Ocean College

First lesson at Ocean College: learning about the Drama Triangle with Joseph Dillard

Joseph Dillard, 03.11.2017 (in English)

Johan’s first voyage, years ago as a teacher, was not very well organized. As a result there was a great deal of unnecessary and avoidable misunderstanding and conflict on the voyage that detracted from its quality and diminished its value.

Consequently, Johan included a coaching blog in the first weeks of our voyage to teach communication and conflict resolution skills. Teaching life skills is intended not only to increase the quality of the voyage, but provide tools students can put to good use in the years to come.

These were our goals in establishing the program and deciding what to teach. We began by sharing answers that young adults gave to the question, “What do I wish I had known when I was 16?” The object was to start students thinking about the big picture: “What do I want to get out of this trip, what do I need to learn, that will make my life smoother in years to come?”

Next, we introduced a concept from Transactional Analysis, the Drama Triangle, as a way to recognize, talk about, and stop unnecessary confusion and stress. The Drama Triangle consists of three roles, Persecutor, Victim, and Rescuer. Persecutors never see themselves as persecuting. They are punishing you “for your own good!” Victims feel justified in their powerlessness and helplessness. Rescuers aren’t helpers. The difference is that rescuers don’t ask, but merely assume that help is needed, and rescue to validate their own image of themselves as a wonderful, kind person. The problem with these three roles is that if a student plays one role, they eventually find themselves playing them all: if you feel a victim persecuted by your school work or the demands of life on board, you may attempt to rescue yourself by avoidance, blaming others, or not listening.

But such strategies only make things worse and so are actually persecutors. Another example from waking life is the alcoholic who rescues themselves from depression by drinking. They become their own persecutors when they find themselves more depressed.

The Drama Triangle is even more important because teenagers persecute themselves with thoughts like, “I’m a failure.” “I’m ugly.” “I’m stupid because I missed that answer.” “I’m not popular.” “I’m lazy.” They believe that if they persecute themselves hard enough they will work harder. It’s like beating a horse to make it go faster! When students persecute themselves they become victims of their own throughts: self-critical with lower selfconfidence. Teenagers may attempt to escape through different forms of self-rescuing: drugs, sex, internet, gaming, and other addictive avoidance strategies that only increase their selfcriticism. And so the vicious cycle of the Drama Triangle is merely intensified.

Students were given examples of the Drama Triangle and came up with examples of their own. They were asked to be on the lookout for examples on the ship, among their fellows, staff and crew, as well as in their own throughts.

Next, students were taught important communication skills that make life much easier for anyone. These include talking in terms of oneself, by using “I,” instead of “you,” to take responsibility and reduce defensiveness on the part of the other person; asking questions to show interest, gain information, and keep from prematurely making assumptions about the other person is saying; paraphrasing what the other person has said to demonstrate both respect and listening, and to avoid reactive, emotional responses when people say things that cause them to feel attacked. Students also learned to make their requests clear and succinct and to simply repeat the request if it is ignored or the subject is changed in the conversation. Students were also taught common ways people sabotage or undercut communication and what to do about them. These include interrupting, changing the subject, talking in paragraphs, or not letting the other person have a chance to talk, taking “time outs” to think and cool down when arguments get heated, taking things personally and getting defensive, and beginning a conversation by showing respect for the other person’s point of view. Obviously, these are techniques which families can use to reduce or avoid conflict as well, and our hope is that your student will return home with more skills in respectful communication than he or she had before the voyage.

Students were asked what it means to be a leader and they gave a wide variety of excellent answers: confidence, caring for the group, listening, being authoritative yet persuasive. They were also asked what characteristics they thought they needed to develop to become leaders. Everyone was taught “signal words” to not use because they create drama and conflict. These include “always,” “never,” “should,” “ought,” “blame,” “fault,” “can’t,” and “must.” They were given examples of each and encouraged to catch each other when they heard each other use these words.

In the next segment, students were taught how what they think, that is, the things that they tell themselves, determine whether they feel stressed, confused, angry, scared, or sad. They learned to identify a large number of types of thoughts and “signal words” that not only create unhelpful feelings but keep them stuck in the Drama Triangle. These include thinking only in terms of black and white, right or wrong, good or bad; jumping to conclusions about what the other person is saying; ignoring information that conflicts with their point of view; catastrophizing; personalizing; insisting that life be fair; blaming; emotional reasoning (“Because I FEEL hurt, YOU hurt my feelings.”); name calling; and needing to be right or to win (meaning the other person loses). Students also learned ways to resolve disagreements, including learning the difference between aggressive, passive and assertive communication, and learning steps for assertive problem-solving on board. Our goal is for students to first attempt to resolve disagreements among themselves; if that does not work, we encourage them to take the disagreement to a peer mediator or elected peer representative for mediation. Of course, the teaching staff is always available to provide both support and structure to provide a positive, growth experience for everyone.

Misunderstandings among students are available. We are teaching students to meet them with confidence, knowing that they have learned a set of tools with which they can demonstrate respect, listening, cooperation, and compromise.

This is a terrific group of young people and I expect great things from them as they pursue rich and meaningful lives.

Thank you, Joseph, for showing and teaching us your way of respecting each other and living peaceful together.

Ein entspannter, unbeschwerter Tag

Autor: Merle

Position: Santa Cruz de Tenerife

(28°28,07 N 016°14,56 W)

Heute Morgen erblickte ich unsanft das Tageslicht. Regina hatte keine Gnade mit uns und riss uns alle radikal aus unseren Träumen. Dann mussten wir wohl oder übel aufstehen und zum Frühstück gehen. Gleich danach hatte ich eine Doppelstunde Mikroplastik bei Rüdiger, in der wir uns eine Reportage über Plastikmüll in unseren Meeren ansahen. Weil wir alle noch sehr müde von gestern Abend waren, es wurde etwas später, gönnten sich Mika und ich ein kleines Schläfchen. Ich schlief dabei, wie so oft, in Lottes Bett…denn was ihr gehört, gehört auch mir und andersherum. Doch dann kam Paula und erinnerte mich daran, dass ich ja heute diesen wundervollen Tagesbericht schreiben muss. Deswegen wurde ich erneut aus dem Bett geschmissen, diesmal von Paula, und wir gingen an Deck, um Kathrins Computer zu holen. Jedoch fanden wir diesen nicht. Was nun? Wir liefen wie zwei Verrückte übers Schiff, um ihn zu finden. Er war aber gar nicht an Bord! Also legten wir uns in die Hängematte, entspannten uns und aßen Schokolade, mit der Ausrede wir müssten auf Nils, der mit dem Computer in der Stadt war, warten. Zwischendurch bekamen wir von Karl Kostproben des Kaiserschmarrens, den es später zum Mittagessen gab.

Natürlich haben wir dann um 13:00 Uhr den Kaiserschmarren, der übrigens sehr lecker war, auch in der Hängematte gegessen. Wo denn auch sonst?! Also ihr merkt schon, bis dahin war es ein sehr relaxter Tag. Das änderte sich natürlich schnell, als Johan verkündete, dass wir die Kajüten aufräumen müssen und andere Teile des Schiffes putzen müssen. Das alles wurde dann kontrolliert, damit wir danach zum Freibad laufen konnten. Davor aber hatte Otto eine schmerzhafte Erfahrung mit der Hängematte…das Seil, mit dem diese befestigt war, war gerissen und Otto fiel auf seinen Rücken… An dieser Stelle gute Besserung!

Jedenfalls liefen wir dann zum Freibad. Das war sehr schön mit Palmen angelegt und hatte mehrere Salzwasserbecken. Wir waren aber nur einmal baden, da es richtig kalt war. Um uns anschließend aufzuwärmen, beschlossen wir duschen zu gehen. Dort aber kam die große Enttäuschung: Es gab nur Kaltwasserduschen. Paula entdeckte zum Glück EINE warme Duschkabine. Diese wurde dann komplett ausgenutzt, indem sich fünf Mädels (Lotte, Paula, Mika, Emma und ich) abwechselnd immer DREI Sekunden unter die Dusche stellten. Wir genossen das heiße, unbegrenzte Wasser sehr, hatten dann aber doch etwas Angst, dass jemand kommt und uns nach der längeren Duschphase rausschmeißt, denn an Bord dürfen wir ja nur höchstens zwei Minuten duschen – Wasser an, nass machen, Wasser aus, einseifen, Wasser an, abspülen, Wasser aus, fertig. Versteht ihr, warum wir so lange geduscht haben, bis das Wasser wieder kühl wurde? Das hatten wir glaube ich alle mal wieder nötig.

Um 18:00 Uhr marschierten wir alle zusammen wieder zum Schiff, welches wir mittlerweile schon „zu Hause“ nennen.

Jetzt gerade sitzen wir in unseren Betten und warten auf das Abendessen. Danach wird noch eine Runde Risiko gespielt, dass ich dann hoffentlich auch lerne, da ich das noch nie gespielt habe… mal sehen.

Am Ende möchte ich noch meine Eltern, meine Familie, meine Freunde und nochmal ganz besonders meine beste Freundin Cosi grüßen und euch morgen einen schönen Tag wünschen. Ich hab euch lieb!

Auf Kathrins großen Wunsch hin, grüßt sie hier in meinem Blog ihre Familie, ihre Freunde und ihren Freund Antonino!

Bevor ich es vergesse: alles Gute zum Geburtstag Joe! Wir hoffen du hattest einen schönen Tag!

Und noch an Paula: Danke für deine Unterstützung beim Tagesbericht. Hoffe unsere nächsten Berichte schreiben wir wieder zusammen!

Eure Merle