There is a very small, green, stuffed dragon sitting in my office. It’s about three inches tall. It was won at a carnival game and given to me many years ago. I put it in my office at the time, along with the other animals, scarves and props I used to keep handy for my work with clients when personifying or giving “mass” to a feeling or experience was helpful.

Over time, the little “Green Dude” became my favorite, like a pet. I kept it right next to me on my side table, alongside my tea mug (prime real estate). I started using it to stand for the fear-based ego mind. I had to refer to it a lot, as that ego makes quite a relentless and ceaseless amount of appearances.

I am not making history by making an analogy/metaphor/personification/visualization for an internal psychological and emotional mechanism. I have come to see, with the help of this little creature, that any time we feel icky in any way – when we go from feeling fine and not noticing, because we feel fine, to suddenly being aware that we do not feel fine – it means that something just happened, and Green Dude made it mean something.

That something is negative, always, because that is the only kind of story Green Dude writes. Remember, it’s the fear-based ego mind. (There are other kinds of stories we write when we are happy, but they are precarious until we become more adept at training the creature because it can awaken at any moment and take over.)

Life gives us opportunity to witness and experience a never-ending parade of moments of emotional reactivity.  Managing ourselves in order to feel okay in the world by navigating the ups and downs and ins and outs of day to day living comes down to this:

  • what happens
  • what we make it mean
  • the feelings and needs involved
  • behaviors we do to deal with it

The problem is simply that when something bothers us, we usually go right under the spell of this Green Creature, and we go unconscious, jumping right into reactive behaviors. This creates conflict, anger, hurt, disconnect and damage in relationships, pain, unhappiness, anxiety, depression, despair and all the rest of the terms for human misery. It’s really terribly sad – tragic – because most of this can be fixed, in-the- moment, and even prevented.

We’re talking about good, ol’ CBT – Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. I used to think this approach was very dry, and when used alone, kind of dead, cardboard and cold-blooded.  Yet I kept CBT in my toolkit always because it provides indispensable methods.  Now, I think it’s the elixir of life itself, if carried out with heart. Green Dude helps with that. Wait, Green Dude “helps?!?”

Although it is a destructive transformer – going from small, dozing, inactive, sleeping dragon to huge, damaging, reckless, reactive force in a single moment, ultimately doing our job to keep Green Dude small and cute, fuzzy and stuffed – domesticated – keeps us cognitively and behaviorally well- balanced and functioning. It is a great way to understand what is needed and receive guidance, blazes on the trail. It’s challenging work, but definite rewards and progress can be measured when one commits one’s self to the task.

Do you know what I’m talking about when I say we go from feeling fine and not noticing in one moment, and then reactive and quite bothered in another? We have all been there. Some of us go there more regularly than others. But it’s human.

Here’s a homework assignment:
– for the next week, practice noticing when you suddenly feel ick in any way, and when you do, immediately tune in to a picture in your mind of a Green Dude who just woke up at the door of a cave. It is the sleeping dragon who just got jolted awake, and now has your Higher Self in the cave, possessing your reasonable, rational mind, your ability to stay calm and not catastrophize or demonize.

See him. It. Her. Use the picture from this blog, or find your own. Get a stuffed dragon to keep at home. Post images. Work on incorporating an image and concept of a Green Dude as a stand-in for your reactive mind. There is more to teach you, but just doing this for a while is a powerful start.

You must see the demon before you can train it. We cannot slay it, by the way. We cannot murder it. We must train it, get it to do our bidding. Train ourselves – our Higher Selves – to master the fear-based ego mind. To murder it would be to obliterate our capacity to feel any healthy guilt, shame, remorse or fear, or to do what I love calling the “healthy cringe” about our own behavior, something narcissists cannot do. We need Green Dude. We just need it small, cute, squeaky and obedient.

Green Dude Therapy. That is what I do. I train my clients to domesticate their Green Dude so they can have happy, productive, effective and connected relationships and lives. It’s that simple. It’s not easy, but it’s that simple.

In HeartMind,