(Hello lovely reader: Trigger Warning – I’m talking about one of the many episodes where Deanna Troi is assaulted)
As the Enterprise-D’s ship counselor, Deanna does not do much ‘counseling’ in the early seasons. This is not surprising, since while Roddenberry wanted to make a positive statement about the importance of mental health by having a counselor on the bridge, he also thought the character should have a lot of breasts. Like, more than two.
She spends much of the first season sitting beautifully at the captain’s side, feeling and emoting all the stuff the rest of the bridge crew can’t or won’t.
So it is remarkable to see Deanna in the Season Two opener (episode: “The Child”) unapologetically stop doing emotional labor for the crew. From the moment of her assault, she is quiet and focused. She is saving all of her energy to do exactly what she needs to do – and nothing more. She does nothing to try to manage the emotions of those around her.
And I’m not the only one who notices: the men of the Enterprise are shook.
Without Deanna’s guidance, the crew doesn’t think to be supportive of the recent sexual assault survivor who sits alone at the end of the briefing table, head down. Instead, Riker loudly insists on knowing who did it, Worf won’t stop saying ‘abortion’, and Pulaski’s got that fetal heartbeat going like an anti-choice volunteer at a crisis pregnancy clinic.
So Deanna pulls out the counselor’s broadsword: boundaries.
Deanna establishes those boundaries like a boss. She states exactly what she wants – to continue in the pregnancy on her own terms – and keeps the naysayers away. Is it surprising that she chooses Data – who would never put his emotional needs before hers – to be her companion during her pregnancy?
The Takeaway – Establishing emotional boundaries can be very difficult for caretakers. Often, those who are called to help others also feel compelled to put other’s emotions before their own, which can lead to burnout. If you are a caretaker who struggles with honoring your own needs, consider Counselor Troi. In a time of great personal crisis, Deanna allowed herself to do exactly what she needed to do, for her own sake. While that might seem normal, for a healer, it can be extrordinary.
(Special thanks to Harry and Sue D. for editing, advice, and brainstorming for this post)