Taming my H.A.L.T. Dragons
“The wise woman builds her house, but the foolish tears it down with her own hands” Proverbs 14:1
Success and stability are an illusion. We work for decades, waking up, planning our days, hoping, praying, thinking, expecting and most of the time not measuring up to our own or someone else’s gold standards. We can lose a fortune overnight or our home, spouse or job. Our loved ones can get sick and die. We can get sick and die. We can be “wealthy” or “homeless” in a moment’s notice by changing our perspective or attitude.
I have come to realize recently, that it is much better to learn to tame our H.A.L.T. (hungry, angry, lonely, tired) dragons, than work or live harder, smarter, cheaper, better or with some fantasy reality of “having arrived.”
I have a friend who moves from relationship to relationship (some long term, some short), because he “doesn’t like to be alone.” Eventually, the fighting and frustration become too much and he moves on to a new relationship (sometimes before ending the previous one).
My other friend lives in perpetual anger or aggravation about some chosen topic of the day. From politics, to his co-workers, to his boss, company, parents, neighbors, friends from 20 years ago… to, if all else fails, he is angry with the weather (who happened to ruin his plans or day).
Both of these friends are by society’s standards very successful, financially independent, well educated, attractive, confident, caring and add value to their communities. Both have made great contributions and are wonderful friends. However, they are both trapped inside a self-imposed prison, guarded by a fierce and terrifying, “fire breathing” dragon. They allow their peace to be stolen every day from these scary monsters lurking in their otherwise “perfect” lives.
Baby H.A.L.T. dragons are healthy for us to tend in our life gardens. They keep us well nourished, well rested and help us establish good boundaries for our well-being (to focus on service rather than sacrifice). Baby dragons keep communities, companies and households thriving and in balance. When we PLAY with our baby dragons, protect their eggs, pet them and give them fresh air and exercise, we find success, inspiration, warmth and passion.
We find beauty and peace. The problems come when the dragons grow too big, get too much attention, take over control, or outgrow their fences and tethers and over-take their owners of the castle or surrounding villages.
I am not a therapist and nowhere near an expert on human psychology. My experience is through raising myself and two daughters from birth to adulthood (fairly successfully). I have survived extreme trauma and addictions (both physical and mental as a child and adult). Lived through divorce and transitioning from being part of a family, to an empty nest.
I have experienced death and sickness of very close friends and family members; have been promoted and job eliminated. Had both savings and a negative bank account. I have suffered loss, pain, anxiety and stress from going through and overcoming difficult hardships of every shade in the rainbow (and over the rainbow) including gray, black and white.
For so many years I was trapped in fear of my own dragons, or fear of someone else’s, who would come out of the darkness and set fire to my life; making “the worst that could happen” come to happen (and it did, over and over for years).
I feel that the recent discoveries I have uncovered in how to tame, or at least make friends with my H.A.L.T. dragons, has significantly improved my life. They still appear every day at my door, but I no longer run from them or feed them lavishly; instead I take out their leash and invite them for a short walk or to play.
I pet them, sing them to sleep and let them guard me when I am awake. I am honored and blessed to have them in my life through love instead of fear. I hope to share the following tips on how to unlock the magic superpowers of being a “dragon tamer” and living without drama or intense fear.
HUNGRY — this the first dragon we experience in our lives. From the moment we enter the world from the womb, we have a little bell inside us that rings for food. She adores sugar in all types and gets very persistent when she doesn’t get the attention she needs.
She starts as a small, gentle chime; but can become a super-sonic alarm system when we allow her to take over our lives. She can be used to feed our ego or our shame. She can be controlled and ignored, but to do this requires strength, discipline and ignoring “experts’ who try to convince us that we need to eat 6 times a day (which grows the grocery bills ironically which “feed” those same experts indirectly).
They remind us that “breakfast” is the most important meal of the day and that not continuing to eat will cause intense “hunger and suffering.’ Yes, it does cause intense suffering in the beginning. The dragon has been over-fed for our lifetimes by well-meaning grandma’s, moms, dads, friends, and other people in our lives who believe that being a “good eater” is one of the most important things we can do as children.
We get stuffed with treats to keep us quiet, stop our tears, keep us in line, motivate certain behaviors, as well as get fed to celebrate holidays, and special occasions. It is sometimes easier to feed a person we care about than actually spend time with them or listen to them.
Shove the bottle in the baby’s mouth and she will stop crying. I learned that after 24 hours of being awake with a very grumpy infant who couldn’t tell me why she was crying only that it was somehow MY job to make it stop.
I have finally learned the best way to tame the hungry dragon, is to starve her of all sugar (in all forms), chemicals, toxins (or as much as possible), feed her with very healthy plants and animals who have been humanely raised with love; provide her with adequate supply of minerals, electrolytes and fresh water.
Finally, learn to ignore her screams and stick to a schedule of feeding her consistently twice a day. Not being afraid of her screaming has eliminated my fear of “being hungry” or others “being hungry” and that fear no longer drives my need to cook meals for myself or others, go grocery shopping or stop what I am enjoying, to eat. I have gained time, money and freedom by taming the hunger dragon.
ANGRY — this second dragon is smart and sneaky. She can come at you with some gentle, white smoke and you don’t realize she is growing behind you until she overtakes your life, job, relationships, and steals all your hope, joy, faith and love. She feeds on fear, jealousy, greed, pride, expectations, debt, obligations and shame.
We get trapped under her shadow and wrapped in her chains by letting her invisible poison trick us to change our outlook, thoughts, words and actions towards others and ourselves.
I lived in the prison of anger with my former boss, ex-husband, parents, relatives, friends and self. I stayed trapped in abusive and addictive behaviors because I was afraid of being sprayed with the fire of another person’s anger.
I felt I had to “pay my debt” to the shame, guilt and anxiety with anger and destructive behaviors towards myself. I would wear the badge of sacrifice to show how I could be “a better person” than the person who was not treating me very well (in my own opinion).
Because they didn’t seem to learn how to read my mind, listen to what I was afraid to say or change what they were doing because they “should have known I wanted something,”
I would either punish them for it or punish myself. The term “passive-aggressive” was created to describe my former self. I would give out of fear of their anger or obligation, then hate them secretly for it and think of all the ways I could “get back at them” for making me so angry or hurt.
The quickest and most direct way to tame the angry dragon is with compassion, gratitude and forgiveness. Right away. At the first signs of smoke. Stop, look and listen. What does this person need? What do you need? What do they fear?
Which dragon have they been over-feeding?
What invisible smoke is stirring up in their own life which they are taking out on you?
Are they trying to teach you something?
What is it that you need to learn?
What do they need to learn?
Not every angry person needs discipline or punishment. Sometimes they need a gentle touch. Reassurance. Firm boundaries. Acknowledgement that their feelings matter, but that they need to show others respect, tenderness or fairness too.
I think of anger as an invisible backpack of rocks we are lugging around, and we take them out to throw at our own or others “glass house.” The only way to tame the anger dragon is with mercy and love. She will then purr like a kitten and go back to showing you how to play and walk in beauty and peace while she sleeps.
LONELY– our lonely dragon exists to remind us not to become too selfish, proud or vain. She is there to help us to grow, be humble, gentle, patient, kind and ethical.
Unfortunately, when she grows too big, her invisible force creates a deep pain of anxiety and sadness which can consume a normal person to use the other two dragons of hunger and anger in a punishing way; or to use her as a force to keep us trapped in toxic relationships, bad jobs, unhealthy living situations or stop us from growing.
The fear of someone or something leaving our lives is paralyzing to most human beings. Attachment to others is among the most painful states to live. The fear of letting someone down, disappointing someone we care about, having them withdraw help, support, attention, shelter, care or any other things we desire from another living creature; can drive us to keep feeding the lonely dragon, long past the time that she needs it.
The lonely dragon sustains several trillion-dollar industries including weight loss, exercise and dating/relationship books, website, scammers, coaches, facilities, pod casts and TED videos. Our lonely dragon eats “if only I was” and “if only I could” thoughts and actions for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
The best diet for our lonely dragon is solitude.
Yes, it is counterintuitive.
It is letting lonely have her way and giving her 100% of our attention for a short period. It is feeding her lots and lots of choice alone time. Letting the tears flow and not feeling bad that we feel lonely. Allowing lonely to wash through us and pass out of us.
Choosing NOT to go out with friends. Leaving toxic relationships. Disconnecting with family, spouses, parents or children. It is doing the unthinkable. Not going to the Christmas party or Thanksgiving dinner or Graduation. Not attending the birthday. Not being in the wedding or even going to it. Not participating in the meeting and declining the invitation. It is being ALONE to excess.
Pets can help with the transition from going from a life with a very large lonely dragon, while surrounded by other people; to a healthy balance of time with others and time spent in solitude. The risk with pets is they can become your crutch or replace your attachment anxiety from a human to the pet and end up with similar lonely dragon control issues.
You need time away from your pets as well as time away from human beings. It is as healthy as food, water and sleep. To get comfortable with lonely, you must enjoy her beauty and release. Take off her mask of darkness and see her glorious freedom from obligations and expectations. Some of your friends, coworkers and family will complain and moan “how dare she or he ,” but that is normally just the grumbling of the lonely dragon who realizes she is no longer in control. You will experience great freedom and peace by allowing yourself to selectively attend only things you wish to attend.
TIRED — the tired dragon is the by-product of the other three (H.A. and L.) dragons getting fed and spoiled too much and being allowed to control our life. On our own (as you can see with children), we don’t let tired control us. When we need sleep, we sleep.
When we need rest, we rest.
The tired dragon is awakened and strengthened by our need to be “liked” or “fed” by others. We work until we are exhausted to make sure we keep the “supply chain” full and keep replenishing the food, shelter, love and attention. We wake up too early or stay up too late to prove our value, worth, how loving and giving we are (because someone might leave if we don’t).
We push ourselves because we want to “win.” The tired dragon loves “winning.” She grows rich in competitive soil. She gets lots of fruit from the person who is an over-achiever or over-thinker. She loves the person filled with hunger, anger and loneliness because she ultimately WINS when these other dragons are in control.
How do you starve the tired dragon?
There is no better way to turn tired back into a warning light for your engine rather than the gas running the car. When you have enough sleep, enough rest, enough time in nature, enough time away from work, enough solitude, enough laughter, singing, dancing, rejoicing, creativity, we subdue this dragon.
The tired dragon hates fun. Hates people who chose the word “no.” Hates people with strong boundaries. She loves when people wear an ‘obligation” badge or banner and say “but I HAVE to…” The only way to tame the tired dragon is to tame the other three and allow her to move back into her small corner of your life’s garden to remind you it’s bedtime (to get a full 8 hours of sleep) or to take a break because you spent too much time working or exercising or winning for that particular day.
Human beings are at our best when we are driven to accomplish great tasks. When we have healthy bodies, minds, hearts and spirits. When we are generous, kind, humble and follow rules and routines.
I wouldn’t choose to “slay” my H.A.L.T. dragons, because I see tremendous value in having them around. They make me a better person and remind me what is important to grow. There are times I allow the Tired dragon to win. Times the Hunger dragon wins. Times when all of them win at once. I acknowledge this and remind myself I am no where near perfect, except to be perfectly human. But at the times when I can remember them, and stay aware of which dragon has gotten the best of me that day; then work to calm them down, pet them and love them. Those are my best and happiest days ever.