We are all aware of how our amygdala assumes absolute control in our heated quarrels, especially those with our dearly beloved. It is so powerful, in fact, that it has even been given a name, as if an entirely separate entity: the notorious “reptilian brain.” But when this menacing “reptile” crawls out from under its rock, I honestly feel it takes on either one of two roles, that is, “The f*king Dragon” or “The f*king Dragon-Slayer,” both equally capable of perpetrating unspeakable damage. We know these seething love-enemies await their opportune moment, and work completely against our better selves. So how on godly earth are we to keep them tamed?
When we enter into a cold-blooded vengeful lover’s quarrel, adrenaline floods our veins, and just as drugs and alcohol would have it, we enter into an altered state. The Dragon initiates, but oh does the Dragon-Slayer then perpetuate. The Dragon may be an ego-driven initiator wanting to antidote a humdrum week, weeks of built-up pressure, or just gnawing insecurities. But both characters, in fact, affect a tasteless psychological horror film, replete with symptoms of delirium (I of course stretch my point to heighten the dramatic situation.)
When you begin to sense the imminence of a vicious tirade—either as provoking Dragon or as vengeful Dragon-Slayer—here are a few ways to circumvent the threat of both your villains within. And to MAYBE, JUST MAYBE, get a point across more efficiently, without killing Bill.
“I don’t think at this moment I can do justice to this conversation. I am going to cool off and I will be back. Otherwise I’ll regret what I am going to say and I don’t want that. Please don’t follow me around the house. And trust that I’ll come back when I’m ready.” –Esther Perel
If you are Slayer in the scenario, then perhaps these lines I’ve learned might also work:
“I feel disrespected by that comment. I am sorry you feel that way. I have to dismiss myself.”
If you are the Dragon, you may later say:
“When I said that, I was out of line. I felt angry and attacked, and I’m genuinely sorry.”
Note: By beginning every sentence with the word “I” versus “You,” we can avoid coming across in an accusatory and inflammatory manner.
In the immediate aftermath, I always find that writing a note/letter/unimpulsive phone message alone allows me the time and space to sort out my thoughts, and to clearly and fairly express myself (with reptilian brain deadbolted in its cave). It allows me to think and write from the heart, which always wins. It also allows the other to then read the message alone and calmly, and sort their own thoughts out clearly, perhaps reciprocating a gentle and hopefully fair response.
At the end of Kill Bill: Volume 2, when Beatrix (clearly the Dragon-Slayer) is crying and laughing on the bathroom floor of her motel room, she says “thank you,” which could very well be her thanking Bill for playing along and letting her go. Although not confirmed, it is a theory she doesn’t kill him after all.
We all have a dreadful dragon or slayer inside. But we can use this film’s twister, this “thank you,” as a reminder that we are simply a safe scapegoat to our partner. If we can muster the power when it’s our turn as vengeful dragon-slayer, perhaps we can choose to be the higher person and take on the important job to instill harmony from the chaos. We can keep our slayer calm-ish, by rationalizing that it’s irrelevant in the moment that the other is at fault and doesn’t take on accountability and responsibility. When they are emotional, under the guise of a flaming dragon, we can be the bigger person and carry the wisdom to not follow their lead. We can keep our slayer sedated and think, “Thank you, but no thank you” and “You’re Welcome.”