Over the weekend, my husband and I saw the movie, Life of Pi. A fantasy adventure of a young boy named Pi, from Pondicherry, India who survives a shipwreck. He spends 227 days on a small lifeboat with a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. To stay alive, not only must Pi outsmart and outmaneuver the hungry, angry tiger, but also provide food, water and shelter for himself and his hostile traveling companion. As the story progresses, Pi credits the tiger with his survival. Had the tiger not been there, forcing him to be alert and resourceful, Pi believes he would have perished.
The movie caused me to think about the “Bengal tigers” in my own life. These are the people who challenged me the most. The ones that gave me the opportunity to grow stronger, become more alert and more resourceful. It took many years for me to see this clearly, but the “tigers” from my past were much like Pi’s Bengal tiger. They were selfish, inconsiderate, angry, manipulative and in their own way, innocent. They were innocent because they were behaving instinctively, without thought or consideration. Their behaviors were based on their conditioning, how they were raised, what they were taught and their past experiences of life.
Most adults have come face to face with a metaphoric tiger at least once in their lives. When we are nose to nose with a “tiger”, it is the rare individual who can recognize him for what he really is… an opportunity for growth. It’s rare because our human tendency, especially if our personal boundaries are not strong, is to react to others from our own conditioning. Typically, this only exacerbates the situation and may trap us in the role of victim.
We have to decide if we are going to allow the “tigers” to overtake us or not. If we don’t let the “tigers” in our lives rip us to shreds, we learn to be courageous, set boundaries and become wiser and stronger. We can practice forgiveness, let go of resentment and remove ourselves from the victim role. Often, a “tiger” has no interest in taming his or her “inner wildcat” and it may be best to learn the “lesson” by identifying your role in the unhealthy relationship and then removing yourself from the situation. On the other hand, if there is a mutual willingness to try, a conscious effort and maybe some outside help, it is possible to remain in a relationship with a “tiger”. This can result in a blameless, victimless relationship built on mutual respect where you can both grow and evolve.
Sometimes we need to learn to walk away and sometimes we need to learn to stay.
Who is your Bengal tiger? What is he here to teach you?