The Indians in North America had a ritual that was bolder than the slaying of their enemies. Warriors gained prestige by being the first to touch the enemy dead or even touching the enemy’s defensive positions. A warrior could also show his bravery by stealing the enemy’s horses. The possibility of injury or death had to be present for the act to be included on the “coup stick” which was kept as a record of brave attempts.
While usually a “coup stick” was held as the enemy was touched, a warrior could also count coup by touching the enemy with his hand or even a bow.
Americans need to learn to count coup on the enemy as well. But for us, the enemy isn’t flesh and blood. It’s inertia, narcissism and extremism.
In recovery, as we count coup on these three, we do it so that a vitality and diversity in life can shine through us. Thoreau said it best when he said, “live deliberately.” Counting coup is a method for recovering the way our basic nature used to live before we got transformed by status and possessions. Counting coup is our act of transcending a false reality so that we are released to find new ways to be free from the padlock of possessions, egos and self-centered drive. We can find ways that un-stifle our creativity and allow us to live as free, healthy people in an otherwise egocentric world. The freedom we once sought through drugs, alcohol and relationships is finally ours as we count coup.
In 21st century America, the cord which links our human-nature to mother-nature has been severed. Many of us have become puppets who wear masks of humanity but are actually blind, flesh-and-blood robots with wads of money where our brains are and people who have replaced hearts with fists. Raised in a society that is intent on destroying the world, it’s not our fault that we were raised cut-off from mother-nature and surrounded by other robots each seeking to make it to the top of the pyramid by walking over the empty shells of others. But it is our fault if we remain so.
When we walk up to and touch — count coup — our ego, our narcissism and our trending towards extremism, then we can begin to live a life of recovery.