One More Round of Dragon Slaying
September and October’s blogs began a series of comments on our journey through life. Joseph Campbell calls it a “Hero’s Journey” because our journey takes courage. Traditionally heroes meet dragons on their travels, and so I have taken liberty of calling all the things that hold us back from a better life “dragons.” They come in all sizes. A dragon is anything that keeps us from being our real, authentic self.
In September I wrote about my friend’s problem with time. And in October I offered some resources to fight the dragons of fear and our problems of learning to love self. We want to improve areas where we need improvement, but we need to be gentle in the process. Loving self also means taking time for self, our body, our minds, our souls. And all this means we need to be aware and question our habits and beliefs.
In this November blog, I am asking you to look at those beliefs you accepted when you were too young to evaluate them as well as those given to you by people in authority. A child looks up to his parents. To him, they are like gods. They feed him, take care of him, and tell him what to do. But some of the things they tell the child are not good. This is not done to harm the child, but it is passing on what they learned and never questioned or it was said in haste when they were upset. The culture we live in, society, and religion, also implant into our lives a series of behaviors.
A message may be simply spoken: “Big Boys don’t cry,” and forever after you keep your emotions in check. Research has proven that not expressing your feelings can lead to illness, and many individuals numb feelings with various addictions such as smoking, eating, gambling, compulsive sex, drugs, and so on. Trying to suppress your feelings usually perpetuates them. Learning to trust your feelings and ways to properly express them will bring you peace.
I have heard some even more horrific things said to children when a parent was distraught. I’ve made some comments myself I’d like to take back. I’m not saying your parents don’t love you if they define you in a negative way or gave you bad advice. I am simply saying examine your reactions and what you believe and change it where necessary. A friend said that his mother told him he would never amount to anything, that he was too selfish. This is the most generous, hardworking man I know. In fact, he carries it so far, I wonder if he isn’t trying to compensate for his mother’s remark.
When I was in my late teens and planning to be married, my grandmother told me that my husband was the head of the household. At that time, it was a typical Biblical injunction. Society stood behind it because most women were housewives without income. When I graduated from high school in 1954, I had limited options for employment. Nurse, teacher, secretary, sales clerk or waitress were about the total possibilities of “respectable” livelihoods.
Fortunately, some of those myths have now been dispelled. But others like having a beautiful body is a girl’s most asset have replaced it. This programming is strong in society. One has only to look at advertisements on the web, TV, and in magazines to see how strong this belief is. That belief didn’t work out so well for a friend who I will call Mary.
Mary’s mother advised her to keep her figure if she wanted to keep her man. So, Mary ate oatmeal for dinner every night to keep her figure slim, had a tunny tuck, and breast implants, and the last I heard she was considering a nose job. But she didn’t keep her man. Eventually after more than 20 years of marriage, when their son was grown, her man left her and some years later married a rounder, softer woman who didn’t have those hang ups.
While the many beliefs are made created by the words of a parent, teacher or other authority figures, we also have covert messages imprinted in us. James Baldwin, writer and social critic, said it best: “Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.” Just because Dad always did it this way doesn’t mean it works. How did your parents handle disagreements? Money? Intimacy? Did you ever see them hold hands or kiss each other?
What dragons have you been programed with? How are they serving you? And how are you passing them on to your children? Shamans refer to these as generational curses. They are ingrained in families.
The big one in my family has been work ethics. My grandfather told me, “If you are paid a day’s wage, give more than you are paid for.” My husband’s version was modeled after his father’s unspoken behavior. But each of us followed the same directive of giving more than we received. Within limits this isn’t a bad thing, but no limits existed for us. Years ago, when I quit my job as a legal secretary/assistant, they replaced me with two people. My husband returned to work many evenings creating eleven-hour days. I always had to be reminded to take lunch when I ran the Financial Readiness Program, and neither of my husband or I liked to delegate. Our children follow in our footsteps. I believe we should do our best, and I often give more than I am paid for,” but it is necessary to create balance or more serious issues will arise.
Programming happens other places than at home. A friend of mine was upset because his child colored a sheep green in school, and the teacher made an issue of it by proclaiming sheep must be white. He strongly felt such beliefs stifled creativity. Our religion programs us. Our nationality programs us. We cannot avoid programming, but we can look at it with open eyes. We can ask our self questions such as, “Does not expressing myself solve the problem? How does this behavior serve me and my relationships? And “how can I find a better solution?”
The Hero’s Journey doesn’t end. It is a process, which leads us to more and more authenticity, unfettered by indoctrination, doing work we love because it comes from the heart. We won’t find sainthood on our journey. We are duality, a mixture of human and spirit who will find our self “walking between those two worlds.” We will still have difficult decisions to face and hard choices to make. But, we live more and more in the now, which is the only time we have. The past is gone and tomorrow has yet to come. We learn to be responsible for our actions. We lose our need to be right, to have to prove something. We trust our feelings and intuition. Compassion and gratitude become common in our life. There is less drama, more peace and contentment.
I wish you happy travels.