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We Don't Need Another Hero

By Ben.

Back in 1985, when Tina Turner begged for a life outside the Thunderdome, I was just a small little fella trying to get out of doing doing homework in my English primary school. I had no idea what an inspiration Tina would become in my life, in so many different ways.

The first podcast we recorded was the drama cycle podcast. The drama cycle is a foundational concept of the work we do at Three Trees and Tina's song, has always, and continues to, motivate me to remember the lessons of the drama cycle. If you have not yet heard this episode of our Podcast, go back and give it a listen, and be sure to ignore all the background noise, we were still learning the technology :-).

The drama cycle was originally developed by a man named Karpman in the late 1960's. It has been adjusted and changed over the years, and at Three Trees the version we use may have different labels, but hopefully still reflects the original intent of the model.

The model suggests that there are 3 roles that people play that lead to drama and conflict. There is a hero role, a victim role, and a offender role. The hero seeks to rescue, protect, save others, while the whole time holding onto expectations for what they should receive in return. The expectation might be appreciation, a celebration, or it could be that the other person listens to them more in future. The victim is the individual who acts helpless about their situation. They fail to see where they could take more responsibility to fix the challenges that are in front of them. The offender is the person who punishes other people for not engaging in the behavior that they want them to.

While I have described them as 3 different roles, they are in actuality 3 different aspects of the same role. We typically begin with playing the role of a hero where we develop expectations for the behavior of other people, based on view of ourselves as helping them, saving them, etc. When these expectations go unmet we fall into the role of the victim, believing that others are the cause of our upset, and refusing to acknowledge the role we have played. We then move into the offender role by seeking to punish the other person with unkind words or worse to repay them for their perceived slight.

It is amazing just how omnipresent this cycle is in our culture. Explore any fairy tale or superhero movie and you will clearly see these three roles outlined. The only problem is that we often don't see how they are all just one character fumbling their way through conflict and self destructive behavior. It is our belief at Three Trees, that once you internalize your own proclivity to play out these roles, you can start to engage with others with less conflict and drama. The problem is our culture loves to worship heroes, and tends to put them in a binary category without reflecting on the difference between heroic behavior with expectations, and heroic behavior without expectations. We end up raising people who desperately want to be seen as heroes without equipping them to understand the responsibility of relationships and managing expectations.

So the next time you find yourself doing something nice for someone, and you begin to develop fantasies of the parades they will throw in your name, take a minute to interrupt these thoughts and remember the wise words of Tina Turner... "We don't need another hero." Check out the whole song if you have not heard it in a while, as there are some beautiful lyrics in there.

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