Relationships: The Drama Triangle

The drama triangle is a theory that was developed Stephen Karpman to explain a dynamic that occurs between people in some relationships.

It is called the drama triangle because when this dynamic is in play it creates conflict, crisis and alot of drama!

 On the drama triangle we can be anyone of the 3 points, including the victim, the rescuer and the persecutor.    

What happens when you're on this drama triangle is that your'e in conflict - whether your feeling sorry for yourself, pointing fingers at others or defending someone else.

You are caught in a cycle of not taking personal responsibility or you are waiting to be saved or getting into other people business, not allowing them to take personal responsibility.     

The thing about this triangle is we are just being reactive and playing roles, we aren’t really feeling what we need to feel or responding in a healthy way … adding to more crisis and drama instead of sitting with our own feelings and processing them.    

The victim is also known as the helpless child, they say things like ‘everyone is against me’ ‘poor me’ ‘ I can’t do it’ ‘It's not fair’. They feel taken advantage of, powerless and incapable. The victim feels helpless, avoids making decisions or taking responsibility. They often seek out rescuers and/or persecutors so they can be saved or blame others.  Their unmet need is to feel cared for, so they trigger it through getting others to save them. 

The rescuer is also known as the hero or carer and they say things like ‘I will do that for you’ this person feels valuable and worthy when they are helping someone. They rush to fix things and bring temporary relief but don’t address the long-term solutions as it's too uncomfortable to watch someone else figure it out for themselves. They feel responsible for the outcomes of others lives and rarely reflect on their own life. They get to avoid their own anxiety by staying focused on others. Their unmet need is to feel important and they trigger it through rescuing. 

The persecutor is also known as the blamer or problem person, this person feels they have to police others; blaming, controlling, rigid and oppressive and tell them how they have it wrong. Sometimes this person starts off as the rescuer and then gets really resentful because they are burned out .. They feel angry and resentful and try to change others to see things their way or see that they are right! Their unmet need is to feel powerful and they trigger it though crticising others. 

I know this triangle all too well from coaching people who experience patterns of co-dependency, relationships struggles or challenges around interpersonal skills. Often people who experience patterns and cycles of any of these need an understanding of the drama triangle to create a shift in how we are relating to people.