“… there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”–William Shakespeare
[yt_dropcap type=”square” font=”” size=”14″ color=”#000″ background=”#fff” ] L [/yt_dropcap]ately, in the world of intelligence and geopolitics, there is much talk about triangulation, what used to go by the name of Finlandization, now considered an obscene word in the world of diplomacy. “Velvet occupation” seems to be preferred.
In any case the terms refer to the majority of the world’s nations which, being surrounded by much vaster and more powerful countries play both sides of the game attempting to get concessions from both sides of the competition. I suppose, the strategy has been around from time immemorial, since the game of “might makes right” began to be played on the world stage.
Less well known is the fact that the phenomenon of triangulation is even more familiar in the field of psychology and literature, and that moreover, a literary master such as William Shakespeare adopted it in quite a few of his dramas.
As the word triangulation amply suggests, triangles in the early days of modern psychology theories were illustrative of toxic relationship. Not surprisingly, the way to heal those kinds of relationships started taking on a triangular shape as well. Let’s briefly explore what psychological triangulation is all about. It may end up shedding some light on geo-political triangulation as well.
Karpman’s Triangle. The one on the Right shows how to reverse the Negative Trend
Basically the definition of triangulation is about talking about one person to another person so as to keep from directly communicating to the person you are talking about. Usually this kind of communication is an expressed dissatisfaction with the main party who is not addressed directly. Within traditional Irish culture, the worst form of insult is to refuse to talk directly to one’s interlocutor and use the third pronoun “he” or “she” instead of “you.”
This happens often in academia in reviews of books, dissertations, treatises, sometimes with disastrous consequences. Academic careers have been destroyed by innuendos and assumptions never directly and publicly expressed and elucidated. It is a rather surreptitious mode of smearing a reputation and sway others against him/her.
This is how it works: one person sits in the middle and controls information flow between others. He/she becomes the arbiter of information: he/she tells people what he/she wants them to hear and does his/her best to prevent others from openly talking to each other and compare notes. Basically he/she becomes a conduit between parties, in the process he/she is free to remove stuff he/she does not like, twist, even fabricate the information if need be. Thus the correspondents will form opinions and mirror those of the fabricator. Once they have taken the bait, they may never know what exactly is going on. If in this context Wikileak jumps to mind. Well it should.
How does this phenomenon of triangulation function in a dysfunctional family with a narcissist as its head? In this kind of family the assumptions of how normal people think and feel will be mostly inaccurate. This is because the head narcissist does things that the rest of us would never contemplate doing. Things like damaging others’ good name or reputation out of spite or jealousy or simply to display his “brilliance” or arrogant power. As the saying goes “tell a lie often enough and people will begin to accept it.” Feed the misinformation long enough to lots of people and they’ll be indoctrinated and accept the information as the truth.
The illustrated triangles above, perhaps the best known in psychology (with emotions well identified) may furnish a better idea of how the game is played. They clearly show how each party uses negative emotions to create a situation with no resolution, a catch-22, switching roles and a thankless, pointless nonsensical cycle. The last one shows how to get out of the Karpman’s triangle to recover one’s mental health.
For that to occur there must first be an agreement between all three people to stop trying to manipulate and blame each other. They have to agree that the status of the unhappy relationship takes two people, not three, and the only way to resolve it is to recognize one’s own part in the conflict.
The problem is that persecutors have to be right at all cost. It’s their way or the highway. To get their way they use anger and intimidation and, when necessary to ensure compliance, guilt and shame.
Victims can operate on the premise that “you have no integrity; I have the integrity.” They are often too committed to pleasing others, can have poor boundaries, can be too eager to forgive and be self effacing, and try to control their own negative emotions (like anger) to always appear perfect, without reproach. They expect to be loved based on their integrity alone. They often use tears to get their way. The 3 people can be, and often are, in interchangeable roles: with the victim acting like a perpetrator to get the original perpetrator to change his rigid manipulative stances.
The roles can stay fixed forever. However, the Karpman’s triangle is about roles not being fixed, of being interchangeable where the victim can act like a persecutor, and where the persecutor can act like a victim, and where the rescuer can act like a perpetrator in defending the perpetrator’s actions, and another victim to defend the victim’s actions.
On the other hand in the last healthy triangle as elaborated by psychologist Rhoda Mills Sommer two people resolve to give up “dodging, deflecting and blaming” to “honestly face painful situations” and “take responsibility” and “negotiate”. This type of triangulation requires risk taking , vulnerability, and authenticity. It requires the development of self-awareness of one’s own dark side instead of blaming others, openness to dialogue instead of self-protecting monologues and narcissism.
In a parent-child relationship for instance, as the persecutor parent blames the victim child for not doing what she is expected and told to do, and escalates the anger and rage to get her way, the victim blames the mother for holding her back (infantilizing; i.e. not respecting that the daughter is an adult with her own way of doing things which may be separate from the mother). The persecutor is blamed by the victim for not loving her enough to stop hurting her, and the victim is blamed by the persecutor for not loving her enough to capitulate to all of the persecutor’s demands. Triangulation is typical in alcoholic and narcissistic families.
Let’s demonstrate now with some of Shakespeare’s plays. In doing so it may become more apparent how the world of psychology can be applied to that of geo-politics. We will briefly peruse three plays: King Lear, MacBeth, Romeo and Juliet.
In King Lear the question arises: Who is at fault for King Lear dying on exposure in a storm. Cordelia for not pleasing her fathers? Goneril and Regan for lying to their father about their feelings and intentions? King Lear for expecting the flattery of his daughters to ensure his happiness and care in old age? Everyone has a part, but can any one person be blamed for the unfolding of events?
MacBeth: Who is at fault for the tragedy here? MacBeth, the witches, Lady MacBeth, Banquo or the murderers? It seems like there are a lot of people who contribute to the tragedy; one person would be hard-pressed to do it all alone.
Romeo and Juliet: Who is at fault for the lovers’ double suicide? Mercutio, Tybalt, Lady Capulet who insists that Juliet marry Paris, the prince of Verona who banishes Romeo, the nurse who insists that Juliet forget all about Romeo and do what her parents desire by marrying Paris, Friar Lawrence for giving Juliet a fake vial of poison, the reluctant Apothecary who gives Romeo some real poison, the entire families of Capulets and Montagues, or Romeo and Juliet themselves?
In alcoholic and narcissistic families sometimes an authority figure decides who is to blame for everything that goes wrong in a family: a scapegoat. In King Lear, for instance, Cordelia would be blamed for everything that went wrong. So, to keep with a scapegoating agenda, the play would have to be rewritten so that Shakespeare and all of the characters he created would all blame Cordelia. What she was blamed for would not stop at not flattering her father, the king, but would grow by leaps and bounds. Perhaps Cordelia would be blamed for too much honesty, and through default for inspiring her sisters to lie. Cordelia would be termed ungrateful for choosing honesty over dishonest flattery as her two evil sisters had done. The sisters would have been seen as doing what is best by casting Lear out into a storm. Cordelia would somehow be blamed for her father being in the storm and exposed to the elements, perhaps because she was also cast out and thereby should have magically found her father and taken responsibility for him. Cordelia would also be blamed for Lear’s death, of course.
Anything else that might have implicated another character in the play would be Cordelia’s fault as well. The writer would desperately grasp at anything that would always make Cordelia responsible for the events in her family, while making everyone else innocent. A glance, rolling eyes, a feeling by Cordelia would be blackened by the narrator to make her motives seem sinister. She would be villainized and tortured for all of it. It might not have been enough that she was merely banished. The rack and the screw might have been used too. Meanwhile Goneril and Regan would have been exonerated, held in the highest regard. This is typical alcoholic, narcissistic dysfunctional family thinking.
Shakespeare is wiser than this: he knows that there are nuances that go into the making of a family tragedy: everyone has a part that contributes to the ultimate ending of the story. He knew that relationships require disagreements in order to remain authentic; they require dialogue. In the scapegoat family dynamic one person is chosen on whom to blame any issue that proves painful or uncomfortable, or makes someone look bad. Here the triangulation consists of the alcoholic, the enablers and the scapegoat. Even when the scapegoat leaves the family, another family scapegoat is adopted.
Then there is the dysfunctional narcissistic family triangulation which consists of the bully golden child (one thinks of Donald Trump’s spoiled childhood), who is always receiving special treatment and learns early in life to bully, to charm, to lie and to manipulate, the Narcissistic parent who believes that the bully golden child can do no wrong and the scapegoat child can do no right. The bully golden child and the narcissistic parent sycophantically flatter each other while bullying the scapegoat. Here the narcissistic parent rather than referee sibling rivalry will manipulate the children in order to obtain what he wants out of them. They encourage the sibling rivalry so that they compete for parental love. As all narcissists those parents or parent figures (here again Donald Trump jumps to mind) are addicted to flattery, praise, power and control over others and will resort to unethical behavior to get it.
A narcissist cannot stand to feel criticized and will severely punish those who even come close to suggesting that he may be a less than perfect parent. So complaints about the golden bully boy are not acceptable. The bullied or scapegoated children learn to keep quiet about the abuse and accept the label of “difficult child.” The family becomes a perfect family doing quite well in the eyes of society.
From the brief outline above we may conclude that triangulation is an indirect dynamic of communication and behaviors involving more than two people that are unhealthy and unwholesome. The trademarks of triangulation are covert operations, deceit and abuse. The simple definition of triangulation is: one individual attacking, discrediting (smearing) or/ and abusing another person with the use of third-party people or institutions.
The question arises: can this psychological theory be applied as well to polities and institutions. I think it can. Institutions and societies can also fall into triangulation. Just think of Plato’s Republic which in some way reflects the ancient Greek belief that to have a republic of virtue one needs individuals of virtue and wholesome character forming it. It is not the well governed city that produces virtuous individuals but the other way around. That ultimately means that individuals retain responsibility for a badly governed and corrupt city or society.
The narcissist is severely emotionally stunted and underdeveloped. Regardless of how mentally high functioning a narcissist appears to be, or how successful he might have become in some field of endeavor, he or she has the emotional intelligence of an angry, irrational young child. The narcissist has such intense disowned inner parts of shame and self-loathing, that he/she not only behaves abysmally (on a hair-line trigger) after perceiving any criticism (intended or not), he or she has to disown any accountability to these knee-jerk reactions. Here we have the example of the present occupier of the White House.
The narcissist has tried to amputate him or herself away from his or her dark and painful inner shadows unsuccessfully. They still exist, and because he/she will not embrace them, take responsibility for them, or heal them they are super-imposed onto the targeted person. Thus the narcissist, in his or her maladapted thinking, believes you are the pathological person acting out atrocious behavior and that he or she is the victim.
The narcissistic (unconsciously) attacks and tries to destroy the parts of him or herself that he or she despises – the parts that have been projected on to you. This is the irony of narcissistic abuse – the narcissist acts out and abuses you and then blames you for these acts and seeks to punish your further. The narcissist is totally oblivious that the fueling of his or her narcissistic rage is self-hatred. You just happen to be the container ‘holding’ these projected split-off parts.
The very definition of unconsciousness is the inability to self-reflect. This retards all ability to grow, heal and evolve – and this is narcissism personified. Is this is what Socrates meant by his dictum that “the unexamined life is not worth living?” Without self-reflection is left with the unconscious and its outbursts.
The triangulation process begins when the narcissist acts narcissistically toward someone, the abused person reacts, and is then classified by the narcissist as ‘the enemy’.
According to the narcissist’s disordered psyche brutal offence is necessary in order to survive. The narcissist truly believes the threat needs to be eliminated, and he or she needs to get the upper hand and disable you before you attack. The Christian maxim “do unto others as you’d want them to do unto you” is turned into “do unto them before they do unto you.” One is adored and then abhorred on a dime. It is a process of dehumanization that can be devastating for those who experience it.
What has happened is that the narcissist has regressed back to the stunted childhood wounds deeply embedded inside him or her, when he/she felt victimized, unacceptable, unlovable, powerless, in short violated. But the wounds are disowned and so they take a life of their own and powerfully control the narcissist’s personality. The demons producing pain, panic and rage are projected on to someone else and the person on whom they have been projected is destroyed with the wounds. The cycle is repeated person after person but never producing healing.
So the narcissist has the capacity to dehumanize and demonize anyone on whom his shadows are projected. You have a terrified child in an aggressive adult’s body doing what he thinks is needed to stop the assault he/she imagines you are capable of and from which he/she feels powerless to defend from. Allies have to be recruited.
Triangulation is a tactic he or she has generally mastered at a very early age. Virtually every narcissist does it, and it is one of the absolute trademarks of narcissism. It is underpinned by deep deception. One recruits an organization or another person to do one’s bidding. Most narcissist are amoral and situational. It all depends on the circumstances and the end justifies the means. The narcissist is adept at lying pathologically. His/her brain is disorderly wired to the point that he/she believes his/her own lies. The kind of brain they possess with hard wired neuron pathways for self-avoidance are very good in creating stories and alternate realities which will justify the telling of lies. They have perfected over a life-time the art of acting out emotions in order to manipulate.
Organisations often have no option other than to get involved with the narcissist’s lies, because it’s their job to investigate claims of child-abuse, criminal activity, fraud, tax-evasion, violence etc.
One of the most simplest and profound realisations is this: when we have unresolved trauma it is trapped in our bodies. It then has ‘a life of its own’. What this means is we have internalised the abuser, and the abusive acts and we remain bonded to them, and we will continue re-creating that abuse over and over again.
Given all those premises, how would geopolitical triangulation mirror psychological triangulation?
Let’s substitute person A B C above in the triangulation above with three political entities. The Russian Federation which is an enormous territory spanning eleven time zones borders with another vast territory comprised of a confederation of 27 nations, the European Union. One of those two does not wish to respect the boundary of the other. To get around that boundary, without provoking a major conflict, political entity B establishes a relationship with a third polity which does not belong to the Union or the Confederation, let’s say Norway, or the Ukraine, as we see in the TV series Okkupart, already examined in another article in MD.
Triangulation has de facto occurred. As such, if indeed it mirrors the psychological triangulation above examined, it is a toxic relationship, not one based on mutual respect of each other’s autonomy and on dialogue but one based on raw Machiavellian power (might makes right) and control of the weaker entity by the more powerful, all accomplished by abusing a third entity which has been velvet occupied, not with an army but with disinformation, deception, cyber-space, manipulation. It used to be called Finlandization: we will leave you sovereign with a truncated autonomy as long as you stay in our sphere of influence. Now it is called “velvet occupation.”
The geo-political experts would like us to believe that it is to the advantage of the weaker nations that they triangulate and play one power against another agreeing with both or perhaps disagreeing with both, which is another form of corruption because the weaker nations who decide to triangulate remain under the influence of or the other nation and never learn to be free and autonomous. In other words, as we see in the series Okkupert, which has been vehemently protested by the Russian ambassador in Norway, liberty, autonomy and democracy are progressively weakened till some patriots decide to resist, as we see in the movie. Just as on the psychological plane, triangulation appears as a solution but it is ultimately toxic for a free democratic society, the same thing may be happening on the political level. Is it is a mere mode of survival of the fittest?
As mentioned, this line of thought is valid as long as we accept the Platonic-Aristotelian idea (which is not Machiavellian nor Hobbesian) that it is virtuous citizens who form a republic of virtue and not a republic of virtue that forms virtuous citizens. I suppose the dialogue, if one is desirable and preferable to another World War, needs to begin with Plato’s Republic, go through Augustine’s City of God, Machiavelli’s Prince, Hobbes’ Leviathan, the Declaration of Independence, and Marx Das Kapital but the ultimate concern needs to remain the preservation of democracy, liberty, and our very humanity. As Kierkegaard reminded us; the sickness unto death consists in being sick and not even consciously know it. For once we have lost our humanity, everything else will not matter any longer.
Women outnumber men in higher education but gender stereotyped subject choices persist
Education is essential to achieving gender equality. From the earliest schooling to the highest levels of post-graduate study, education influences the opportunities that can shape people’s lives.
This is why education and training of women is one of the 12 critical areas of concern in the Beijing Platform for Action, while target 4.5 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) calls for the elimination of gender disparities in education by 2030.
In the UNECE region girls tend to outperform boys in terms of learning outcomes in schools, and women outnumber men in tertiary education (university level and beyond) in almost all countries of the region.
Women remain in the minority, however, as students of stereotypically “masculine” subjects such as ICT and engineering, although in recent years they have begun slowly gaining ground.
Tertiary level graduates
In 39 out of the 47 UNECE countries with data, more than 55 per cent of tertiary graduates are women. Iceland has the highest share, with 66 per cent women. Seven countries are close to gender parity, with the share of women ranging from 48 to 55 per cent, and only in Uzbekistan are women in a clear minority, with 38 per cent of tertiary graduates.
After decades of increase in women’s participation in higher education, women substantially outnumbered men among tertiary level graduates in most countries by 2012. Since then, women’s share has declined in 32 out of the 47 countries with data. Whilst in Azerbaijan and Turkey fewer than half of tertiary graduates were women in 2012, more women have entered tertiary education in these countries since and the 2017 data already show gender parity there.
Subject choices of women and men
The subjects studied at tertiary level by women and men can reflect stereotypes of “masculine” and “feminine” subject areas. Some subjects may be preferred by potential employers and may affect occupational segregation once graduates enter the labour market. Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) and Engineering, Manufacturing and Construction (EMC) are two broad groups of subjects where male students have historically predominated.
Women remain a minority among ICT students in the UNECE region, with percentages ranging from 11 in Belgium to 33 in Greece. The four countries with the largest share of women among ICT students are all in the Balkan region. Among students of EMC, the share of women is somewhat higher, but still falls far short of parity, ranging from 14 per cent in Georgia to 44 per cent in North Macedonia.
In both of these subject groups, the recent trend shows small gains for women in some countries but reductions in others. Overall, progress towards gender equality in these two typically male-dominated subject areas is uneven and slow.
UNECE Beijing+25 Regional Review Meeting
Progress in achieving gender equality in education will be one of the areas in focus at the upcoming Beijing+25 Regional Review Meeting for the UNECE region, with a particular emphasis on how women and girls can enter currently male-dominated fields.
The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action of 1995 (Beijing Platform for Action) is the most ambitious road map for the empowerment of women and girls everywhere. In 2020, it will be 25 years since the Beijing Platform for Action outlined how to overcome the systemic barriers that hold women back from equal participation in all areas of life.
The Beijing+25 Regional Review Meeting (29-30 October 2019) will take stock of where the UNECE region stands on keeping the promises of the Beijing Platform for Action. Bringing together government representatives and key stakeholders from the UNECE region, the meeting will tackle a number of obstacles that keep girls and women from realizing their full potential. UNECE is joining forces with the UN Women Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia to deliver a two-day multi-stakeholder meeting to exchange concrete policies to accelerate the realization of gender equality. The outcomes of the meeting will feed into the global review of the Beijing Platform for Action taking place at the sixty-fourth session of the Commission on the Status of Women in New York from 9 to 20 March 2020.
Call for Action from Leaders and Business on Violence against Women
Spiralling levels of violence against women in Africa require immediate action from governments and businesses, including tangible measures to create safe spaces, experts from across the continent told the World Economic Forum on Africa today.
Protesters in South Africa have taken to the streets and social media to demand action, following the rape and murder of a Cape Town university student who was attacked in a post office. Uyinene Mrwetyana was just the latest of many victims of brutal assaults in a region where approximately 45% of women and girls over 14 years have experienced physical or sexual violence.
“I’m dumbfounded by the idea that we can continue with business as usual,” said Namhla Mniki-Mangaliso, Director of African Monitor, who urged technology companies to take a lead in delivering solutions. “It would take a click of a finger for a tech company to say we are going to deploy a software that can assist us with an emergency response system for poor women in South Africa free of charge.”
The potential for technology to help in the fightback highlights the need for businesses to think creatively, given that cyberbullying can also contribute to discrimination in the first place. Mniki-Mangaliso said the wider business community should also step up to the plate by backing a gender-based fund to address the deep-rooted problems behind the rising tide of physical and sexual assaults.
Hafsat Abiola-Costello, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Women in Africa Initiative, said Africa could learn from China, where decisive action was taken to ban harmful practices like foot binding and polygamy. African governments, by contrast, too often fail to enforce bans on polygamy or genital mutilation, thereby reinforcing a culture of discrimination against women that becomes embedded from childhood.
The failure to protect women is not just a moral issue; it also comes with a high economic cost. “Who drives African communities? It’s our women. Our women can drive Africa’s development, if given the chance, if protected, if their rights are respected,” Abiola-Costello said. “Africa missed the first industrial revolution, we missed the second, we missed the third. If we don’t address this issue, we will miss the fourth.”
Obiageli Katryn Ezekwesili, who spearheaded the #BringBackOurGirls campaign in Nigeria and is a fellow of the Robert Bosch Academy, said calls for women to help drive African development will simply ring hollow if violence is not addressed. “The world lacks the moral pedestal to stand on to ask girls to aspire if we cannot have the back of those who are vulnerable,” she said.
With 16,000 deaths due violence against in women every year in South Africa alone, Akudo Anyanwu, Associate Dean at Johns Hopkins University, said: “Our presidents and the leaders in government need to come out and take a position. We need to have our leaders come out and call crimes a crime.”
Young women learn government fundamentals in nationwide leadership program
This July, two teenage girls from every state in the country met in Washington, D.C., for the 73rd annual American Legion Auxiliary Girls Nation. This one-week government-in-action leadership development program is designed to educate future leaders on U.S. government fundamentals and the rights, privileges and responsibilities of citizens.
The girls selected to go to ALA Girls Nation are chosen from week-long ALA Girls State programs in each state. The young women become “senators” for a week and participate in mock political campaigns and debates, visit historical sites, and meet their real-life counterparts on Capitol Hill. For a number of the participants, the program’s impact extends beyond the weeklong event: Many go on to serve in the military and credit ALA Girls Nation as their source of inspiration.
New ALA member and U.S. Army Capt. Virginia Clark, stationed at Fort Benning in Georgia, is an ALA Girls Nation alumna. Though she says she has always been patriotic, her experiences at ALA Girls State and ALA Girls Nation helped her realize she wanted to serve her country. “Being around really motivated people made me realize I wanted to be around people who were spending their time doing things rather than looking for the next great party,” Clark said.
Reflecting on where she has been and where she is going, Clark says she owes it all to the American Legion Auxiliary. “I wouldn’t have gotten into West Point without ALA Girls State and ALA Girls Nation … I 100 percent owe, I think, my current life and my career — I met my husband at West Point — to the fact that I went to ALA Girls State and ALA Girls Nation.”
For some girls, the Washington, D.C., leadership program is their first opportunity to connect with peers with common interests. For others, it is the first time they encounter students whose perspective differs from their own. For all, it is a moment in time where similarities and differences come together to symbolize strength, democracy and freedom.
Former ALA Girls State and ALA Girls Nation attendee Allyson Snelling, who is attending the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, chose a career in the military because she “loves everything it represents.” She adds, “The values and lessons I’ve learned during my short time at West Point have made me a better person and leader.” Snelling said the program taught her the power of one voice and the importance of communicating with others. “Being able to communicate with someone you may completely disagree with is becoming a lost art,” she said. “ALA Girls Nation taught me that it doesn’t matter if you agree; it matters that you understand.”
ALA Girls Nation alumnae have gone on to hold leadership roles in industries spanning government, media, education and law, and many have become high-ranking members of the military.
Notable alumnae include Jane Pauley, national media personality; Susan Bysiewicz, lieutenant governor of Connecticut; retired Lt. Gen. Michelle D. Johnson, former superintendent of the U.S. Air Force Academy and former Air Force aide to the President; Ann Richards, former governor of Texas; and Susan Porter-Rose, former chief of staff to First Lady Barbara Bush, among many others. ALA Girls Nation is proud to be a foundation of support to the future strong women of this great nation.
The American Legion Auxiliary (ALA) is a nonpartisan organization committed to advocating for veterans’ issues, mentoring America’s youth and promoting patriotism. They advance the mission of The American Legion, incorporated by Congress in 1919 as a patriotic veterans organization founded on four pillars: Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation, National Security, Americanism and Children & Youth.
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