Under-rated & under-estimated
Half-human, half-Betazoid, Deanna Troi is one of the under-rated, under-estimated characters aboard Starfleet Starships USS Enterprise-D and USS Enterprise-E.
While she serves under the command of Jean-Luc Picard, she also sometimes sits alongside him, aiding with political negotiations and first contact with new alien races.
So why is she under-estimated? Let’s take a look.
Within the story arcs and narrative of the television series, Troi’s role isn’t as large or important as those of her male counterparts. She’s very much a peripheral character, serving the main plot and providing a source of eye candy.
Her actual function on the ship isn’t really explored until much later in the series.
Star Trek’s creator Gene Roddenberry believed that one day in the future mental health would be as important as physical health. His creation of Deanna Troi was a step towards providing the crew with an emotional leader. When she is finally given a uniform to wear and her role as counsellor is taken seriously, we see just how much Troi brings to the crew.
She is calm and patient, and in her counselling sessions Troi is always playful, lightening things up to make her patients more comfortable. She has the perfect temperament for listening to other people’s problems and guiding them towards solutions.
Protecting the Self
But with this wisdom, comes struggle. The tension between maintaining a professional demeanour and dealing with her own empathy and feelings makes her emotionally vulnerable. Because of her psionic ability to sense emotions, she’s had her mind taken over by telepathic alien races several times.
Sometimes when we focus too much on others, we can forget about ourselves without even realising it. This is why I love the idea of self-coaching. Commitment is a source of power, and if Troi used the fundamentals of coaching to coach herself, she may have been able to avoid these moments of vulnerability. Everyone, including coaches and counsellors, needs coaching — this is how we can remain successful.
Counselling the counsellor
If I were coaching Troi, I’d remind her of the difference between empathy and compassion. The two are not the same, even though they are related to each other, conceptually.
When we feel empathy, we’re putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes. We take on their perspective, and we feel the emotions they’re feeling. Empathy can be exhausting!
Compassion is similar but it includes the desire to help. I like to think that compassion is more of an active feeling. We come up with solutions to help the affected person, but we don’t have to feel things too deeply. If Troi could be compassionate, with less empathy, this would go a long way to helping her to keep up her defences.
I’d also encourage her to not stand by and watch the action happening around her. I’d remind her of her multi-potential talent. In Season 7 she decides to become a bridge officer. She takes the exams and passes them with flying colours — except for one. She has to save a damaged Enterprise, and her empathy stands in the way of her completing a simulation. But she becomes a bridge officer. This status isn’t used or seen again in the series. If I were her coach, I’d encourage her to embrace her Ikigai and do the things that give her meaning.
Perhaps Deanna Troi could even have captained the Enterprise.
What about Roddenberry’s prediction?
We all know how much importance is placed on mental health today. Towards the end of the series, Troi’s position is used to explore the psyches of the other characters. As a fellow coach, I love that she is given the opportunity to shine and for her skills to be appreciated.
Which character from popular fiction do you think could benefit from coaching?