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Avatar the Last Airbender and DBT Therapy

I’ve recently been introduced to the cartoon Avatar: The Last Airbender and have been enjoying it very much. In finishing season 2, I found the nineteenth episode to have many similarities between chakras and my DBT therapy.

My Opinions on Chakras . . .

Even though I have learned the value of meditation and some concepts within eastern religions, I cannot get on board with Chakras—In my opinion the idea of “Chi” and different metaphysical connections to the physical body worked out as an energy source of which all peace and knowledge can come . . . let’s just say I am more scientifically minded than not—But . . .

I was pleasantly surprised when I found the Chakra analogy in The Last Airbender to have many parallels to Radical Acceptance from DBT.

Radical Acceptance

Radical Acceptance is a concept where you accept the reality around you and get rid of wants and desires, particularly ones that are not helpful. And the recognition that you do not have to always get what you want all the time. As Marsha Linehan says, you only have to accept each moment that you are currently in. What happened, happened, it cannot be changed and one needs to recognize this if they plan on moving on in a “wise mind” manner (using both emotional and rational mind frames to come to the best thoughts and actions). And if you want to change something, you must first accept it before moving forward to change it. 

This concept ties perfectly into half of the Dialectic of Dialectic Behavioral Therapy: the dialectic comes from accepting who you are, while striving to be better at the same time. These two views seem in opposition, but can be held together in a balance to achieve the best you and the best outcomes of a goal or a problem one finds themselves in.

So . . .

What does this have to do with Avatar The Last Airbender?

Guru Pathik talked of seven chakras—a common number in about three eastern traditions. He said that opening each one would help Aang control the “Avatar State”, where he was most powerful, and I believe doing the things Guru Pathik suggested can help one be their best selves.

The Seven Chakras of Avatar

First is the Earth Chakra, which is tied to the concept of Survival and located at the base of the spine. Guru Pathik told Aang to open the Survival Chakra, he needed to let go of his Fears. For most people, me included, this is very difficult. I feel I have come a long way with facing my fears, but everyday I find new ones due to my anxiety/PTSD, or old ones try to resurface. Lately, my biggest fear has been trying to straighten out my financial security. I’m afraid to have the credit concealing I need, I’m afraid to fill out the paper work necessary. I’m simply afraid of the thing I know I must do, something I know by checking the facts, will benefit me greatly in the end. But knowing these things is only the first step to really letting go of this fear. I have to keep making steps toward this goal if I want to let go of this fear and do what is right for me.

The second chakra is the Water Chakra, which is about Pleasure and located in the abdomen. Aang was told to look at Guilt from his past and to let it go.

Thirdly, the Fire Chakra is about Willpower located in the stomach which is blocked by Shame.

Now, one of the discussions I’ve had in my DBT group is about how Guilt and Shame are sometimes indistinguishable, and are defined differently be different people. To me, guilt is about an action I took that I know I shouldn’t have, such as eating too many sweets. A guilt I am currently trying to let go of today for the many gummy candies I ate a few days ago. But to me shame is about others in society telling me I did something wrong, whether I believe them or not.

Yet when I shared my views in my group, others said they had different definitions or have the same ones flipped from mine. That is one thing that makes Emotional Regulation in the DBT program so interesting. Learning about other’s perspectives can be very telling.

The forth chakra is of Air, located in the heart and deals with Love. This chakra is blocked by Grief. Aang was feeling grief and loss of his mentors, the monks at the air temple he grew up in. This chakra makes a lot of sense to me. How can one love, and feel the love of others if that person is consumed by the grief of lost love or lost loved ones? I wouldn’t have been able to move on with my current partner if I was hung up on how my ex had treated me, or how our relationship had turned out so terrible. I wouldn’t be able to accept the love of my partner’s mother if I was still hung up on losing my own.

Fifth, the Sound Chakra in the throat is about Truth, and blocked by Lies. This is a lesson I learned very well. My mother lied all the time and had my siblings and I lie for her constantly. After I left her, I promised myself to never lie again, but more importantly to “speak my truth”. It took a long time to put speaking my truth into action more completely, to be assertive, something I only truly began doing well at a little over a year ago.

Sixth, is the Light Chakra in the forehead is Insight and blocked by Illusions. What Guru Pathik meant by illusions is the illusion of separation or as I would like to call it, Differences. The example given in the show is that of the four nations of the Avatar world. Though they live divided they are all one people, and alike in so many ways.

What went through my mind as well was not just the nations and people’s of the world, how we all have things in common, and have similar desires and needs, but how we are all connected through our shared heritage. We all are linked in the evolutionary tree of life, not just to other Homo sapiens, but to all other species that are alive or ever have lived. Something I believe is the most beautiful story ever.

And lastly, the seventh chakra is Thought, located at the crown of the forehead is said by Guru Pathik to be Pure Cosmic Energy and blocked by Earthly Attachments. I don’t know what is supposed to be meant by “Pure Cosmic Energy”. Maybe its like the word “toxins”, the woo-filled health nuts can’t tell you what exactly toxins are, but it sounds good and everyone seems to be obsessed with fearing them. But I would like to rename Pure Cosmic Energy to mean Freedom. Ridding ones self of earthly attachments is a concept the show took to be Aang needs to let go of Katara, and he points out that loving her was a good thing only three chakras ago! But unfortunately, nothing is forever and we cannot expect anything to last forever or to stay the same. Not people, possessions, places, or most importantly ourselves. You cannot be the same you you were as a teenager or a few years ago. You are always changing, evolving, and you have to decide if that will be good changes.

Conclusion

Although I believe chakras to be a bit of woo, I feel that the TV show Avatar: The Last Airbender did a good job of talking about Radically Accepting things as they are, while allowing this acceptance to help us move on and release our own “Avatar States”—or what we call in DBT, your WiseMind State. When someone is in their wise mind, they can make the best decisions for themselves.

Here’s the break down:

  • for survival let go of fear
  • for pleasure let go of guilt
  • for willpower let go of shame
  • for love let go of grief
  • for truth let go of lies
  • for insight let go of illusions (differences)
  • and lastly for pure cosmic energy (freedom) let go of earthly attachments,

I think remember these seven concepts will help me to achieve my best self, a life long process, and something I take to be a very serious endeavor. One idea I’ve had is to use these topics when I meditate to better discover what I need to let go of.

Thanks for listening,

C. Lake

 

Sources:

Avatar the Last Airbender, Season 2, Episode 19

A Simple Guide to Opening Your Chakras By The Avatar and His Guru

http://avatar.wikia.com/wiki/Chakras

 

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