One of the interesting aspects, at least as far as personal conversations went during the recent Feast of Tabernacles, was how quite a few of the people I was chatting with were still drawing lessons and insights ten years later from the Cogwa split. Given my own well-known ferocity about the subject, I suppose I made an obvious person to talk to about such matters, for although I have tried to forget that 2010 ever happened, I find myself frequently reminded of it because I keep on being brought up in context with it. Be that as it may, I did find those conversations particularly interesting, especially one set of conversations I had with one of our members who was a part of the seminar with whom I discussed the drama triangle and empowerment triangles. He commented to me that what was done by the Cogwa leaders was a classic example of manipulating people through the drama triangle, in that people who were motivated by power thought of themselves as victims of some sort of wicked authorities who had deprived them of their rightful influence and positions and who called upon their supporters to serve as heroes to rescue them and restore life back to its normal place. In looking at matters, I have recognized that this narrative is a common one, and frequently a lot of problems in our society and between people happen because people have different constellations of these tales about them.
For example, those who are looking for help and support typically frame their appeal by painting themselves as helpless victims of circumstance who are dealing with some sort of cruel reality or villainous people who are oppressing them and who need others to come in as a white knight with deliverance from trouble. Yet after the immediate problem is solved, there is no long-term change and frequently the same problems result over and over again because the people involved are unable to see themselves as having agency and failing to use it, and because what people seek in distress is not improvement to avoid the situation happening again but deliverance from the problem alone. Anyone who attempts to disabuse such people of their distortions of reality is then conveniently cast as villains who are causing trouble and being unkind and cruel to someone suffering and in need. In contrast, the empowerment circle sees people as creative and having the power within them to change themselves and through changing themselves, their circumstances as well, with coaches providing accountability and techniques to help people improve and others providing challenging that breaks through our self-deception with painful but necessary insight.
Yet it does not appear as if a great many people truly want improvement. Life does not ultimately get better until we get better. And yet one finds the drama triangle very often. Having started to look for it, one can indeed find it everywhere that people try to manipulate others emotionally and slant reality to suit their own biases. For example, those who seek for government programs or regulations to solve the problems faced by ordinary citizens are putting themselves in the role of the hero coming in to save the day from oppressive businesses who are exploiting others, rather than seeing the problems as frequently resulting from victim thinking that seeks to dodge personal responsibility through placing the blame on others. Similarly, writers of histories about oppressed people tend to cast colonial nations as being villains and various thugs and disordered and violent terrorists as being heroes of the exploited masses who need to be delivered from colonial oppression, only to find out that when the colonialists are gone, the people and their corrupt leaders cannot manage to build a successful nation and must continue to blame neo-colonialism rather than to take responsibility for the state of one’s nation, a tendency we see from Dublin to Durban. Whether we see people claiming to be the victim or painting themselves as heroes to save victims, the drama triangle is everywhere when one looks at politics and the self-presentation of candidates and the establishment of failed political worldviews that lead only to continued misery and dependence.
It is also striking just how essential creativity is to the difficulties of this world. All too often we think of creativity as being something possessed by only a few people, but it is really at the heart of any aspect of life’s problems. How we cope with the difficulties of life, how we marshal the resources to handle what we are responsible for, and to accomplish things in life, are aspects of creativity. As a writer and as a singer and musician, it has always been easy for me to recognize myself as a creative person. Yet there is creativity in how we schedule errands to get them accomplished in an efficient manner, or plan the course of our workday to get things done in a timely fashion that allows for us to do what we wish to do in the rest of the day. Even the way that we can seek to motivate others to help us out by appealing to things that provide them with some sort of payoff is an act of creativity, even if it is not always recognized as such. Babies are intensely dependent and their creativity consists of signalling to those around them what they need so that their needs may be met, a matter that is difficult to accomplish without the acquisition of spoken language. Even at our most dependent as human beings, we are still beings who are able, at the very beginnings of our lives, to form tactical and strategic approaches to meet diplomatic and logistical needs. Those capacities only increase as we age and become better educated in the ways of the world as well as in the way that we and other people around us operate. We should not be ignorant of these matters or lack appreciation for the power that we have been given as beings created in the image and likeness of a creative God who has placed within us the drive to create in some fashion according to our particular talents and abilities and opportunities.
In many ways, the victim mentality comes about because of fears about scarcity. We worry and fret that there is not enough love or honor in this world for us to get our fair share of these desirable and vital things. We worry about opportunities and feel that there are great conspiracies of people who want to bring us down. Most often, our own worst enemies are ourselves and our own appetites for self-destruction. Similarly, wherever we look in this world there is a great deal of opportunity for people to find niches and engage in the gaps that exist in current institutions and in contemporary society. There is a vast amount that needs to be done, and few people who are willing to go about and do it. The scarcity that exists is not so much opportunity, but rather diligence and awareness and effort. And until we recognize our own agency and responsibility, it seems unlikely that we will be motivated to improve ourselves and thereby to improve our world. It is far easier to look for deliverance from outside than to recognize our own share in the state of the world that is and to strive, however little influence we may have on the outside world, to do something about it, and to recognize that those challenging us are not evildoers devoid of human kindness or worth, but are often people who are struggling with things from a different perspective from our own–which may frequently be wrong but is certainly still human.