, in order to make necessary (to their minds) corrections to her sight. The Glasses were rather thick and unpleasant, and M did not like them; but she knew these adults did love her. Soon she forgot how the world looked before, but she still found refuge in her imagination and artwork, and in reading about wonderful adventures.
            As she grew, she felt that some dark and heavy Weight was upon her shoulders, but she could not see what it was. No matter how hard she peered through her thick Glasses, it was invisible. Yet she could hear a voice, too, whispering mean things in her ears. The mean things felt so true and looked so true through her funny Glasses, and M withdrew even deeper into her imagination, storing up hope for a brighter future full of love and beauty and fun things to see and do.
            When she was old enough to go out into the World to seek her Fortune, she found the Heaviness on her shoulders traveled with her everywhere she went. It felt heavier than ever and she still could not see what it was! She often fell down, but always dragged herself to her feet again. As she approached the 1/3 point of her life, her Falls became terribly frequent. She tended her cuts and bruises from each Fall, but the heavy Thing on her shoulders remained ever present, threatening more Falls at every turn.
            Then came a day when she fell so hard that a tiny crack formed in her Glasses… and through the crack, while looking in the mirror one day, she caught a glimpse, riding on her shoulders, of a rather large… large is not the word - no, this was a morbidly obese Dragon! He had wings and fangs and breathed fire, as Dragons often do. But in his fat condition, perched on M's bony shoulders, he looked almost as miserable as M. She could also see, through the crack in the Glasses, a bit of her own true reflection. It swirled with color and love and glowing light, radiant and full of Power she had not dreamed possible in a long, long time.
            Now that she could see the Dragon, she could speak to him. As she began, deliberately now, to chip away at the Glasses she had worn for so long, she continued to speak with him and learned that he had grown fat off every negative message M had believed since her earliest childhood. He could only repeat what he heard, which was the source of the mean-sounding Voice that whispered in her ear, which, when M believed it, further fed the Dragon.
            So M put him on a strict diet as she learned to quiet her own mind and fill it with thoughts that became increasingly more True, and beautiful, and loving. And as she did, the Dragon began to shrink… and shrink… and shrink, until he was as pint-sized as a small Parrot and rested comfortably on her shoulder. Both he and M were much happier now, and he explained to her that his real function was to guide her and to protect her from negative, Untrue thoughts. But the Glasses had distorted M's True vision and, when those bad thoughts got in, the Dragon's job was to eat them and eat them until hopefully the discomfort of the growing Weight of the Dragon caught M's attention -- as it had finally done.
            Both M and the Dragon were so much happier now, and with the Dragon as a helpful ally, M began to notice that the next step ahead on her Journey through Life beamed brighter and clearer than before. What is more, without the Glasses, which M had done good work of chipping mostly away, each step along the way felt un-Troubling no matter what it might be, and her surroundings full of Beauty no matter where she was. As her True vision increased and her alliance with the helpful Dragon deepened, the path led to lovely and wonderful and Adventures for M that were as full and joyful as she had ever Dreamed.
--------THE END---------

THAT is how you do the work.  Just an excellent job.  


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