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The Drama Triangle

The drama triangle is one of my favourite concepts. It certainly helped me understand some of my own unhealthy behaviours and lead me to be able to employ much more solid boundaries as a result.

So what is it?

Created by Stephen Karpman, it looks at how personal responsibility and power in conflicts are connected and what roles people can take or be put/drawn into when interacting with others.

There are (unsurprisingly!) 3 roles.

The Victim

The Rescuer

The Persecutor

The victim is someone who will constantly cry ‘poor me!’ whilst simultaneously avoiding taking any responsibility for their own part in their victimhood. I would say the victim is usually (but not always) the catalyst to all drama triangles. If a victim is not able to point the finger at a persecutor, they will fabricate one, maybe blame the system for example. The victim will look for a rescuer to enable their negative feelings and behaviours, whilst crediting them with being their saviour.

The rescuer is an enabler. They will offer to help, but will move from helping into rescuing. The difference is when we help someone we empower them to stand on their own two feet, and when we rescue someone we prevent them from standing on their own two feet. Interestingly, quite often the rescuer becomes the persecutor when the victim starts feeling frustrated by the disempowerment, and ends up unwittingly, and unintentionally becoming the victim, however for a long time the relationship between the victim and the rescuer is one of co-dependency as each are getting the ego strokes needed from the other.

The persecutor is anyone who calls the victim out on their behaviour. They will be saying ‘it’s your own fault’, or ‘stand on your own two feet’. They will be cast as a villain for not perpetuating or enabling the victim’s behaviour. Sometimes a persecutor is intentionally persecuting and can also start a drama triangle by enlisting others into conflict they start.

The drama triangle is fluid, participants move between roles, as described above when the rescuer can become the victim by being cast as the persecutor. Does that make sense!??!

To remove ourselves from the drama triangle takes rock hard boundaries, self awareness (where did I learn this role), and ownership. It can be hard to admit to ourselves we have been participating in these behaviours, but once we do, we can be freed from them and the constant dramas we find ourselves in as a result and move into a healthier place from where to have relationships.

Can you relate to any of this?

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