The Sword of Damocles

Forever in fear

There is a lot of history around the Sword of Damocles.

It is an ancient parable about Dionysius, the tyrant ruling over the Sicilian city of Syracuse during the fourth and fifth centuries B.C. Though rich and powerful, Dionysius was unhappy – he lived in constant fear of assassination.

One day, a courtier named Damocles remarked on how blissful the king’s life must be. “Since this life delights you,” Dionysius replied, “do you wish to taste it yourself and make a trial of my good fortune?

When Damocles agreed, Dionysius seated him on a golden couch and ordered a host of servants to wait on him. Damocles could not believe his luck until he noticed a razor-sharp sword hanging from the ceiling, suspended only by a single strand of horsehair.

The courtier’s fear of the sword made it impossible to enjoy the opulence surrounding him. He asked to be excused, saying he no longer wished to be so fortunate.

The phrase “The sword of Damocles” is still used today to describe a looming danger that “hangs by a thread”. As such, it is a common feature in some Scripts.

If this applies to your Script, then the good news is you, too, can excuse yourself!

Quick revisit to the Script in Transactional Analysis

Elsewhere, I describe our Script as: a life plan directed towards an outcome.

With The Sword of Damocles the ‘outcome’ is persistent fear of an ever-present threat. I cannot enjoy my existence until this threat has gone. Usually, that ‘threat’ is implanted by our caretakers through Injunctions such as “Don’t Exist” or “Don’t be a Child”.

Such ‘messages’ make it difficult to see the world as consistent, safe and ordered. All this encourages the owner of that Script to decide – albeit it on a subconscious level – to suffer.

The body reacts badly to a ‘decision’ to be in persistent fear. The constant release of adrenaline sustains that fear and, as I understand it, do physical damage. I’d encourage you to read about Rachel Yahuda’s views on this topic right at the bottom of the hyper-linked page in this paragraph. For even more, take a look at Cozolino’s work commented on at the bottom of this page.

The daily outcomes that arise from such a decision are to accept ‘hurts’ – physical or emotional – as our ‘due’, as our own fault. Such messages as ‘I deserve my life plan is to stay in a stage of perpetual threat; I deserve to suffer‘ might be around.

Unlike Damocles, the Script makes it difficult to ask to be excused.

Some safe experiments

So, the relevant safe experiments are built around ‘how to excuse ourselves’. This often involves self-forgiveness or the practice of self-acceptance. This might involve forgiveness and acceptance of others – especially where the ‘hurt’ persists today and you can identify how that hurt is sustained.

This is easier said than done as it might involve a large change of perspective. In particular, it may well require that I take a critical look at the way I make meaning in my world.

One step on the way to this more radical change of view – generally not encouraged in the website – is to make sure you can enhance the 3P’s as they apply to you, and your life.

Because this can involve loved ones, the Special Time experiment can be relevant here.

Can you tell me how you have been able to overcome your own obstacles and ‘excuse’ yourself?

Other leads to consider

Designing a safe experiment

Actions that might be included in a safe experiment

But action may not be all that is required

Shame and Neuroception

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