Up To No Good
It’s been a very dispiriting week. Not on a personal level. Steven is still flexing his autonomy muscles and it’s great. I’m back with him for the weekend but this week we’ve only been in each other’s company for two hours on Tuesday and 4 hours on Thursday. That’s what he’s wanted. I suspect I’m finding this new life more unsettling than he is. Before Steven came along, I suppose I had vague ideas of a son flying the nest at some point. Then it became obvious that Steven probably wouldn’t be getting married or going to university or most of those other reasons why your children leave home. What I hadn’t envisaged was that it would be me leaving home! Since the housing debacle of 2013, I have lived in Steven’s home, so if anyone is leaving home it has to be me. I have become the abandoner rather than the abandoned. Not that I see it as dramatic as that. It all feels perfectly natural, albeit a bit strange finding myself trying to carve out a new life for myself at 57.
Anyway, that’s all going swimmingly but this week has seen a fair few disturbances in some of the projects I’m involved in. I’m not going to get bogged down in the detail of the events but want to reflect on the way they are being played out. My sense is we are deep in drama triangle territory again. That perennial triangle where we move effortlessly between the three corners of The Hero, The Victim and The Aggressor. Each of us swims along these triangles most days. Obviously, it is all unconscious which is where the danger lies.
I like to work on the operating principle that there is always a part of ourselves up to no good. There is nothing especially wrong in that but we need to keep an eye out for that no good part of ourselves. I know that within me, my preferred position is The Hero. When that is thwarted I can easily become The Aggressor. My abhorrent position is The Victim. I can’t stand that part of me and I find it so unattractive in others. One scenario that I regularly play out is this: I try to play The Hero and save a Victim. The Victim doesn’t want this because it means they will no longer be a Victim and that is the place that they have made their home. As my heroism has been rejected, my Aggressor springs into action and wants to expose and slay The Victim, further entrenching their position. As I say, this is all unconscious and can sometimes start to play out before I become aware that I’m doing it.
I’ll never forget the client from over a decade ago who announced at her first session with me: “I’ve had 9 therapists over the past 10 years and they’ve all been fucking useless”. Well, you can probably guess where that one went in our relationship. Suffice to say that I can imagine the client, with a new counsellor after me, announcing: “I’ve had 10 therapists over the past 11 years and they’ve all been fucking useless”.
This week I seem to have encountered The Victim more than usual. Some times I have spotted it which has been fine as, by noticing it, I have stopped myself slipping into The Hero role. On other occasions, I’ve been taken by surprise and found my inner Atilla the Hun has surfaced before I’ve sussed what is happening. It is not a pretty sight.
To quote Johnny Hates Jazz, I don’t want to be a hero. It’s a ridiculous claim to make of oneself anyway because it can only end up with you falling off your own pedestal. Or being knocked off. I’d rather not be an aggressor as the blood spilled is not always commensurate with the trigger. And it’s pointless too as you only become fuel for the victim to cement their position. I think the best thing for me to do, for my own sanity, is not to engage with the victim. I don’t mean those (and me at times) who are the victims of an external situation. That happens to us all. But at that point we have a choice. We can either choose to use that situation to gain ourselves more victim points and wallow in our victimhood. We have to spot whether the Victim is asking for sympathy or help. Nine times out of ten they only want sympathy as it will enhance their victim credentials. Offering help will be rejected because it is not what is wanted.
Or we can choose to step out of the drama triangle and not take on any of the roles. On the inside, an inevitable script will act out. On the outside, the landscape is less familiar, more tricky to navigate but more fruitful if you want to break these rotten old pointless patterns.
As I said, there is always a part of ourselves up to no good. Better to make him your conscious friend rather than your unconscious driver.