Sunday 7 July 2024

Rethinking the need for heroes

In German playwright Bertolt Brecht’s classic play Life of Galileo, Andrea, a former pupil of Galileo, visits him after he recants his seminal findings under pressure from the Catholic Church. Galileo gives Andrea his notebooks, asking him to spread the knowledge they contain. Andrea celebrates this, saying, “Unhappy is the land that breeds no hero.” 

Galileo corrects him: “Unhappy is the land that needs a hero.”

This concept pushes us to think outside the mainstream. People with a victim mindset are often looking for a hero to save the day and an anti-hero to blame. A better approach is to question why we need heroes, persecutors, or hapless victims in the first place. Instead, we should have the courage to be regular adults dealing with issues in a mature way.

The Drama Triangle is a concept where people engage in certain kinds of drama in their interpersonal interactions. These dramas are typically negative behaviors that do not lead to positive outcomes. The drama perpetuates negativity and does not lead to resolution.

In Victim mode, one feels victimized and unable to enjoy life or effectively deal with life's issues. Victims seek out persecutors or rescuers.

In Rescuer mode, one constantly looks to rescue someone, which is an easy escape from focusing on their own problems. It is avoidance disguised as concern for the victim, keeping the victim dependent on the rescuer and vice versa.

In Persecutor mode, one is blaming, controlling, or angry. Instead of being assertive, the drama forces the person to be aggressive.

The need for heroes is a siren call for engaging in drama. Whenever we see a situation where there is an acknowledged need for heroes to save the day, it is a clear indication of underlying problems that need to be addressed directly. In relationships and organizations, this dynamic suggests a lack of healthy, collaborative problem-solving and an over-reliance on individuals to resolve systemic issues. 

It is also linked to the superhero syndrome, the expectation that one can do everything by themselves without relying on others. This goes against eons of human development, which is based on communal and collaborative living.

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