Between Grief and Guilt

“The line between grief and guilt is a thin one.  Sometimes death is preferable to the agony of life.” ~Tatsu

True.  This quote speaks to many different stages all at once and we have to be careful to recognize what she is really saying here.  This is not a promotion of suicide but rather a statement of fact regrading the difficulty of life and an identity that has not reformed.  Maseo is stuck.  He is fluctuating continuously between Broken, Surviving and Vigilante and making no progress to move forward.  Although he has the experience and training to be a hero he is not because he as no reason to live (stuck in Broken), a purpose that is not his own (stuck in Surviving), and no sidekicks (stuck in Vigilante).  He has become stuck because he has developed an identity that IS his trauma.   The reconstruction of an identity is very important to growth and moving through the stages.  With an identity that is “island bound,” he is unable to use the broken part of his past as a tool. He doesn’t know who he is apart from the horrific event.  He is still capable of amazingly good acts, and intensely gruesome undertakings.  For those in similar states this is dangerous ground and very similar to becoming a villain. (for more on this subject check out Failure Redeemed)

They Shaped the Person You Are Today

“Felicity, I want you to know that whatever experiences you had to go through I’m glad that you did because they shaped the person you are today.  And you know how I feel about her.” ~ Oliver

At first glance this quote appears to be a little bit cheesy, however if you look beneath the obvious reminder of affection Oliver is saying something much bigger than the cheesy “I like who you are.” (which when recovering from hardship usually a helpful reminder) He is saying something about himself.  Do you remember last season when Oliver is insistent on helping Roy? Here is the quote in case you don’t…

Diggle – “And that’s why it’s so important to you to get through to Roy.”

Oliver – “I lived a five year nightmare, but if I learned something that can help me reach Roy now…It’ll be worth it.”

This quote has the same idea is less aware and more instinctually reactive.  the current episode, with the more recent quote, shows that Oliver is able now to recognize that his island experiences are an IMPORTANT part of him.  They don’t just make “Arrow,” amazing training, or the ability to dodge bullets…they make HIM.  And even more importantly, which I think he says subconsciously and doesn’t fully realize yet, He loves Felicity BECAUSE of her scars/past…just like we love Oliver BECAUSE of his scars.  These “shameful/damaging things from the past” are part of us and with the right kind of person they make us love the other more. 

The Importance of Training

Laurel – “I tried to do good, it didn’t work out.”

Oliver – “Laurel”

Laurel – “I know that it probably sounds insane, it probably is but…Sarah, she gave me this and when I wear it, it makes me want to help people like she did, like she’s alive again.”

Oliver – “I get it…Sarah had training, she had years.”

Laurel – “Oliver I know. Which is why I need to start, and I need your help.”

In relation to the “Stages in Becoming a Hero” Laurel has never really been able to get out of the survival stage.  For two seasons now (witch covers 7 years) she has been flipping back and forth between “Playboy” and “Broken.”  She has never been “trained” and therefore is not “surviving” and consequently unable to progress to vigilante and hero. (click here to see the Stages in Becoming a Hero)

Examples…

  1. When Sarah and Oliver were ship wrecked she was broken (we saw that in the Laurel flashbacks of Season 2 episode 12)…did she ever learn to survive this?
  2. Tommy’s death…Laurel is broken again. Was she trained to survive it?  Nope, she turned to drugs and alcohol.
  3. Being kidnapped by the dollmaker and almost killed. No one helped her learn to survive this either…again alcohol and drugs.
  4. Sarah’s reappearance…Laurel’s world shattered again. This time she has her mom and dad to encourage her to go to AA meetings which are “Training her” to a certain extent but she doesn’t have the skills to fight on her own yet…just acknowledge the coping skill problem (or her incorrect “training”)
  5. Sarah’s death, another brokenness, and now…she wants…she needs to be trained.

Thea is a lot like this too…broken many times, turning to the wrong thing because there is no one there to train her in how to survive and then now in episode 3 she has turned to someone to be trained and that someone (Malcom) will have an ENORMOUS impact on her life.  Better be careful.

In real life I think the importance of the above characters (or the flipping back and forth between playboy an broken) shows how incredibly important “Training” is.  People don’t “just know” how to recover from a life shattering event.  They need to be guided by someone who has survived themselves and the person they choose as a guide/trainer has a huge influence.  In real life we get this training from our family, counselors, support groups (like “Divorce Care, AA, Recovery groups), the government (mandated community service and such), and organizations (such as food banks, half-way houses, and churches).  Each of these offers us different “Training” not all of which is beneficial, except for the fact that it is training.

It is good that Laurel is seeking to be trained and unfortunate that Oliver wont train her.  The person/people who train us are incredibly important…Thea is going 90 miles an out down a dead end street because she is going through her “survival” stage with the wrong person.

Training is essential to progress through the “Survival” stage.  The survival stage, and the training that comes with it, is very, very important and yet I think it is the stage that we most often expect people to skip (that and the vigilante stage).  We expect people to be broken and then “figure it out” but we don’t usually offer direct training while allowing them to “just survive” (and we certainly don’t accept the fact that they may be purpose driven (self focused) during the vigilante stage).  We seem to expect people to jump from broken straight to hero.  The Survival stage is one of reactions, instinct, and learning.  Without training on what to do with these reactions, how to cope with our feelings of brokenness, and and understanding of our fears and instincts we cannot choose a defined purpose or progress to the “Vigilante Stage.”

Pain

“I don’t want to hurt, or get hurt ever again, and you seem like someone who can teach me how not to.” ~ Thea

There is an interesting scene attached to this quote where Malcom Merlin is pouring scalding water on his (and later Thea’s) hands to prove that he has learned to tolerate pain and that Thea will do the same.  It struck me that this is a totally different approach then what shaped Oliver.

“One the island” Oliver went through a lot of very painful events (both physically, emotionally, and mentally) but what is different about the way he learned to become strong verses how Malcom is teaching Thea is that Oliver didn’t CHOOSE to inflict pain so that he could become immune to it.  The pain overwhelmed him and damaged him but it also improved him and built up his character.  In contrast Thea and Malcom choose pain.  They self-inflect pain so that they will no longer react to it.  This difference is why, I think, Oliver is still able to care about people (and progress toward becoming a hero) whereas Malcom has become a villain…he only sees his agenda. In dulling himself to the pain Malcom doesn’t “connect” anymore.  He didn’t even have to mourn the death of his son.  Disconnection is dangerous ground.

You’re Allowed to Have Feelings

Felicity: How can you stand there being so cold and rational?

Oliver: Because I don’t have the luxury of falling to pieces. Everyone is looking to me to handle things to make the right decisions everyone is looking to me to lead.  If I grieve nobody else gets to

Felicity: Your still a human being, you’re allowed to have feelings.

Felicity makes a really good point here.  Oliver is closed off to his feelings for survival sake and because he thinks it necessary in order to help everyone else.  The thing is though, that showing his own brokenness, sadness, and dismay would actually bring the group closer together.  If he were to allow himself to feel then I think others would be stronger, come along side him, and they could work as a team rather than all trying to fight the battle on their own.

The Essence Of A Superhero

Oliver – Someone once told me that the essence of heroism was to die so that others might live.

Diggle – It’s not that simple Oliver.

Oliver – Yes, it is.  Slade’s whole plan was to take everything from me.  He did.  He wins.  All that’s left is for me to die.

In this scene we see Oliver playing both the role of broken (wanting to die) and hero (wanting to die for others).  Oliver is broken again…still a hero but broken (now in the area of family).  This is a very heroic way to approach death…however, in the context he is doing it in (without “the fight”… not meaning physical fight but rather metaphorical fight.  The fight to help others, the fight for a cause) he is revealing how broken he is.  Oliver is now living in the hero stage in reference to “the island” but he has entered a broken stage in regards to his family and relationships.  To come out of this he will have to decide that he wants to survive yet again…just as he did in the cave on the island in the first season when he chose to try and survive the island.

Our lives are a lot like this too.  We live in multiple stages at once.  We are heroes in some aspects of our lives and still naive “playboys” in others.  When examining the different components of our lives (such as family, finances, health, relationships, occupation, physique, ) we find that we are just surviving or becoming vigilantes with a solid purpose in some parts and completely broken in others.  Being broken is never a desirable place to be however it can lead to becoming a hero.  And for Oliver, now that he is becoming a hero in respect to the island…he will have the chance to become a hero in more than one area of his life (physique, health, occupation…and now family).  As he becomes a hero in more than one area of life he will become a superhero.  We have this option in real life as well.  We can move through the stages, not as literally, but with just as much difficulty.  It’s a process. The process of becoming a superhero. (for more click here)