There Be Dragons!
We all have a litany of assumptions, beliefs, and feelings that operate in the background of our consciousness. Taken together these work like a map of the world. This map interprets our experiences and lays out courses of action in response.
For example, I have an assumption that when I feel sad, that’s a sign that I’m not doing enough. My “map” explains why I feel bad by locating me in Incompetent-Loser-Land. Then it charts a path out of Incompetent-Loser-Land through the state of Hide-And-Work-Harder-You-Idiot.
Yeah, sometimes my map sucks.
Of course, for the most part, our maps are fairly accurate. After all, they’ve gotten us this far in life. But all too often—perhaps because of trauma, abuse, or our own poor choices—they are wildly inaccurate about some of the most important things. Here are a few examples, chosen at random, of how they can go very wrong.
- “I’m just a burden; that’s why other people can’t handle the real me, so I need to disappear or never express any needs.”
- “I’m disgusting; that’s why all my romantic relationships have fallen apart. I have to pretend to be something I’m not if anyone is ever going to marry me.”
- “I’m depressing to be around; that’s why I feel so awkward in social situations, so I should avoid having any close friends.”
There are deep “archeologies of pain” that underlie beliefs like these. All of us carry wounds from our childhood and other parts of our past. These get etched into our memory, and then like ancient cartographers, we write across our maps: “There be dragons!” And proceed to avoid those dangerous lands forever.
The thing about dragons is that they are greedy. They always want more territory, and they don’t go away if we ignore them: they just get bigger and more terrible.
The thing to do is confront them. But we can’t do it alone, and not all at once. We need to be well-supplied, well-armed, and well-supported. What does that mean in concrete terms? Here are some ideas:
Well-supplied = having the Word of God stored up in our hearts and minds.
Well-armed = having a good therapist/counselor to help us identify the dragons and provide us with skills with which to combat them.
Well-supported = having a spiritual director/spiritual friend to accompany us, fight with us, and continually encourage us to see the presence of God throughout it all.
Don’t misunderstand, exploring new places and fighting dragons is truly risky. But new places hold undiscovered riches, and dragons guard enormous treasures!