“Some of us think holding on makes us strong, but sometimes it is letting go.”
-Herman Hesse, poet, novelist, and painter
What makes a person strong? Often, we mark our strengths by accomplishments and achievements. We might think of an obstacle to overcome or a battle to win. We prove to others that we have done something worthy of recognition. Others notice our strengths by external achievements, which we use as validation to build self-esteem, confidence, and value.
While challenging ourselves to achieve goals helps us grow and develop, how much control do we have over every external occurrence in life? If we measure our self-worth based solely upon things outside of our control, is the struggle helping us become better, or is the struggle keeping us from feeling at peace with who we are? Sometimes, letting go of the struggle to “be better” is necessary for our growth.
Knowing What You Can and Cannot Control
Many of life’s struggles come from fighting what we cannot control. We cannot control our past or who we are at birth. We cannot control external events or tragedies that have occurred. We are left with only the ability to control how we respond to things outside of ourselves. The only place we have to control comes from within.
During recovery from addiction, challenging behaviors, trauma, or other issues, we might want to be someone else. We might think that we need to be better than our problems or are flawed and need to conquer the damaged parts of ourselves. However, we cannot change our pasts or who we are. Yet, we can learn from these events and grow from these experiences.
The Warrior and the Dragon
Fire Mountain’s co-founder Aaron Huey often speaks of the symbolism of the “dragon” and the “warrior.” The dragon is the external struggle or trauma that the warrior faces. The dragon is never going to go away. The harder the warrior fights the dragon, the more the dragon fights back. When we cannot defeat our past and our struggles, what options do we have left to protect our castle? We need to transform the dragon into our ally.
Acceptance of Our Past and Ourselves
Allying ourselves with the dragon means that we have accepted ourselves and our pasts. We cannot run from these things, we cannot rid ourselves of them, and we cannot destroy them. Acceptance requires the warrior to show up in full strength. The warrior needs to be vulnerable and open to taming the dragon. The warrior needs to show that true power comes from letting go and moving forward.
When we change our response to external events or the things beyond our control, we can gain wisdom from thriving despite the things that happened to us. While we wish we could just defeat the past or destroy parts of ourselves, learning to tame and welcome the dragon will strengthen our kingdom.
These Things Are Not You
The past, our external trauma, our addictions, our mental health diagnosis—these things are not who we are. Though they might shape us into the person we are today, they are not our defining characteristics. Often, labels or diagnoses loom largely over our heads, and we believe that we are the label. Our dragons, whatever they might be, are something that we learn to contain yet not destroy:
- “I am not ‘depression’—I am a person with depression.”
- “I am not ‘trauma’—I experienced a traumatic past.”
- “I am not an ‘addict’—I worked through an addiction.”
- “I am not ‘anxiety’—I learned to cope with anxiety.”
- “I am not an ‘anorexic’—I am recovering from an eating disorder.”
Recovery: Giving up the Struggle
The struggle to resist the dragon only makes things more difficult. When we deny that we have these issues occurring, we cannot grow from the experience. We might think that we are protecting ourselves by avoiding the confrontation with our dragons. Yet, outside the castle walls, the dragon threatens us and holds up captive in fear. The dragon will make its presence known, whether we accept it or not.
Depression, anxiety, addiction, trauma—these will come about again sooner or later, no matter how much we deny them. These dragons will find a way to enter our kingdoms and wreak havoc upon us. When we give up the struggle to deny our dragons, we accept the challenge and answer the call to be the hero of our own stories.
To accept the dragon, we must meet it. We must seek it and know it. We learn all that we can about our dragons, tame them, and invite them into our castles. Our mental health issues, past traumas—we open ourselves up to these dragons, journey through the pain, tame them, and grow our kingdoms with the knowledge gained from letting go of the fight.
Our past traumas and internal conflicts can be a struggle that we deny. We might fight to accept what has happened to us or fight who we are. We try to “be better” yet end up depleted and feeling worse. The “dragons” that we are fighting cannot be destroyed. We cannot change the past, the person we are at birth, or the mental health challenges we face. We can only confront them and learn to open ourselves up to them. When we give up the struggle and let go, we need to show up as a warrior, ready to face these challenges, tame them, and learn to thrive with them. At Fire Mountain Residential Treatment Center, we understand that facing challenges, like past traumas, abuse, addiction, or abandonment, can make us feel alone in our pain. However, you are not alone. We’re here to help. Call us today at (303) 443-3343.