Entry 11

Hero in our own movie

The treasure trove of the Oligoamorists is teeming with heroes and monsters, idols, mythical figures and chimeras. A favoured figure who is likely to be invoked around the campfires because the audience can relate to him so much is the black flittermouse-man.
[This story would of course also work with the FantasticFemme or the DiverseDiva as the protagonist but today I want to tell you the story as I heard it from the natives of the remote island of Oligoamory for the first time myself]:

He is a hero.
He is the flittermouse-man,
the black chevalier.
He is doing the best he can.
He is doing what has to be done: the right thing.
He lives to see another day.

But today the hero sits gloomily on the large gargoyle of marble, high above the city, and is very thoughtful. Because lately his exploits do not seem to be so heroic anymore – and he just can not explain why.
In his view there is nothing to blame himself: He acts as he has always done, he is brave, he fights for the good – or at least for what he thought that would be just yesterday.

But in the last few days, his restless dedication seems to serve less and less the intended noble goals, to which the flittermouse-man is committed of his own accord.
Actually he stands through and through for the ideal of an oligoamorous relationship-person: loyal, reliable, responsible and full of integrity.
In this way he returned last weekend from a meeting with a couple – both trusted as well as dear companions and lovers of the flittermouse-man. It was an intense weekend, which had strengthened the closeness and intimacy of the relationship between the three of them. Especially with the wife the flittermouse-man had strengthened this time even more friendly ties, which had been important to him in advance regarding their entire togetherness.
This wholehearted togetherness had completely imbued him, and he had been enchanted throughout on his way back home. How could he give this unique feeling even more expression and increase it even further, now that it was flowing through him from head to toe? He wouldn’t have been the flittermose-man if he hadn’t come up with something at the speed of light: Before his verspertine arrival in his secret hiding place he turned his dark vehicle and rushed immediately to his third loved one, in order to share his gained fulfilment with her that night.
The next morning, in the mirror, he not only saw the hero he was, but felt it in every fibre. And that’s why the next oligoamorous feat was obvious: Instant creation of transparency and sharing of these experiences and insights with his prior hosts. Today I’m doing it the right way!
But what came over our good flittermouse-man next was not what he had expected. For it was precisely the wife of his trusted couple that gave him a completely unheroic testimonial: How he could have acted so needily and so ungrateful after their intimate weekend, that in his rush of lust and in his insatiability he would have had to throw himself right at the very next bosom on the way back? Whether the intense closeness of body, mind and soul during their weekend meant so little to him that it would have to be overwritten immediately by the next sensation? And that he was duly asked to rethink his arbitrary dealings concerning all his loved ones…

If only things had stopped there! But even with his third sweetheart he seemed to deviate further and further from the self-imposed path of virtue in the course of the remaining week.
With her he naturally had an agreement of transparency and honesty as well – and so he had gradually described her on Monday all the events of the preceding weekend. Along the way our flittermouse-man – mindful relationship-person that he was – noticed that his sweetheart had by no means coped with all the details quite so confidently, yes, that he had sensed some kind of inner turmoil in her, perhaps even anxiety or irritation. A clean-cut case for the flittermouse-man: grief foreseen is grief avoided! That’s why he was an oligoamorous hero after all, to be committed and to ensure stability. Further inquiries of his loved one during the following days he answered now with less details and more general description – not only to lend a protecting hand to a potentially shaken fellow being in distress but to prove: You can always rely on the flittermouse-man as a careful guardian and true keeper of your sensitive limits!
But then – on Thursday – his sweetheart broke on him like a thunderstorm: That she would perceive all this reluctance and the worming out of any information regarding x and y as nasty as well as sad. That he would deprive her of the whole truth out of misguided patronage, and would obviously handle his transparency slippery as an eel. And that this whole conduct concerning all his loved ones wasn’t very oligoamorous after all…

There he had fled to his lonely gargoyle high above, broken, desperate, feeling misunderstood. Drizzle coveres him and sinks like a veil upon the heart of the black chevalier.
How could a hero like him have fallen so deeply?

The tragic figure of the flittermouse-man in the oligoamorous legends is for us – as well as for the spellbound listeners at the campfire – as an archetype almost a kind of “soul mate” and has a lot to do with ourselves:
Because Marshall B. Rosenberg explains in his model of “Nonviolent Communication” that almost all people usually have “very good (personal) reasons” for their actions. If you have read this sentence quickly, I ask you to do it again – and emphasise the word “good” lovingly and explicitly, because this is of utmost importance for the further understanding!

Psychological research (in particular humanistic psychology with the representatives V. Satir, C. Rogers and A. Maslow) bases these “good reasons” on the existence of universal human needs, which all members of the species “Homo sapiens” search to fulfil for themselves (►These include life-sustaining needs such as air, water, food, heat, light and sleep; the need for safety and protection – such as physical health, shelter and privacy; needs to ensure community and participation – such as security, support and contact; needs regarding communication and understanding – such as attention, exchange, appreciation and sincerity; needs for affection and love – such as acceptance, constancy, care or sexuality; needs regarding rest and leisure – such as relaxation, harmony and play; needs to express creativity – such as learning, self-efficacy, spontaneity or self-development; needs regarding autonomy and identity – such as self-esteem, identification, success or meaning – and also needs concerning the conduct of life and the search for meaning – such as dignity, mindfulness, meaningfulness, and competence).
These “universal” needs are common to all human beings and are by themselves neither positive nor negative; however, they motivate people to behave in certain ways.

For our mutual understanding, indeed for human communication and interaction as a whole, this could basically be a fantastic message: We all have the same needs, we are all equal in our pursuit of fulfilling them.
So what else needs to be considered – where’s the catch?
That it is very important to note in the second step that the way in which needs are met is differing from individual to individual nevertheless. Consequently, we have to separate between “(universal) need” and “(individual) need fulfilment strategy”.
Which means that when fulfilment is concerned, individual priorities come into play.
It is precisely this distinction that shows that conflicts may very well arise when need fulfilment is pursued at the expense of other living beings (and their needs).
And the fact that we can distinguish between “motivation” and “strategy” allows us to understand and even to respect a cause – but at the same time we don’t have to agree automatically with the effect it has (on us / on the surroundings).
Hence, no living thing, no human being, has negative or even “evil” needs – but he/ she/it can choose problematic approaches to their fulfillment.
Even more, it is still almost impossible for a reasonable and healthy person to accomplish truly profound abominations in their normal (and usually unconcious) conduct.
Because brain research of the last few years (especially J. Panksepp’s and T. Insel’s research on social appreciation in the brain’s own reward centre) and primate research on our next relatives (especially F. de Waal) have additionally proved that we humans tend to act because of our “horde-nature” according to the (positively formulated) maxim “What I want you to do for me – that’s what I too shall do for you”. That means: Because of our biological and social components, we are almost always very strongly motivated in our pursuit of personal need fulfillment and personal benefit to ensure a “group benefit”, which of course could benefit us again in the end.

Conclusion: Because of our pursuit of personal need fulfillment and the resulting motivation in combination with our tendency to maximise the broadest possible social well-being, we are literally as acting person “the hero in our own movie”.
For the above shows that the likelihood that there is a fundamental “good intention” behind almost every human action, which is aimed at increasing (some) well-being or satisfaction, is exorbitantly high.
And while media coverage and fiction in particular often display the opposite fascination, I’d like to propose – especially regarding loving relationships – in accordance with Marshall Rosenberg’s concept of “Non-violence”, first of all, to favour the much more obvious (and rational) trust in those good intentions.
Which means even in the case of own harm to assume foremost down-to-earth, all-too-human factors for a conflict or a misfortune, such as unconsciousness/unreflectivity, laziness, inaccuracy, self-forgetfulness or overburdening, instead of suspecting cruel intent or a calculated scheme to injure behind those actions.

In my view, the benefit we have in respect of our human relationships by such an attitude of more benevolent trust is threefold.

  • First of all, this directly affects the point of view we take in such a moment concerning the experienced process, the acting person(s) and thus also regarding the entire movie – which will become our world: There is a person who tries by the best means it has to offer to fulfil its needs. He/she/it tried to do the right thing. If this has failed – and perhaps even some collateral damage was done – the poor actor/actress is more of a “fallen hero”, perhaps a broken hero (like the black chevalier or many other super-heroes who have a non-linear legend); but not the scheming evil, nor the antagonist, nor the enemy. This attitude prevents ourselves from getting engulfed in a two-dimensional world where only “Good vs. Evil”, “Right vs. Wrong” or “White vs. Black” exists. Hence we remain open, we are able to differentiate and continue to perceive shades and nuances. And that is good for the brain as well as the heart because our overall sensation of self-efficacy and safety remains intact.
  • Secondly, this view preserves the chance for true trust because we do not want to close ourselves up but to understand what has happened “on the other side”: What needs were there actually in deficit, that it has come so far? This interest actually comprises already the bud for an emerging connection to the other party. Because this can initiate a process in which the mutual understanding of the motives and motivations become apparent: Why had that been done? How did you experience it? Anyone who begins to think in this way introduces a dialogue in which both the “foreign” as well as the own motives and strategies for need-fulfilment can be reconsidered.
    And whoever comes this far, is about to make a synthesis and is moving away from the potential conflict: Is there perhaps an approach in the future that could meet both our needs?
  • Thirdly, this facilitates the understanding that we are all presumably fallen or broken heroes (but nonetheless heroes!) who still try every day to give our best over and over, even under the most adverse conditions. In this way, we allow ourselves and the others to make mistakes, to be prepared to learn thereof, and to continue to strive and to seize new opportunities. And that is definitely a truly heroic contribution to a (more) humane world.

Especially when it comes down to our loved ones and our soultribe, these can be enormously reassuring thoughts – especially in moments when things are not running smoothly and the world seems to be upside down. Because in this way we are all real conjoined “heroes in everyday life”, which strive by means of “very good reasons” for the same goals and the underlying needs, thereby becoming a kind of “humanity league”, no matter whether we are FantasticFemme, MultiMan or DiverseDiva.
We differ only in the choice of our means – but that is quite likely among superheroes, since we are all equipped with very different biographies, powers and talents.

Just like the protagonist of our story above.
Because he too lives for another day.
There he will do the right thing –
doing what has to be done: his best.
He is the flittermouse-man,
the black chevalier –
and he is a hero.

My deep appreciation to Richard David Precht and his detailed thoughts on human nature and morality in his book “The Art of Not Being an Egoist” (Goldmann 2010)
Thanks to Marcel on Unsplash for the photo of the Hero-Graffito.

2 Replies to “Entry 11”

  1. Ich habe einen Einwand gegen die Erklärung der Situation des oligoamoren Helden. Ich denke nicht, dass sich sein Handeln und vor allem das Ergebnis seines Handelns mit dem Maxim der Gewaltfreien Kommunikation, “gute” Bedürfnisse – jedoch problematische Herangehensweisen zu deren Erfüllung, vollständig erklären lässt.
    Unser Held meint, nach dem oligoamoren Prinzip “verantwortlich” gehandelt zu haben – hat er meiner Meinung aber nicht. Er hat sowohl bei seiner dritten Liebsten, als auch später bei dem Paar, Verantwortung für die anderen Personen übernommen, die nicht seine war. Er ging von Erwartungen an seine Person aus, die offensichtlich gar nicht der Fall, oder einfach anders waren, und handelte sofort danach, anstatt die betreffenden Personen zu fragen, was sie sich jetzt von ihm wünschen. Damit hat er die betreffenden Personen ultimativ an der Anwendung der eigenen Verantwortung gehindert, also eine Situation erzeugt, in der sich die Gegenüber nicht ideal oligoamor verhalten konnten, was als Folge destruktive Verhaltensweisen im gesamten “gemeinsamen Wir” auslöste.
    Außer ich habe bei den oligoamoren Idealen etwas missverstanden?

    1. Ich hätte mich unglücklich ausgedrückt, wenn ich das Handeln des “schwarzen Helden” wirklich als exemplarisch “heldig” (im Sinne von “vorbildlich”) mit dem Artikel ausgemalt hätte.
      Nein, denn da stimme ich Dir ganz zu: Im Kontext der GfK operierte unser “Held” in beiden (Beziehungs)Fällen im Bereich der Annahme. Und ebenfalls richtig: Er ersetzte in seinem Überschwang ebenfalls das “gemeinsame Wir” genau durch diese “eigene Annahme”. Dadurch kam es zu einem Konflikt, für den er auch Auslöser war.
      Ziel meines bLog-Eintrags war allerdings, diesen falsch verstandenen oder geradewegs unangebrachten “Heldenmut” als menschliche Schwäche zu kennzeichnen, die uns allen einmal widerfährt – insbesondere in Momenten, wo wir für uns selbst von unserer “besten Absicht” überzeugt sind.
      Die “Gewaltfreie Kommunikation” habe ich deswegen ins Spiel gebracht, weil Marshall Rosenberg darin selber zur Deeskalation empfiehlt, gerade im Konfliktfall vor allem mit Wohlwollen und dem Erkennen dieser “guten Gründen”, die dem konfliktträchtigen Handeln zugrunde lagen, zu beginnen. Denn die Alternative wäre ja, den “gefallenen Helden” zum “Erzschrurken” zu erklären – und ihm Verletzungswillen und Vorsatz zuzuordenen. Diese Herangehensweise würde vermutlich tiefer in jeden Konflikt führen, weil von da an versucht wird “Schuld” zuzuweisen – und dies vergiftet das Klima zur Verständigung meist enorm.
      Quintessenz: Ich wünsche, daß wir uns und unsere Beziehungsmenschen schlimmstenfalls als “gefallene Helden” betrachten, die es eigentlich gut machen wollten – aber in voller menschlicher Betriebsblindheit mit Schwung die Stange gerissen haben. In dem Sinne sind wir alle gelegentliche “Töffel unsererselbst”.
      Wenn wir mit menschlicher Fehlbarkeit als Grundannahme arbeiten, finden wir wahrscheinlich schneller zurück auf eine gemeinsame Verständigungsebene, weil wir um Schwächen auch in uns selber wissen – und so eine Brücke zum anderen bauen können.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *