People are deeper than you think. What we’ve managed to do is take the truest ideas of life and pack them into stories for safe keeping. On a rainy day we pull a story off the shelf or pop one into the DVD player (do those still exist?) and reacquaint ourselves with these truths that make our lives better. One example is the dragon story. It doesn’t matter what culture you’re from. You’ve got thousands of options and each variation goes like this: For years the quiet village has been terrorized by the dragon which sleeps in the mountains. Following each assault, the villagers discuss how to manage the problem. “Maybe we can make taller walls? Maybe we can get better weapons.” Nothing works.
In the direst moment, one villager has a wake-up call, “We can’t make ourselves safer sitting here. We have to go out to face the dragon.” In that moment the villager becomes a hero. He sets out towards the cave. Chard bones litter the entrance. The stench of the beast’s filth is overwhelming. The hero peers into the cave – he’s never seen such darkness. He’s afraid and considers turning back. Instead, he does the unthinkable. He finds the dragon sleeping surrounded by gold. It’s terrifying but by facing his fears the hero realizes the dragon’s defenseless. Slaying the dragon, the hero saves the village and takes the treasure living happily ever after. The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.
The dragon’s a metaphor for the fears and pain that haunt us. Seeking therapy, we answer the hero’s call – enough is enough. Therapy transforms who we are by teaching how to willingly face fear to overcome it. We become a hero. It’s not easy, but we learn how to enter all the caves we’d rather not and slay our dragons to take home the treasures. The loving marriage we always wanted. The relationship with our kids free of anger. Even the treasure of self-love, self-respect, and the clarity to follow the dreams we’ve put off until the dragons “go away” on their own… something they never do for long.
So, what’s therapy? It’s the hero’s journey. It’s slaying dragons.
Rabbi Yonasan Bender LCSW graduated from Hebrew University’s School of Social Work. He works with adults, couples, and children from his private therapy practice in Jerusalem. He holds several semichos from Rav Yitzchok Berkovits, shlita. To share your thoughts, experiences, questions, or a different perspective, you can reach Rabbi Yonasan Bender LCSW at 053-808-0435 and at firstname.lastname@example.org or check out his website at www.jerusalemtherapy.org.