Understanding the Drama Triangle
How to improve your relationships starts with identifying the drama that exists within them. I outline the basics of the “Drama Triangle” to help you identify what role you are currently playing in your relationships. By identifying which role you automatically step into, then you are equipped with the knowledge of how to step out of it.
Originally taught by Steven Karpman. He identifies the three main roles create the drama in our relationships: The Persecutor, The Victim and The Rescuer. Today’s episode will help you identify how this applies to you and your relationships so you can step out of the unhealthy roles. Each role is a disempowering dynamic that leads to drama.
Which role do you play more often? We all step into all three of these roles in different situations and relationships, but typically one is more prominent than the others. Noticing what role you are playing will help improve your relationships.
When you are playing the part of the victim, you are in a powerless state. The Victim views themselves as not capable of solving their own problems. The name comes from being a victim to their circumstances or to life. The victim mentality comes when they think that life happens to them, rather than them being a creator of their own life. In order for there to be a victim role, there needs to be a persecutor role that keeps them in that victim posturing.
The victim thinks that they are powerless, they think that they are at the mercy of life circumstances. Here is a key aspect of victim mentality: that the victim is unwilling to take personal responsibility for what happens in their life or the part that they play in. Therefore, the victim actually keeps themselves in that posturing and role by reinforcing that they are powerless, that they are helpless, that they are oppressed, they’re usually ashamed.
And most of all there is this underlying sense of, “I am incapable and I misunderstood”. Someone in the victim role says things like: “poor me. I give up or I’m not okay and everyone else is”. When someone is stuck in this victim mentality, they refuse to make decisions or solve problems, Sometimes they’ll refuse to get professional help or to do self care, or even being willing to change thinking that life is unbearable and they’re not willing to do anything to get themselves out of it. And the persecutor role only reinforces that for the victim role, which is the next part of the drama triangle that we will cover.
The persecutor role is a fascinating point of the triangle. First of all, the persecutor thinks that they are in a good place but that someone else is not right.vThe persecutor thinks that the victim is not capable of doing things on their own so they must step in and tell the person (the victim), what to do reinforcing this belief that they know better.
The persecutor really thrives off of winning at any cost. They like to control others through being bossy or dominating, blaming and finger pointing. They’re usually driven by anger and resentment.
This persecutor role really says, “this is all your fault”. The persecutor will also think things like: “You’re not okay, but I am – so I’m going to tell you what to do”. And they think that they know best, but they go about it with their very rigid thinking and trying to control or dominate other people.
Next, enters the third role in this drama or Karpman triangle. The third role is the rescuer. The rescuer is such a fascinating posturing we assume and role that we play in our lives sometimes. The rescuer actually intervenes on behalf of the victim to save them from perceived harm, which sounds really noble.
However, the rescue fosters dependency because the rescuer also believes that the victim isn’t capable and they must come in and save the victim. That allows the rescuer, posing as the good guy and rescuing the victim, actually keeps the victim in their posturing by believing the victim isn’t capable of creating their own life. Reinforcing to the victim that they are helpless, powerless and in need of rescuing.
The rescuer will typically provide support even went they don’t want to. They will also will feel guilty and anxious when they’re not able to rescue someone. This is because they pull their self-worth from the fact that they can save people from this victim posturing, and then it gives them this false sense of connection.
It’s not true connection – it’s a false sense of connection when that victim is dependent on them. By coming in and trying to rescue the person who’s in the victim role, it creates the sense of being capable. Yet the rescuer will often expect to fail in their mission because of the way that they view the victim as incapable.
The rescuer will try to do the noble thing. However, they may not have a lot of faith in their ability to actually save this person. Some thoughts of the rescuer include: “you need my help.” or “you’re not okay, but I am nice and I will fix it”. This mindset of the rescuer allows the victim to stay in their place and in their role as does the persecutor.
There wouldn’t need to be a rescuer if there wasn’t a persecutor. There wouldn’t be a victim if there wasn’t a persecutor. So do you see how this triangle just feeds on itself and on these roles?
How we dance around the Triangle
Before you jump into judgment for yourself, just know that all of us recognize ourselves in every single one of these roles. By being aware and open to knowing where you fit in is going to help you.
All of us play any of these roles. At any time in, in different circumstances or in different relationships. It’s interesting to watch in certain situations, we may jump from one role to another, within the same conversation or situation.
And that is a fascinating thing. As we move around this triangle in different roles until one of us is willing to step out of it. Now all three of these role are automatic responses, just unconscious reactions to people or to circumstances or to relationships. Often times it is just an automatic knee-jerk response.
Knowing what these roles are, being able to identify where we are sitting at that current moment. Then identifying how we are automatically responding can help us to actually step out of that. When one of us is willing to move out of the triangle and into a clear and healthy communication pattern, That’s when you can stop the cycle of this Drama Triangle. Knowledge is power!
How to Improve your Relationships – Part 2
Do you want to find out how to break free of the Drama Triangle and shift into the Empowerment Dynamic? Listen to the next episode here: How to Improve your Relationships part 2
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