Thursday, April 16, 2009
Thursday Therapeutic Thought - Triangles
After Tuesday's assessment, I thought I'd share about the smallest stable unit of relationships, according to Murray Bowen, and that's the TRIANGLE. Virtually all significant relationships are shadowed by a third person. Mom/Dad/Child. Husband/Wife/Mother-in-Law. Hero/Heroine/Heroine's Other Potential Boyfriend. When this happens, the third person is said to be "triangulated" into the relationship. This happens all the time to therapists as couples in a dysfunctional relationship come in for counseling. Each one has their own agenda for winning over the therapist to his or her way of thinking. This is because when two people are unable to resolve their problems, humans have an inherent bent to draw in another person. (In the chick lit novels, it's usually the heroine's best friend or pack of friends - who still serve as a single unit for the purpose of the triangle.)
How true is this for almost all relationships we have? If we took a second to consider our favorite books/movies, I would bet they all center around some triangle. Gone with the Wind: Scarlett/Rhett/Ashley. Take the Twilight series: Bella/Edward/Jacob. Pride and Prejudice: Elizabeth/Darcy/Mr. Wickham. I tried to think of a movie that featured a solitary person, and the only one I came up with in time for this post was Tom Hanks playing in Cast Away. But there was STILL a triangle between Tom Hanks/Helen Hunt/Helen Hunt's new husband!!
So our novels should have some element of triangles in them. I'm sure if you think about yours, it probably already does. Something to remember, however, is that triangles might stabilize a relationship, but they also freeze conflict in place (Nichols & Schwartz, p. 141-42). So usually, a person has to work through the triangulation (their mother's well-meaning-but-awful advice, a friend's jealousy, etc) in order to come out on the other end in a mentally healthy place.
Q4U: How will thinking about the relationships in your novels - whether familial or romantic - in the context of triangles help your writing to reach a new level of authenticity?