Tanks, Trauma and Epic Loot

Therapists working with gamers need to understand many concepts, including the concept of tanking.  In group play like raids and dungeons, it takes a team of players made up of various characters.  One very important role is that of the tank.  The tank is the warrior, paladin, Xena or Conan type who runs up to the big boss and starts smacking it with their sword or axe.  The object of this is not primarily to do damage, but to get the boss mad, or “get aggro,” so that the boss will focus on this player and keep attacking her or him while the rest of the group can hurl fireballs or arrows or what-have-you from a safe distance without having to worry about drawing the boss away.  The tank, being the player that has to take the most damage, usually has plate mail or chain mail or some sort of body armor, which brings us to Epic Loot.

We have discussed loot before in passing, but let me give you more detail.  Much of the loot or rewards you get from defeating bosses is armor or weapons.  The harder the boss the better the loot that drops.  The better the armor you loot, the better “geared” you are.  The armor raises your combat abilities or stats, which gives you more power and allows you to take more damage.  Here are two examples of armor, one low level:

Not a lot of extra points to help you be powerful or take a lot of damage, as compared to epic loot armor:

You don’t have to be a gamer to get the difference between going into battle with Armor with a value of 62 and going with armor with a value of 3817.

I’m explaining all this to you in this level of detail because I want you to be able to use it when you work with gamers who survived childhood trauma in their families.

You see, many trauma survivors as children were living with oversized, overpowered bosses, called abusive parents.  They often had brothers and sisters who were younger and more vulnerable than they were.  They didn’t have anyone to help them, and they didn’t want the abusive parent to hurt any of the other members of their family.

So they tanked.

They pulled the abusive parent first, before the parent could hurt one of their siblings, or their other parent.  They got aggro.  They tried to endure the physical or emotional abuse that the abuser heaped on them.  They tried very hard to endure it, they really did.

But they were undergeared.

Children have 62 armor.  They’re armor is very fragile and doesn’t protect them much.  They haven’t had a chance to go through enough of life to earn more powerful armor.  It just won’t sustain damage from a higher level parent hurling “Comments of Increasing Pain” at their psyches, or casting “Fingers of Dark Intrusion” on their bodies.

This is not necessarily a new metaphor, and although Alice Miller may never have heard of World of Warcraft, I am sure she would know EXACTLY what I am talking about when it comes to tanks, trauma and epic loot.  In her book For Your Own Good she writes:

“An enormous amount can be done to a child in the first two years: he or she can be molded, dominated, taught good habits, scolded, and punished–without any repercussions for the person raising the child and without the child taking revenge.  The child will only overcome the serious consequences of the injustice he has suffered only if he succeeds in defending himself…”

Alice Miller knew how devastating it was to be undergeared.  In her Introduction to that same book she writes, “…Unlike children, we adults… can choose knowledge and awareness over compulsion and fear.”

This then is the goal of the psychotherapist:  We help the patient acquire Epic Loot.  We join them and venture forth into heroic dungeons, and we try, fail, try, fail and try again to face the bosses there.  And through our curiousity and empathy and bearing witness there comes a time when we finally down the boss, and the patient gets better tools for future adventures.  They get to choose knowledge and awareness over compulsion and fear.

And that is Epic Loot.