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The Seven Dwarves of Smallness

on January 13, 2012

Some coaches and therapists believe that their clients don’t really understand the dynamics at work in their lives. They think their job is to illuminate the dynamics so their clients can shift them. I encounter people all the time who are very aware of their interpersonal dynamics, but they can’t or don’t want to shift them. Even when those dynamics cause pain and suffering, they’d rather dance with the devil they know. I often say, “Inertia is a very powerful force.”

But at some point, it becomes more painful to stay stuck that it would be to grow. Anais Nin put it beautifully when she wrote, “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” That time is different for everyone. Some people have higher tolerance for the unknown, and they’re more willing to risk the fear of moving forward. Others have to hit a bottom that is a hundred stories below one that I would choose. But sooner or later, for anyone with even the slightest desire to grow as an individual, that time does come.

When that time comes for you, it’s time to say hello to what I call the Seven Dwarves of Smallness. Others call them your demons, but I think that gives them too much power. The Seven Dwarves are the gatekeepers to your soul. They are there to protect who you really are. When faced and conquered, you will find JOY. You will, at long last, be able to Just Own Yourself.

The Seven Dwarves are probably the most misunderstood and under appreciated creatures on the planet. They get a bad rap as dragons, demons, and shadows. I’m here to stick up for them, because the truth is, they have a very important job. They were put in place to keep your greatest gifts safe from harm.

As soon as you decide to take my (or someone else’s) advice and “just do it;” as soon as you decide to apply the magic formula for a better life, your Seven Dwarves will start screaming. Their job is to keep you small so you don’t realize how big you really are. They keep you in fear so you continue to experience yourself as a mere mortal, when in fact you are a spiritual being having a human experience. The Dwarves tell you seven lies. Actually, they tell millions of lies, but they’re all variations of seven themes. The seven themes are:

  1. Abandonment/Rejection: Nobody likes me, or the people who love me will leave me
  2. Scarcity: There’s NotEnoughtoGoAround-tive thinking
  3. Humiliation/Shame: If you really knew me, you’d hate me because I’m a bad, horrible person.
  4. Betrayal/Trust: People can’t be trusted; I’m not safe
  5. Injustice/Punishment: I will be punished for speaking my truth because life is unfair
  6. Unworthiness: I’m not worthy of love, happiness, money, etc.
  7. Doubt/Lack of Faith: Self doubt and lack of faith in God/the Universe

I mentioned that the Seven Dwarves have an important job: to keep your greatest gifts safe from harm. What they don’t understand is that that job is temporary. The Seven Dwarves were set up by your subconscious mind when you were a small child. Whenever you were told that it wasn’t acceptable to be yourself, one of the Dwarves sprang into action and created a story for you. The purpose of the story was to keep you from acting in a way that would get you in trouble. Its effect was to hide different aspects of your personality.

Once you reach adulthood, the Dwarves job should end. But adulthood is more than just an age; I’m talking about emotional adulthood. People reach emotional adulthood when they’re ready to take full responsibility for their lives, regardless of their story. They’ve reached their own “bottom” and the risk to remain tight in a bud becomes too great. They no longer need the Seven Dwarves to keep them safe; they can and want to do it for themselves. At this point in a person’s life, they get to essentially re-parent themselves. It can be a frightening prospect, but when it’s less frightening than staying stuck, you will begin. I have a roadmap, and I will share it with you here as we explore living a life of JOY.


8 responses to “The Seven Dwarves of Smallness

  1. Mariam says:

    “I encounter people all the time who are very aware of their interpersonal dynamics, but they can’t or don’t want to shift them.” This is very true, sometimes people just don’t want to change. And no amount of advice can change anything in their lives.

    The way you write and express your ideas resonates so deeply with me. I think it’s because it’s the way I think about things. I feel that most of what I read on these types of topics is written for the sake of writing and not actually saying that much or providing people with any real guidance. You speak from from a very real, true, and conscious place. Thank you for doing that.

    • Thanks Mariam! I always appreciate comments.

      • Mariam says:

        Have you written any books?

      • Yes, I’ve written an e-book called “Attracting Abundance” and have recently finished one called “The Soulmate Myth” (not yet published). Johanna Lyman Transformational Speaker and Author Relationship Coach


        Sign up for a free report, “4 Myths That Make Relationships Miserable” here


      • Mariam says:

        That’s great! It’s so interesting, I spent a good chunk of the Fall thinking about and internally investigating the idea of the “soulmate myth”. I went through an interesting breakup and realized that part of my issue had been this idea of romantic love that I had been sold and bought. I feel like now I am de-conditioning and detoxing ideas, beliefs, and emotional charge about relationships that don’t serve me and never have served me, but that are so persuasive in our society that we unwittingly take them as truth. I’ve been feeling more and more drawn to a new paradigm of relationships… one that is not co-dependent, one that is unconditionally loving and forgiving, and one that we do not lose ourselves in or expect to gain something from. But rather one that is treated as an opportunity to experience wholeness in the presence of another whole person. I’m still feeling into this… I’ve been feeling how it would look and feel being in this new type of relationship. Every now and then I’ll hit more ideas and beliefs that need to be let go. I’m peeling back the onion. When I get into my next relationship, I want to get into it from this new paradigm. But I’m definitely not in that place right now (desire-wise and otherwise).

      • Good for you!! You’ll probably be interested in reading the blogs on my other (main) website, I’ve written about a new paradigm for relationships, and a lot of what you’re talking about. 🙂 Johanna Lyman Transformational Speaker and Author Relationship Coach


        Sign up for a free report, “4 Myths That Make Relationships Miserable” here


  2. Rob Richards says:

    My dad left when I was 15, and I’m realizing that I’ve never really gotten over it. All five of the things in your ‘5 Ways Abandonment Issues…’ article resonate with me, and led to the end of my last relationship. Like, it’s scary how it fits perfectly with my patterns of behavior. The Seven Dwarves, or Seven Little Haters as I’ve taken to calling them, actually make up the foundation of how I’ve operated. All of those things chip away at my relationships, family, friends, business, you name it. I will find a reason to manufacture debilitating anxiety so that I can come up with an excuse to abandon you before you can abandon me.

    All that said, I’m working hard, writing and reading (out with the bad, in with the good) to change that. I don’t want to hurt anybody else, and I don’t want to hurt myself anymore.

    Thanks for your great writing on this subject, it has been provocative and given a basis to start looking at my behaviors. Any advice you can send my way would be helpful for me in this rebuilding phase.

    • hi Rob,
      I apologize for not responding sooner. I’m no longer actively maintaining this site, but you can follow me at If you sign up for the video series, you’ll get my latest stuff.

      Kudos for taking a long, hard look at all this scary stuff! It’s not easy, but it gets better.

      I’m doing some work with five archetypes that really fit in with the abandonment wound, so stay tuned (they’ll be in video blogs and Google Hangout times mostly).

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