… how drama provides identities
“I think the time of masters is over.”
a friend said to me recently and I admit as I wanted to raise to contradict her, I stopped for a moment. Because it’s worth thinking about it.
It is not unusual that people have different levels of knowledge, education or experience. And of course they cope with it in various ways. Between megalomania and self-underestimation everything is represented. In most social fields these differences appear fairly unspectacular to more or less functional. The latter I’d consider fairly reasonable.
In one field, however, things are a bit different. As soon as someone lingers in a scene that has some kind of mystical, magical or spiritual theme as a basis the relationship scheme “master/student” becomes rather dramatic.
Two terms I would like to explain in advance. The transactional analysis model has established the so-called drama triangle (see sketch). This constellation consists of three roles, namely “persecutors, victims and rescuers” which interact with each other in differing ways. Within this triangle certain role-specific behavioral patterns are being expected or assumed of the participants (mostly implicated).
The specialty of this drama triangle is that the roles are interchangeable.
Person A harms person B. Thus, A is a persecutor and B a victim. Now person C joins the situation and attacks persecutor A and thus becomes savior C.
But it can happen that as soon as C enters the situation, B takes the party of A, trivializes the hurt and suddenly starts acting against the savior C. Like this C becomes the new persecutor because of his attack against A and B turns into the savior.
It can also happen that victim B and rescuer C unite against persecutor A and proceed against him. So suddenly B and C become the persecutors to victim A. If now another person (D) enters the situation and judges B and C, person D will be the new rescuer and a new drama triangle is established.
This role switching continues in endless variations. What remains though are the aforementioned stereotypical roles which provide a fixed social identity and intense (= dramatic) feelings. Especially narcissistic needs of heroic feelings, devotion, power and powerlessness are being acted out successfully since the drama triangle is after all what fairy tales, myths and stories are made of.
The second term I would like to explain is “collusion”. Collusion refers mainly to couple relationships which can be love relationships, but not necessarily although a certain amount of “eros” – also in a sublimated form – is usually part of it and appears basically in strong and needy emotionality. These are different forms of narcissistic tendencies, which interlock fatally and can screw up to an uncontrollable momentum.
When a woman with a narcissistic tendency meets a narcissistic male counterpart, the following patterns interlock:
Male narcissism is generally known and may be associated with concepts such as self conviction, selfishness, egotism, megalomania.
Narcissistic women, however, tend to delegate their egotism due to their socialization and therefore search for a (narcissistic) partner who as a surrogate will act out their narcissistic needs while they support him with devotion and subordination.
Both – and this is actually the core of narcissism – are always dependent on a mirroring from outside themselves due to their underlying weak ego. They are not able to establish a sufficient feeling of identity from within their personality. This means that if two partners meet each other as described above, the first thing they do is mirroring each other according to the desired (self-)images and thereby experience intense emotions, which they interpret as “love”.
But since an ideal self-image can only be obtained by elimination of the unpopular parts of the personality, those will develop an uncontrollable momentum in the depths of the subconscious and eventually break out impulsively. The narcissistic mirror image is getting distorted and both partners now begin to hate these unpleasant reflections in one another due to their typical lack of self-reflection.
Now the only thing that can stabilize a narcissistic relationship that has come so far is a “staging” of the relationship itself in order to be mirrored and confirmed as a “dream couple” from an audience. Both partners are now unable to stabilize themselves as a couple due to their narcissistic incompetence to solve conflicts.
I would strongly suggest to add a new drama triangle to the classical one consisting of “victim -persecutor – savior ” and name it “Student – Master – Savior” .
No matter if esoteric groups, heathen online communities or any form of spiritual/magic/mystical virtual gathering again and again one encounters stray needy students in search of a master. Of course this erases the question whether internet communication provides a special platform to narcissistic relationships, but that is not the topic here. So if a cry for the master gets expelled particularly obvious, the first thing the student encounters is a crowd of rescuers and warning voices that tell him that he needs to find everything he seeks within himself. The copious amount of actually made or merely heard experiences resonates here of course. Secretly the saviour bunch is hoping to be right with this recommendation and that the seeking student finally provides the desired proof that you can actually be happy and satisfied WITHOUT a master. Because many rescuers are indeed nothing but formerly exploited, abused or just narcissistically injured students(or a bit of all three) who are looking to compensate their own loss by acting out the savior role and search for failed students and fellow sufferers.
Masters, students and rescuers
Another genus of rescuers preferably saves from all other masters besides their own and are actually students dressed up as saviors looking to recruite new student colleagues to lay them to the feet of their secret master as a special proof of devotion. Because the more students a master has the more competent he appears (and for this he doesn’t necessarily have to be very competent. A little secretive cult posing is fairly enough). Particularly insidious are those masters disguised as rescuers, which usually have fairly strong amateur-psychological skills and understand it masterfully to create an almost irresistible pull to needy students by skillfully placing their profile neurosis aka “wisdom”.
But also the students have what it takes. I would like to take up the cudgels for those who are – usually only temporary – drawn by fate and are looking for support. They are actually endangered by an even more evil fate, because as soon as they have crawled out of her temporary suffering, they will be accused of being the master’s traitor. The master relies on the fact that his status is underpinned by dedicated (= needy) students. Not that “dedicated” and “needy” would be the same, but it looks quite similar from the outside and honestly who would take a closer look on that. The show must go on, right? Needy can be found much easier than true dedication and the master market is extremely competitive.
But then there are still students who have rehearsed their helplessness so masterfully so they magnetically attract needy masters (oh yes, there is such thing, too) by staging their devotion and subservience so bold that a master is likely to give in to his needs to rehabilitate his shaky pedestal. This type of students bascially seeks nothing but a constant source of affection, care and confirmation. Some are so skillful in it that they even learn how to act personal progress to bind and confirm the master. And after all this can easily be undone by a well initiated stroke of fate.
Now a lot has been said about the masters. I can hardly think of anything else to say. But therein lies probably the nature of these “spiritual collusions”. The masters often remain a ridiculous lonely smartass lacking rescuers and students. Yes, even the rescuers have some meaning, because if they speak so vehemently against the master they provide the necessary opposition which ennobles the master once a student throws himself to his feet in spite of the opposition. Students have a certain amount of “trophy quality” because the more self-aware and socially respected they are, the higher the pedestal they can provide the master.
Gimme some drama!
The roles a drama triangle provides create – as the name suggests – drama. Drama involves intense emotions that correspond with romantic or rather narcissistic ideal images, allowing a deep identification with these mostly shaped in the early childhood. It is a kind of unconscious role-playing. Instead of seeing the tacky movie in the cinema or the drama in five acts in the theater, one can be part of the game himself and the boring everyday’s life turns into a stage. I mean what could be more exciting? This situation is actually similar to the spiritual drama triangle. This also promises great emotions that have most likely only secondarily to do with love and passion and primarily with “enlightenment”, “dedication” and “wisdom”. The quotation marks are necessary since these are of course no genuine qualities but a cheap narcissistic copy.
As with the classic drama triangle there is usually only one rescue from the spiritual drama triangle: the exit from the game itself. This can be achieved by not accepting one of the above mentioned roles. Still wisdom, experience and knowledge can be provided by those who can to where it is needed and this can and absolutely should be rewarded. But this requires – just like the classic drama triangle – a turn to contents and values of relationships rather than emotions and social positions. Then roles can evolve a functional purpose, but they do not degenerate to the sole purpose of a narcissistic game.