Greeting The Dragons

Barred Window In Life of Pi, author Yann Martel characterizes fear as “life’s only true opponent…only fear can defeat life”.

For the philosopher J. Krishnamurti, fear is “the movement from certainty to uncertainty.”

And for the poet, Rainer Maria Rilke (my favorite), “Our deepest fears are the dragons guarding from us our greatest treasures”, and those very dragons of our lives may be “princesses who are only  waiting  to see us once beautiful and brave.”

So, what is fear actually? And how do we deal with it? While there are as many answers as there are people, we pretty much all agree on it’s impact: namely stifling our authenticity, creativity, curiosity, spontaneity, and lots, lots  more besides that. In this understanding, when we choose “safety”, we reinforce fear, making our lives smaller.

We believe that it is our fear, which keeps us safe. Actually, our fear does not keep us safe. It’s our common sense  (our mind), which does that.  The thing called fear often kicks in later, after the event, (whatever it was) when we  say to ourselves something like “Oh my God, what if…”

Fear of the unknown is actually fear of our imagination.

Just below, I’ve copied some prose by Rilke. It’s a wee bit long, but really worth a read, because it illustrates perfectly this very point:


“I am lying in my bed five flights up, and my day, which nothing interrupts, is like a clock face without hands. As something which has been lost for a long time reappears one morning in it’s old place, safe and sound, almost newer than when it vanished, just as if someone had been taking care of it – so, here and there on my blanket, lost feelings out of my childhood lie and are like new. All the lost fears are here again.

“The fear that a small woolen thread sticking out of the hem of my blanket may be hard, hard and sharp as a steel needle; the fear that this little button on my nightshirt may be bigger than my head, bigger and heavier; the fear that the breadcrumb which just dropped off my bed may turn into glass, and shatter when it hits the floor, and the sickening worry that when it does, everything will be broken, for ever; the fear that the ragged edge of a letter which was torn open may be something forbidden, which no one ought to see, something indescribably precious, for which no place in the room is safe enough; the fear that if I fell asleep I might swallow the piece of coal lying in front of the stove; the fear that some number may begin to grow in my brain until there is no more room for it inside me; the fear that I may be lying on granite, on gray granite; the fear that I may start screaming, and people will come running to my door and finally force it open, the fear that I may betray myself and tell everything I dread, and the fear that I might not be able to say anything, because everything is unsayable, – and the other fears…the fears.

“I prayed to rediscover my childhood, and it has come back, and I feel that it is just as difficult as it used to be, and that growing older has served no purpose at all.”

So, right away we notice two things:

Firstly that all of these fears are basically absurd – they couldn’t happen. That’s his whole point: we invent most of our fears. They’re not real.

Secondly, they were invented in childhood and have stuck around since, because unconfronted, unresolved fears don’t go away. They get bigger, while our world gets smaller.

Practice tip:Practice Tip Push Pin Imagine a large dark cell, very large and very dark with a barred window high up on a wall, and with a small amount of dim light passing through it. Now imagine a figure, on it’s toes, holding onto the bars day after day, year after year, staring at the light, the only source of comfort –  of hope (the familiar), and so, afraid to let go of the bars and explore the space.

This person is, (to a greater or lesser degree), every one of us. Unknown to us however, is that the door to our cell is not locked. It has never been locked. We are free. We are, and have always been free. But, we need to be willing to explore the “darkness”, (whatever that is for each of us).

So, the next time “the dragons” come by for a visit, leave go of the bars, and offer them a friendly, curious greeting. Engage with them. Maybe it’s they who are helpless and need your help. Then, kindly allow your princesses (princes) to show you the path into the light. They know the way.

Oh Yeah, and click on this song:

Be kind to yourself,



About Michael Scott

Michael Scott is a life coach, author and teacher in the San Francisco Bay Area. After spending 35 years in business - coaching found him - and he's never looked back. Michael uses his coaching training and experience, in the service of his clients, as their constant and loving guide towards joyous, fulfilling lives which are genuinely their own. He lives with his dear wife in Sausalito, CA.

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