Last week on my day off I’d stayed over at a friend’s place who was going to watch The Ritual while I went on to Movati to workout. I’m not one to stay idle for long or give myself much non-thinking time but after I’d packed up and went into the room where the movie was playing for a minute I was captivated.
I pulled my computer out and decided I could get an email done while watching it instead of the gym, and I did.
I also saw a greater analogy playing out in the process.
The premise of the movie was that a group of guys got together for a boys night on the town to plan their annual boys trip and when two of the guys went into a liquor/convenience store they wind up as bystanders and victims in a robbery that goes terribly wrong in a way you wouldn’t expect.
The two guys were in the same isle when the robbers entered the store and the chaos quickly alerts them to the problem before they’d been detected so the friend nearest the end of the isle quickly, quietly and subtly steps aside to hide while his friend is left exposed, and soon detected.
The man that we’ll call the ‘victim friend’ had entered the store at the request of the ‘friend’ who’d abandoned him and was now hiding behind the isle end. When the robbers entered the store you could tell the victim friend’s thought process was along the lines of “you’ve got to be kidding – I can’t believe this is happening” and that’s where he made his first fatal mistake. His ‘thinking about’ cost him precious seconds and as a result he was left exposed and seemingly on his own, while his friend hid only meters away undetected.
Vulnerability was the perfect ingredient to complete the power-tripping robber’s scheme and what unfolded next was something I half dis-believed as it was happening.
Of the two robbers, the one with a gun who first noticed the victim friend first approached him and demanded his wedding ring and watch (or something like that) and ‘victim friend’ protested because of their significance to him. But something about his defiance pushed the second robber’s buttons and his anger escalated quickly.
The victim friend’s confusion and silent desperation for his friend to help was enough to make the second robber snap and raise his machete to him twice, first by slicing his cheek in a viscous blow that knocked the victim to the ground and then a second that left him lifeless on the floor where he had landed, starring at his friend in hiding who witnessed the whole thing but didn’t stand up or step in to protect his friend the way that he was meant to.
That’s what happens to us all when we allow bullying to prevail without interfering.
You may say that’s an extreme comparison but the slashes to a person’s self-esteem that result from leaving someone out to defend themselves when your testimony could back them up is comparable.
We live in an instant gratification world where we measure our self-worth by how many likes we’ve got on our social media posts. We get little hits of dopamine every time we see that someone liked our post and we even get that nervous excitement bubbling up in our throats when we see that someone commented on our post or tagged us in something. We’re excited and nervous at the same time because we just really want them to like us.
That’s what we all really want and what’s unfortunate is that our desire for others to like us actually comes before our need for respect, from ourselves and others.
By remaining in disbelief and defiance with his attackers, and waiting for his friend to come out from behind the isle end to save him, he died in a horrifically violent way.
It’s a good analogy for why being a bystander is right up there with being the bully.
Carpman’s Triangle is often referred to as the victim triangle because it’s a triangle one one point with the other two points on top, all connected, in the shape of a triangle. The victim is at the bottom looking up to the rescuer to save them from the persecutor beating them down.
When rescuers get distracted the victim is left feeling helpless and the persecutor takes all the leaking power as their own, often acting crazily on the high of the rush.
It’s time to stop waiting for other people to save us and to realize that we are the Heros we’ve been waiting for.
We have all the power we could ever need to harness within us, we just haven’t become aware of that waterfall yet.
Exploring your beliefs and values will help you gain clarity on how you’ll live with yourself if you don’t speak up and something happens to someone, like the tragic, trajectory changing event in The Ritual that ended one life and irrevocably changed another.
You matter more than you know to someone who could use you in their corner, even if only for a moment they don’t feel equipped for.
Laura JE Hamilton