The Sleeping Dragon of Fear

Fear lurks behind every "great and sudden change." Learn how to recognize its symptoms and plot a better path.

“Nothing is so painful to the human mind as a great and sudden change.” — Mary Shelley

Deep within your inner brain lies the sleeping dragon of fear.

The dragon is a defense mechanism that guards against big, risky change. It is the gatekeeper of signals between the outer creative brain and the rest of the body.

You have a deep seated fear of many things: danger, failure, harm, criticism, isolation and inadequacy just to name a few. That fear is the circuit breaker of the fight or flight response. Trip it and the dragon rises to shut you down.

This biological mechanism was developed over hundreds of thousands of years to keep you alive when faced with hungry apex predators and other mortal hazards. All signals from the brain to the body that did not aid in fighting for your life or hoofing it to safety were blocked to eliminate distraction and delay.

Such harrowing encounters are uncommon in modern civil society, but the fight or flight response is still alive and well:

  • Drawing a blank when speaking in front of people

  • Binge watching a Netflix series instead of working out

  • Doom scrolling social media instead of facing a challenge

Take an easier path with something mindless. Require the least amount of effort. Procrastinate. That is the modern equivalent of the flight response. The fight response is rarely chosen.

How do you prevent the dragon of fear from waking?

Be vigilant for signs of resistance. When the dragon stirs, take an objective look at what you are thinking or doing in that moment.

Tiptoe along with small steps and the dragon returns to its slumber. Take too big of a step and the dragon wakes.

Fear in all its forms is a signal. Understand the nature of it and you can find a gentler, more incremental path.