The Drama Triangle

Summary: “Eliminate the unnecessary drama in your life.” 

Consider eliminating or minimizing the drama in your life by learning about something called the Drama Triangle. Years ago, psychiatrist Stephen Karpman came up with an interesting way to look at what is actually going on during frustrating and unproductive human interactions. He referred to his idea and explanation as the Drama Triangle.

Drama Triangles often begin as Drama Duos with two participants, one playing the role of the Victim and another playing the role of the Persecutor. Then it’s not unusual for a third participant to jump into the fray and try to rescue the Victim. We usually think of the words rescue and Rescuer in a positive manner. Not so in this case, since by definition the Rescuer in a Drama Triangle encourages and enables the continued powerlessness and unproductive behavior of the Victim.

Basically Victims feel and act powerless. They are typically defensive, whiney, manipulative, and they avoid taking responsibility, or being held accountable. Victims are the central character of the Drama Triangle.

Persecutors are the perceived cause of the Victim’s woes. However, a Persecutor does not always have to be a person. For example, certain circumstances such as lack of money, a natural disaster, or political issues such as “government regulations” can serve as Persecutors.

Rescuers, often coworkers, parents or friends, inappropriately intervene on behalf of the Victim and further enable their powerlessness. Rescuers also do not have to be real people. For example, alcohol, drugs, or workaholism can serve as Rescuers for some Victims.

A great source for learning all about the Drama Triangle is The Power of Ted (book) by David Emerald (video). It’s a short, easy-to-read book.

Remember, the focal point of the Drama Triangle is the Victim. Although you can’t have a Victim without a real or perceived Persecutor, Victims usually do the most to keep the Drama Triangle going.

As you interact with people, look for signs that the Drama Triangle is forming. Try to become an expert at being the first person to recognize what is going on. If you detect a Drama Triangle forming, review the posting on Behavior Modes Alternatives first, and then try your best to stay in, or shift into, the productive behavior modes discussed in other postings on this blog titled Autonomous versus Victim, Curious versus Critical, Coach versus Rescuer (note that I use the term Critical rather than Persecutor in these postings).

Understanding the Drama Triangle and staying out of it is a good way to joyfully participate in life.

Joyfully participate in life today…Chris

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