Can Commiseration Kill People?
Occasionally I write a journal. I also note down quotes and ideas which appeal to me, when I hear them. Today I came across something I wrote down a couple of months ago, ‘Commiseration can kill people.’ It took me a while to remember the source. 3 Principles pioneer, Syd Banks, was giving a talk to an audience which included people with addictions. One woman, an addict, in the audience alternated between a positive response and hostility to his presentation. This is not unusual because the 3 Principles are pointing to the power of the individual, irrespective of previous abuse or victimisation. While the hope and the empowerment are attractive, it can be hard to let go of the role of victim. Many traditional approaches innocently underline this sense of victimisation.
When the talk finished, a therapist with a more traditional leaning was observed to be crouched down in front of this woman, reassuring her that she was indeed broken and suggesting that she should ignore the presentation. On seeing this, Syd remarked to a colleague, ‘His commiseration is killing her.’
I don’t know what happened to that lady, but I have seen a lot of people die from addiction over the last 30 years. And I also know that it doesn’t have to be that way. My dear friend and colleague Kimberley Porter speaks candidly of moving from the trap of addiction to a free and fulfilling life in this video, recorded 6 years ago: https://vimeo.com/14144448
It seems to me that commiseration carries with it a degree of disempowerment which is not only unhelpful but is actually untrue. Acknowledging the true source of our distress – present-time thought – involves no denial of past events. The compassion which stems from a 3 Principles understanding is a very different quality which can help unlock the power within.