If you don’t have a toddler, it would have been easy to miss the DreamWorks film, How to Train Your Dragon, which was in movie theatres earlier this year and just came out on DVD. The film is about a Viking community (the island of Berk) where dragons have killed people and people have killed dragons for thousands of years. No one questions it – dragons are bad, Vikings are good.
For me, after watching the film, I’ve come to see the dragons as a metaphor for the thoughts in my mind. My dragons are thoughts like these:
- I’m annoying.
- I’m crabby.
- I’m too moody.
- I’m overly-intellectual.
- I talk too much.
- I argue about everything.
- I’m exhausting.
- I’m a brown-noser.
Believe me when I tell you, I had lots of evidence to support these beliefs and a community of people the size of Berk who would agree with this assessment. Chief among that community was my ex-husband who would use these personality traits to justify his attacks on me. It worked well, because I hated these aspects of myself as much as the Vikings hated the dragons.
Back on Berk, one (overly-intellectual) teenager named Hiccup shot down a dragon and injured him. This gave him to opportunity to look a dragon in the eye before killing him and in that moment he saw that the idea “Dragons are bad” was just a thought and it wasn’t fact. He saw that it was a story and in that moment, his fear and hatred of dragons turned into love. He lets the dragon live and begins to plot how he will save the injured beast.
Later that day when his father tells him the time has come for him to start killing dragons, Hiccup says my favorite line of the movie: “Um, no, dad, I’m really very extra sure that I won’t.”
Do you have any idea how hard that would be to say!?!? That is courage! You can imagine the pressure on him – the whole community – thousands of years – hundreds of loved ones killed by dragons; and here was this fishbone of a kid with a twinge in his gut that maybe, just maybe dragons weren’t so bad.
Like Hiccup, I spent many years plotting to kill my dragons. I read books, went to therapy, and ultimately decided to love myself despite being born with a terrible personality. I continued my death wish with these aspects of myself. I believe that loving these horrible traits in myself would make them bigger. That the whole island of ME would be overrun by dragons and that the dragons would kill all that was good in my life.
It never occurred to me, that if I looked into my own eyes, I would get the glimmer that Hiccup got: “This is just a thought, and I can change a fear-based thought by adding my love.”
Now, that’s not to say changing a thought is easy.
My story about myself was strong. While I didn’t think I deserved to be hit or ridiculed, I kind of agreed I was annoying and needed to be fixed. I understood my attacker’s frustration with me because I shared that frustration. And I felt that anyone who agreed to be with me romantically deserved some sort of a medal.
What I’ve learned from the movie How to Train Your Dragon is that no matter how much evidence you have a situation is terrible and unreversible (and Hiccup and I both had a lot!) if you can find the love, you can change the thought.
It turns out the Dragons on Berk weren’t so evil after all. They were enslaved by Red Death, a demanding, parasitic dragon who probably had dragons of his own! And all those “terrible” personality traits of mine, they came from my well-meaning need to protect myself -- just like the dragons killing humans came from their need to feed Red Death. Once I understood that, it was easy to love those traits. And as I’ve come to love my crabby, moody, annoying self, as if by magic, I’ve become remarkably less crabby, moody, and annoying!
So, what’s your dragon? Maybe it’s just a thought….
*****Angela Lauria is a domestic violence survivor, a blogger, and a life coach.