Archives for February 2007

Astronaut Crashed! I’m Not Surprised

The internet and newspapers in the last couple days have the love triangle of astronauts Lisa Nowak and William Oefelein and engineer Colleen Shipman front and center. The implication: We can’t believe such a thing could happen. And, how in the world did it happen?

One of our cultural icons has been tipped and ripped.

But it does make sense why such a tragedy can happen (and love triangles are tragedies).

We can learn. If we choose we can empathize with all the victims in this triangle. And, we can twist our thinking a tad so we might see ourselves for who we really are – the good, the bad and a lot of in-between.

The article this morning read: “No one at the space agency saw any sign that Nowak was troubled…”

Well, folks, everyone is troubled. I assume what they meant to say was “troubled THAT MUCH.” Her behavior crossed a line?which was troubling not only for her, the other two in the triangle, but for NASA and those of us who believe this national icon serves as a model.

Let’s take a closer look at Lisa, or more accurately whom she represents.

Lisa is a model of power: the power of intelligence, the power of “can-do,” the power of physical toughness, the power of perfectionism, the power of narrow focus and determination to reach goals.

Here are some observations on this love triangle and the pursuit of this form of power.

1. Ever heard: “for every action there’s an equal and opposite reaction?” That’s true for our inner life. One pursues mightily success and perfectionism and there’s an inner part that doubts one’s success and fears failure. Of course the part that fears is relegated to the background, far out of awareness, if possible. This inner turmoil simmers.

2. Those who hold this iconic position in our culture (clergy, astronauts, therapists, CEOs etc.) don’t want others to know of this turmoil. They hide. This exacerbates the tension.

3. Some internal line is crossed and the tension erupts into some sort of acting out, perhaps dramatic or bizarre behavior.

Why should be we surprised?

4. Was Lisa suffering from an “I Can’t Say No” affair? (Break Free From the Affair) Did she tend to be a perfectionistic, driven person? Did she become increasingly?obsessive about this triangle? Materials found in her possession indicated she had an elaborate scheme to play out. As I indicate in my e-book, the behavior of “I Can’t Say No” becomes increasingly destructive.

5. Another interesting comment in the article: “We were just talking about the fact that the old astronauts from years ago were a wild bunch of people. They played around, some of them. They used to drink and go out a lot. Now ?” family people, churchgoing, very, very devoted. ”

So…they were the “I Don’t Want to Say NO” kind of affair?! Interesting, isn’t it, how “harmless” those kind are. Oh well, boys will be boys, you know! (And, come to think of it, they were all boys, weren’t they?)

Love triangles still abound. They merely arise out of a different set of circumstances and different cast of characters.

6. Psychological tests didn’t uncover her “trouble.” I’m not a testing expert, but I do know that tests do miss items. And, I also know that there are those who can “con” tests, intentionally or unintentionally.

A characteristic of a “I Can’t Say No” affair is denial. Truth is distorted, twisted and ignored. Or a world can be rationalized and created that fits the perception that person desires. And, he/she truly believes it and leaves room for nothing else. Could this be Lisa?

A person in the “I need to prove my desirability” affair is sometimes attempting to reconcile a history or incident of abuse. The capacity to dissociate from that event may be so powerful that the event itself in never remembered. It’s as if it happened to a “different person.” Was there a “different person” Lisa?

We don’t know of course. And, it is dangerous to analyze too much.

Let’s learn from this event. We humans are extremely complicated. Infidelity and extramarital affairs are extremely complicated and emerge out a myriad of different scenarios.

Once we see the smaller pictures our perspective changes and we embrace more fully our complex selves and our complex relationships.