When I was a graduate student in Edinburgh, Scotland, I took many visits to Loch Ness with camera in hand. I hoped that I would be lucky enough to get some great pictures of the Loch Ness monster-a.k.a. Nessie. While scanning the surface of one of Scotland's loveliest lochs, I had dreams of photographing that denizen of the deep and then selling the photographs to the news media. A roll full of glossies of Nessie would have paid for graduate school and a lot more. But alas, I never captured that Celtic creature on Kodak film. I did see several suspicious ripples on the surface of the loch, but Nessie never reared its head far enough above the water's surface for me to get a good picture.

However, many others have seen the Loch Ness monster. The earliest account was by Adamnan in 565 AD. He tells a fascinating story about how St. Columba went out into the middle of the loch to chastise the monster for devouring a man who unfortunately was at the wrong place at the right time. Since St. Columba's little talk with the monster, Nessie hasn't swallowed or even nibbled at anyone for well over fourteen hundred years.

Although St. Columba has rendered Nessie harmless, the loch's monster still intrigues millions. I think that part of the fascination that we have with the monster has to do with our fears and anxieties about those things that we cannot control in our lives. These apprehensions become personified in the form of monsters. Some of these fear-filled monsters may have to do with concerns about being eaten alive at work or being devoured by piles of bills. On the other hand, our anxieties might have to do with demon-like spirits that assault us with other personal problems like divorce or poor health. Whatever the vexing monster-like problems might be, they stalk us. The Loch Ness Monster, Big Foot, the Abominable Snowman, and others gather together our concerns of impotence and become metaphors for life's problems. Therein lies much of our fascination with them.

While there is much debate among experts about the actual existence of these monsters in the wild, there is no disagreement about the personification of these monsters in our lives. Few of us will be lucky (or perhaps unlucky) enough to ever run into one of these creatures, although we come face to face with monster-like problems in our daily lives. Therefore, the question is how should we deal with the creatures that stalk our serenity?

Here are some suggestions of neutralizing the leviathans of life.

  • Name it. Get a clear definition of the problem by avoiding generalized monsters. One of the problems with a monster is that it oozes into an all-encompassing creature that lurks in all corners of our lives. Therefore, define what the creature is and how it can effect you.
  • Neutralize it. Our biggest problem with Big Foot, the Abominable Snowman, and the other creatures that terrorize us is trying to find them. While they may be ferocious, they are quite elusive. These monsters are seldom seen devouring people and neither do our personal creatures. Once we realize this, we neuter their ability to terrorize us.
  • Make friends with the monsters that vex you. Do what St. Columba did with the Loch Ness Monster. Instead of hiding from the denizen, he rowed right out into its territory and dealt with it directly. Talk turkey to your fear-filled nemeses. Once Columba faced the monster, he took control of it. Nessie became a benign monster generating much money for Scottish tourism. Put your monster to work for you. Use your fear to motivate you into a problem-solving mode rather than a fear-filled incarceration. By dealing directly with the monster, you gain strength from confronting it. You become stronger while it becomes weaker.

It has been thirty years since I failed to capture Nessie on film and missed the opportunity for wealth and fame. However, each of us can become dragon-slayers in our world by following these suggestions. When we do, we can become richly successful in dealing with the monsters of our lives.

Possibly what Nessie looks like...