Drama. You know what that’s like in a relationship – mind games, fighting, crying, blaming, revenge, feeling like it’s all the other person’s fault. Not a model for a healthy relationship. In fact, the goal for a healthy relationship is to eliminate drama. But how?
That’s where the Drama Triangle (DT) comes in.
The DT has been around a long time and originated from the field of addictions. Its whole name is the Karpman’s Drama Triangle, so you can Google it if you want to know more.
The DT is present in all relationships, whether it involves addictions or not. The trick is to recognize when you’re on the DT and how to get off. A healthy relationship cannot occur when you are on the DT. The goal is to get off and stay off.
The three corners of the DT are made up of three different roles – the rescuer, the victim, and the persecutor. Here’s a bit about each of those three corners.
The rescuer searches for those in the victim role since it makes the rescuer’s heart sing to take care of others, or to solve or fix things that are not going as well as the rescuer thinks they should. Rescuers often feel a need to be needed, or that they are not worthy unless they are doing something for someone else. Those in this role have big, kind, compassionate hearts, but can get controlling as they try to manage, fix, or change a victim’s problem or life. Mostly this comes from the place of wanting the best for someone else, but having a lack of understanding that the other person (victim usually) has their own way and likes it.
The victim seeks rescuers since it is a lovely match made in Heaven. Oh to have someone take care of me and my needs! The victim is all about blaming others and situations and giving away responsibility for anything that is happening that she doesn’t like. This role can be situationally dependent or a broad life view. Victims often are not interested in changing their point of view and will go to great lengths to change things around them before taking responsibility to change themselves. Victims can pout or get righteous in their ‘victimhood’ – ie. ‘so many bad things have happened to me, so you must take care of me!’
Both the victim and the rescuer can turn into the persecutor. The persecutor is the one wagging their scolding finger while telling you how wrong you are. This is the role of anger and blame and is mostly about being right at the others expense. I’m right, and you’re wrong, and of course you deserve my scorn because of that! The perpetrator can be somewhat arrogant in their position and can be indignant and self righteous in their rightness. This position is about power and winning.
There are some basic principles of the DT to understand:
1. The rescuer, victim, and persecutor are not who you are, but a role you play. This is a good thing because you can change a role.
2. You can, and likely have been, in all three roles since they can move seamlessly into one another. The rescuer becomes the victim or the persecutor. The victim becomes the persecutor or the rescuer. The persecutor becomes the rescuer or the victim. However, you most often will relate to one or two roles as being primary.
3. You don’t need another person to be on the DT since you actually can do it to yourself in your own self talk. You mostly likely have persecutor or victim talk in your head.
4. When you’re on the triangle there are only the three roles available. That’s it. Unless you move off the triangle you’re either a victim, rescuer, or persecutor.
5. Each role has a certain set of exit strategies, ways that you can choose to act differently in order to get off the triangle.
6. If you choose to get off the DT and act in a way that is not one of the three roles, your partner then has an option to get off with you. Hallelujah! That’s the best case scenario and off you skip into healthier relationship-land.
7. If your partner chooses to stay on the DT while you choose to get off, then your partner is going to see you as the persecutor = you are doing something bad/wrong. This is a very difficult position since you have to be willing to be perceived as a bad guy in order to get off and stay off the DT.
Which role do you relate to most? What is the hardest part for you in getting off the Drama Triangle?