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Oct 03, 2011



I love the metaphor of the two dogs, Ed. It certainly seems to consolidate the emotion in a helpful way. There's a story -- I don't know where it comes from and perhaps you've already heard it -- about a woman who screams and screams whenever she finds a snake in her house. (This is a memorable story for me because I hate snakes.) So the neighbors call the local shaman to see if he could help her get rid of the snake. The shaman talks to the woman for awhile and says, "Whenever it shows up, just observe it closely, very closely, and I'll be back in a month." "What, you're not going to get rid of the snake?" she asks, astonished. "Well, not right now, so just look at it and when I come back you can describe it to me in detail." So the shaman leaves and the woman is still upset and the neighbors are upset, too, but that's what happens. Over the course of the next month the woman does see the snake; you know, she sees it in the closet and it wriggles out from under the carpet and so on, and she wants to scream, but she does do what the shaman suggests, which is observe it closely. She sees that it has green eyes, for example, and very fine scales. The month is up, the woman has stopped screaming, and the shaman comes back. "What about the snake?" he asks. "Oh, the snake is still here," the woman replies, "but I don't see him so much and the truth is, he is quite a handsome pet when he does appear."

There's also an African fairy tale about a boy and a fearsome dragon. As the boy gets closer to the dragon it becomes smaller. Eventually, when he finally gains to the courage to get up really close, it becomes a useful pet, using its fire breathing skills to heat a small pot of water.

I've always enjoyed these stories and tried to apply them in my life around anything that has fear written on it. I am sometimes more successful than others. Doing my taxes, for example, has not seemed to get much easier -- but I keep watching that snake! There's probably a principle involved, such as systematic desensitization, that does affect our brain chemistry in some way -- you must know. It's such a good thing to turn the corner on the snarling dogs, snakes and dragons. It's interesting to me that the animal metaphors seem to explain it and make it a little easier.


Thanks for the additional stories and metaphors, Dan--very vivid! Lots of power in those totemic figures.

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