My friend, Sarah called me one morning in the middle of a huge fight with her friend, Joe. As Sarah was telling the whole story, I could tell that she was incredibly overwhelmed and stuck in the swirl that was just taking her down down down down down into the pit of despair. I knew that it wouldn't be helpful for me to jump in the mud with her, even though that is what I really wanted to do, since I could see all of the ways in which she had been wronged by Joe! Thankfully as she finished up her story she said, "I wanted to talk to you to see if you could help me see this from a different perspective." Wow! This was going to be quite the doozy to sort through the muck and the mud to find a way out of this drama triangle. But I was also excited to see if some of the tools I learned at yoga teacher training could be useful in this non-yoga situation.
Yoga is a practice. Just like you practice soccer for soccer games. Or you practice piano for performances. You practice yoga, to prepare yourself for real life. You put yourself in a challenging pose/situation and ask your body to breathe to tell your brain that everything is okay, we aren't actually running from lions and tigers. From that space of calm amidst the challenge you can think and act more clearly.
Back to how we were going to use yoga to help Sarah through this challenge with Joe.
The first tool I learned from my yoga teacher training that we talked through was the "Drama Triangle".
In any given situation with another person/s where you are not feeling at peace you are likely playing one of three roles in the drama triangle:
1- the victim (the one being wronged)
2- the perpetrator/persecutor (the one making someone else wrong)
3- the rescuer (the one making the victim feel justified in their victim-ness or the perpetrator feel justified in making the other person wrong)
If you are playing any or all of these roles then you are not your most powerful and effective self.
Sarah and I talked through how, even though we could both see how Joe had "wronged her", sitting in that space of victim was not going to help her find resolve or be powerful. Neither was her flailing in the space of perpetrator, making Joe wrong over and over again in her mind going to help her find resolve. And as much as I felt totally justified, willing and very able to play the rescuer, that was not going to help Sarah be her most powerful self either!
She laughed as she asked, "So how do I get out of the drama triangle? Just let it go?" To which I said, "Well can you just let it go?"
"But I'm right! Joe is wrong. He needs to know he is wrong. But there's no way to make him see that he's wrong."
Down down down she spiraled.
This moment of Sarah wanting to make Joe wrong reminded me of a second helpful tool from my yoga teacher training bag of tricks. The addiction we have to being right.
Did you know that there is a place in your brain that gets a hit of dopamine every time you are right?!?! As in the dopamine that makes you feel awesome when you take various kinds of drugs. So every time you make someone wrong, it's like you just won a prize, ding! ding! ding! You win! You get a hit of a super awesome chemical in your brain which makes your body feel awesome! That's why the "Ha! I told you so!!!" that we often experience, or seek out in life, is so very wonderful!!!
So back to Sarah in the drama triangle. Her emotional self was planning to just keep spinning and spiralling down down down until she got her fix, the dopamine hit from making Joe know that he was wrong! So who's the victim and who's the perpetrator now?!?! Lines were getting a little blurry now. And it's looking like this perp, Sarah, would likely never get her prize, the dopamine hit, because Joe was not showing any signs of realizing he was at fault, let alone admitting fault.
So we needed to pull out another tool from the tool chest. We needed to get to the actual root of the problem that was causing all of this drama. The question now was. "What is Joe's fundamental concern?" As in, what is his major focus or reason for being and doing the things he does?
Sarah's automatic response was. "Himself. His only concern is himself, which is why he so willingingly and carelessly walks all over everyone else." The rescuer in me jumped right on board in agreement! "Yep, totally. Everything he does is for himself." But that sucks! Surely there is more to this, otherwise this useful yoga teacher training tool, was not going to work!
So we dug deeper. With some thought we were able to remember/recognize that Joe had had a very intense life, with major health issue after health issue, some trauma and abuse. We were finally able to see that Joe wasn't surface level being selfish in life. He was unconsciously trying to practice self-care. Yes, every action and decision was all about how he was going to manipulate things in his favor. But it was hard to argue with the fact that all of his actions were coming from a very tender place of self preservation and survival. So, at this point Sarah and I could agree that while we don't have to agree with the actions Joe took that very negatively impacted Sarah, we couldn't argue with the fact that Joe's fundamental concern was actually his practice of self care.
Great! That's awesome! So for a moment we were both able to step outside of the drama triangle and see that by holding onto the anger and the story of how Joe wronged her, it was like Sarah was carrying around a bag of heavy rock that only she was choosing to carry.. How could she be her most powerful self if she is holding onto all of this drama!!! With compassion and empathy for Joe's fundamental concern, Sarah was able to set down the heavy bag of "rocks" (reasons for being upset) that made her the victim. She was able to set down the other "rocks" (the list of reasons why the Joe was wrong) that made her the perpetrator. I was no longer trying to hand Sarah any more "rocks" as a rescuer. And for a brief moment I could feel the sense of peace over the phone.
Sarah said, "But I just want to pick up all of the rocks and throw them at his face!" Ha! And just like that, Sarah was sucked back into the drama triangle!
And then the practice of yoga began... one moment at a time, one breath at a time. She took another step out of the drama triangle and said, "But I don't want to carry all of these rocks. I'm going to have to just let them go." And just a soon as she let them go, she picked the rocks back up again. And that practice of setting the rocks down continued and will likely continue until the situation is on an actual human practical level resolved because these two will have to continue to interact for atleast several more weeks.
So we devised a plan:
1- to notice the physical sensations in her chest as a reminder to let her know that she unintentionally picked up the bag of "rocks" again and that she should take some deep breaths and let them go once again.
2-- in any situations with Joe, Sarah will likely be more successful if she lets go of her need to be "right"
3- rather than interacting with Joe's habits of manipulation and selfishness. She is going to try to instead interact with Joe's fundamental concern of self-care and doing what he needs to do for self-preservation. Sarah will be coming from a place of compassion and empathy instead.
It's definitely going to be a practice of yoga off the mat into real life. Who knew that my yoga teacher training was going impact my life in such a more meaningful way than learning about some poses!