Welcome to the Year of the Dragon! What does it mean?
PSYCHIATRIC VIEWS ON THE DAILY NEWS
The Chinese New Year began on Saturday, February 10th. It is the Year of the Dragon, the only mythological animal in the Chinese Zodiac system of 12 animals. Generally, it is the most desired Zodiac symbol, as it is the most powerful and hopeful.1
The dragon is associated with intelligence, authority, and good fortune. In addition, this year the Zodiac fundamental element is wood, which represents development and achievement. This year is also the beginning of the next 20-year reign under the ninth flying star, which represents feminine energy, suggesting increased female leadership. Among its extensive powers, the dragon is said to control the weather, climate, and water, including rainfall, thunder, wind, tornadoes, and storms.
In terms of its direct influence on humanity, it is thought that children born under its sign adapt its character and behavior. That may be a self-fulfilling prophecy as believing Chinese parents seem to invest more in children born in a dragon year. For the rest of the individuals born in non-dragon years, the traditional Lunar New Year includes dragon dancers which are said to bestow luck on all those attending such performances.
Mythology reflects the values and wishes of the culture involved. Therefore, there are different prominent myths in some of the Eastern countries compared to the West. The West has traditionally valued Greek mythology. In turn, Freud looked to Greek mythology as a source of human challenges and solutions, and came up with a cornerstone of his theories, the Oedipal conflict between father and son. Just as overly Oedipal conflicted patients go to a psychiatrist, individuals can go to a Chinese geomancy consultant to see how their elements are aligned with the coming year. In the West, traditional stories posit the dragon as also being powerful, but much more dangerous.
A colleague pointed out to me that there is a unique view of the dragon in Tibet, different from either the Western or Chinese dragon2:
“The Dragon is believed to have the power of perfect communication and enlightenment, being able to see right through slander and other forms of manipulation. Dragons cannot be seen by the naked eye, but they are known to announce their presence with a thunderous sound that awakens people from false beliefs and perceptions.”
The United States and the world are going through a conflictual dangerous political and climate time as the Year of the Dragon begins. Thundering bombs and missiles shatter the Middle East. If nothing else is bringing optimism for the upcoming year, the Dragon mythology can do so. Taking into apologetic account my limited knowledge base, the Dragon seems to represent strong and great leadership, and this year adds a strong female leadership likelihood.
In this time of climate emergency, the Dragon is said to have a potentially positive influence. In other words, in this Year of the Dragon, we might expect a charismatic, intelligent, and powerful female leader devoted to good fortune, who will awaken us to solutions for the challenges of climate change, political deception, and in our particular case, the well-being of our patients and ourselves. Note that our video last week homed in on the political leadership being embodied by the middle-aged generation of multicultural female politicians in the United States. For the nonbelievers, there may be other means to continue to try to get to the same positive ends, including depth psychological understanding and recommendations.
Dr Moffic is an award-winning psychiatrist who specialized in the cultural and ethical aspects of psychiatry and is now in retirement and retirement as a private pro bono community psychiatrist. A prolific writer and speaker, he has done a weekday column titled “Psychiatric Views on the Daily News” and a weekly video, “Psychiatry & Society,” since the COVID-19 pandemic emerged. He was chosen to receive the 2024 Abraham Halpern Humanitarian Award from the American Association for Social Psychiatry. Previously, he received the Administrative Award in 2016 from the American Psychiatric Association, the one-time designation of being a Hero of Public Psychiatry from the Speaker of the Assembly of the APA in 2002, and the Exemplary Psychiatrist Award from the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill in 1991. He is an advocate and activist for mental health issues related to climate instability, physician burnout, and xenophobia. He is now editing the final book in a 4-volume series on religions and psychiatry for Springer: Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, Christianity, and now The Eastern Religions, and Spirituality. He serves on the Editorial Board of Psychiatric Times.
1. Duncan C. Why is the Year of the Dragon considered so lucky? Smithsonian Magazine. February 9, 2024. Accessed February 12, 2024. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/why-is-the-year-of-the-dragon-considered-so-lucky-180983764/
2. The role of dragons in Tibetan culture and faith. Tibetan Journal. April 11, 2019. Accessed February 12, 2024. https://www.tibetanjournal.com/the-role-of-dragons-in-tibetan-culture-and-faith/