There is an old Rabbinical story about a Prince who thought he was a turkey. His father, the king, tried for many years to have him cured, and many wise men came to reason with the poor Prince, trying this way and that to convince the boy, but he would not listen to any of them: instead he crouched naked under the table, eating only corn and crumbs.
Then, a wise Rabbi came to the king and said: “Sire, let me live in your house and befriend the Prince; if you allow me time, I can cure him.” The king readily agreed, but to his surprise, the Rabbi stripped himself of his clothes and crouched with the lad under the table.
The Prince, noticing him, asked: “What are you?”
The Rabbi answered: “Like you, I am a turkey. I have come to keep you company, for we turkeys must stick together.” The Prince seemed happy to have a friend, and for a few days, Rabbi and Prince crouched naked under the table together.
But after a week, the Rabbi called for two fine robes to be passed to them, telling the Prince: “We might be turkeys, but that does not mean that we cannot dress as well as the gentlemen of the palace. Why should we be cold, when they are warm?” Seeing the logic of this, the Prince agreed, and soon was wearing clothes.
Then, the next week, the Rabbi called for loaves of bread, hot soup, and other delicious food, telling the Prince: “Why should we turkeys starve on corn and crumbs, when the men around us are eating fine meals?” So, the Prince began to eat regular meals again.
Then, the Rabbi called for two chairs and place-settings to be put at the table, rather than underneath, telling the Prince: “Why should we turkeys crouch here, when we can dine with your father’s guests, and give them the benefit of our turkey wisdom?” And so the Prince was once again acting like his old self, and, within the year, was cured of his delusion.
Like many Rabbinical tales, there is a touch of the absurd to the story, but people who help others to escape dangerous groups and relationships already know the wisdom in the tale: when trying to convince someone that they are deluded, we cannot tell them that they are wrong. Instead, we must patiently enter their reality, and work with them, helping them to educate themselves. Like the Rabbi in the story, we must not say: “You are wrong!”, but instead, gently suggest alternatives, allowing those who are trapped in dangerous relationships a choice, letting them know that their comfort and safety is important to us, rather than the facts of who is wrong or right.
What do you think about this article? Do you agree? Have you read Spike’s dystopian novel? Do you have a story about helping someone overcome their delusion that you’d like to share? We’d love to hear from you!