I’ve been away on a meditation retreat for several weeks. I was happy to be back and ready to facilitate last night’s Path of Freedom class entitled “Empowerment”. My co-facilitator and friend Joel met me at the prison. It was a joyful moment when we and all the other class facilitators (AA, AVP, Toastmasters, and a couple of others) entered the first security area where we were searched. We removed our coats, hats, belts, shoes, rolled our socks past our heels, and walked through a metal detector. We opened our mouths for a search, rolled our pants waistline with our thumbs and then got the invisible stamp of approval on our hand. During this security search process we were all chatting, laughing and thoroughly enjoying ourselves as we’ve all gotten to know each other over the months and years. Even the correction officers who search us seemed to enjoy our arrival.
After putting our clothes back on, we proceeded to the next check point and walked towards the classrooms. It was a freezing night, clear, starry with a brilliant full moon. There were several manhole covers on the prison grounds that were spewing steam into the cold atmosphere that was then condensing into swirling dancing phantoms. Prisoner-phantoms, at long last free to leave the confines of these electrified walls. We entered the school building and proceeded to our respective classrooms. I drew a Drama Triangle, Above and Below the Line diagram and Empowerment Triangle on the blackboard. The inmates arrived and, as I was away for a few weeks, we greeted each other with an extra amount of delight and joy. Many of the guys asked about my retreat and one of them wryly asked if I was now enlightened.
Last night’s class was on the topic of Empowerment. As a review and to keep things in perspective, we began to review the Drama Triangle which includes the three points of Victim, Persecutor and Rescuer. We briefly reviewed how we all tend to unconsciously cycle between these neurotic identities of powerlessness, helplessness and lack of control (Victim), abusing and accusing the victim (Persecutor) and the one who saves the victim from the abusive persecutor (Rescuer). The problem with these roles is that they are static and solid. The Rescuer never allows the Victim to transform into someone who can take control of his own life and make his own free choices. The Persecutor (blamer) see’s the victim as solely the cause of derision and doesn’t recognize any other possibilities. The Victim is lost in his powerlessness, fear, hopelessness and loss of control in his life. There is much more to this Drama Triangle dynamic which is beyond the scope of this blog post. We did a role-play of this Drama Triangle which was great fun and quite useful. It got so expressive and loud that the class next door to us complained to the correction officers and they came into our classroom to see what was going on. We then analyzed this situation in the context of the drama triangle which turned out to be an on the spot real life role-play that proved to be fun and instructive.
We discussed the Empowerment Triangle. The three points on the second triangle that I drew on the blackboard were Co-Creator, Challenger and Coach. The Drama Triangle has now been transformed: the Victim transforms into the Co-Creator, the Persecutor transforms into the Challenger, and the Rescuer transforms into the Coach. The Co-Creator is empowered to envision all the possibilities in his life and to have the confidence to take the steps required, and make the choices necessary to live fearlessly regardless of the circumstances. The Challenger no longer blames and accuses but rather acts as a clear mirror reflecting situations without distortion and provokes positive change in a powerful and direct way. The Coach has let go of the self-serving control of the Rescuer and offers all the support and encouragement needed to allow the victim to self-transform.
We talked about how the notion of “Below the Line” as living in the habitual, solid and mechanical patterns of behavior, thought and negative emotion that is characterized by the Drama Triangle. And we talked about the notion of “Above the Line” as living our lives with the ability to make conscious choices based on freedom from the fixations and distractions associated with the Drama Triangle, which then transforms us into the Empowerment Triangle paradigm.
Finally, we touched on the realization that the crux of self-transformation is not only becoming mindful of our solid habitual patterns of behavior. It is also a function of acknowledging the pure potential that is revealed as a result of this mindfulness process. This process uncovers the basic or innate goodness at the core of our being that has always been free and is never compromised by the vicissitudes of all that we experience and all the circumstances we find ourselves in.
We ended the class joyfully with many handshakes, fist bumps and smiles.