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  • Writer's pictureKirsty Macdonald

No More Drama - Karpman's Drama Triangle and You.

Creating healthy, happy relationships with the help of the Drama Triangle.

Karpman's Drama Triangle | |Coach and Cognitive Hypnotherapist

Have you heard of Karpman's Drama Triangle? If you have then perhaps this is an opportunity to explore it more deeply and if not, I promise you, that as you learn more about it it will be a game-changer for you and your relationships.

I am a Transformational Coach and Cognitive Hypnotherapist and I am passionate about how when we create healthy and happy relationships with ourselves and with those around us, we feel so much more positive and empowered and the world we live in changes for the better. Indeed may of my clients have a sphere of influence that means this is vitally important as the ripple effect of what they do spreads to so many more people than even they realise. In our personal relationships within our families and friendships, gaining freedom from drama, through what shows itself in Karpman's Drama Triangle is such a game-changer that when my clients learn it, life often never looks the same again.

So how does this work?

Perhaps start by bringing your attention to the relationships in your life. are there a few that come to mind that maybe aren't working as well as you would like them to right now? Perhaps there's something about one of them that feels particularly upsetting, annoying, or sticky, or even just less than inspiring? Pick a relationship where things just aren't being experienced as you would like them to be.

Keep this in mind as you read on.

About Karpman's Drama Triangle.

To put in simply, the Drama Triangle gives us a model for looking at the relationship between personal power and responsibility. You can see the three roles that it give us in the diagram above. When we re experiencing dysfunction in relationships we tend to take a predominant position as does the other party, and then have secondary characteristics too. And no one role can exist without a counterpart. So the Victim will need a Persecutor, the Rescuer will need a victim etc.

The Three Positions

Persecutor: Needing a counterpart, the persecutor will seek out both Victims and Rescuers to get angry with, blame, domineer, oppress and control. They often use shame to get what they want and are highly judgemental of those they come into contact with (and also those they don't). They tend to take a superior stance of "this is nothing to do with me, it's all you".

Rescuer: The Rescuer often feels that they are caring and helping and experiences guilt if they don't do good for what they perceive to be a person (Victim) in need. Unfortunately they need a victim to be able to do their rescuing and seek them out like a vampire would fresh blood or try to create them out of whoever they can find. They can prey on unsuspecting people who are just having a hard time and do not usually play the Victim in their own lives. This is an incredibly negative pattern that often feels yucky to the Victim and frustrating to the rescuer. And as with all these positions this person will move around the triangle from Rescuer to Victim and/or Persecutor as, in spite of creating this pattern themselves, they may end up feeling resentful and angry, like they are 'doing it all' or as a lack of time or tiredness arises. Their position is " You can't do this without me..." or "You need help, let me..." which keeps the Victim powerless and unable to learn what they need to survive on their own.

Victim (a behavioural rather than actual position): The victim may feel helpless, powerless, undermined, oppressed, unable to make decisions, hopeless and often ashamed. They may strongly believe that they don't have the skills or resources to change things. They look to find rescuers to take them out of their situation, and will also unconsciously seek out persecutors so they can perpetuate their victim mentality. Often they will become Persecutors and Rescuers too as the Victim mentality can be one that people try hard to bust out of in whatever way they know how. The mindset of the Victim is "the world is/people are out to get me" and "Nothing I do is right/good enough.".

Doing What You Know How To - Until You Know Something Else.

The Drama Triangle gives us a clear way to understand human relating, showing us patterns that are created by the unconscious mind to feel a sense of safety. The Victim gets to feel safe by be looked after by others and felt sorry for, the Rescuer by feeling needed and valued and the Persecutor by elevating their own perceived status by hurting, disempowering and reducing the status of those around them. Safety is the primary role of the unconscious mind, so it can be that a person is incredibly hooked into these roles, often floating between the different polarities whilst remaining stuck within the Triangle.

Karpman's Drama Triangle |

Is This Like Transactional Analysis?

Yes it is. Karpman created the Drama Triangle when he was a student of Eric Berne M.D, creator of Transactional Analysis (T.A.) and writer of a wonderful book entitled 'Games People Play'. If you are familiar with T.A. you may already know what the answer is to being caught in the 'Drama Triangle':

The answer is both simple and complicated. The first step is to being awareness to your role and the role of the other in the relationship. What is the pattern. What are the predominant positions and do they change or stay the same? The second step is for you to decided to step outside of Drama Triangle behaviour and to take the 'Adult' stance in the relationship. This is where they do not engage in facilitating another's position in the triangle, no matter what. An 'Adult' will not rescue the Victim, not behave like a Victim when a Persecutor is looking for one, and not blame others or put others down or for what is going on and persecute for circumstances that are occurring. Simply, an Adult takes responsibility for their own actions, doesn't try to force others to change, allows the people in their life space to work it out for themselves, and doesn't get triggered into Drama triangle responses. When others are used to gaining a certain response from you it can be shocking for them to experience this. It's like the sticky being taken off the sellotape. They have to shift their relationship to you and may not know how. If they are used to joining you in persecuting others (gossip), colluding in someone's perceived lack of ability or in meeting your Victim, Rescuer or Persecutor, you may have to rethink how that relationship is going to work. Oftentimes people are really happy to be free and will step up how they relate to you also. Sometimes though friendships get let go of because it can feel like it's time to refresh of what you are prepared to tolerate in your personal life or your workplace.

Work, Friends Lovers - and Your Relationship to Yourself

It can be enormously enlightening to look at all your relationships through this lens and also your relationship to yourself and how you operate in the world. When I did my own personal audit I realised that I had an internal Persecutor and Rescuer that cycled around in relationship to how busy I was and what I was creating. When I got over-busy I tended to get into a pattern of starting to drop some of my self-care regimen (journalling, yoga, meditation, dance, breathwork) and then, over time having my back pop or some other sickness that made me stop completely, pause and reassess my relationship to what I was doing. In those times I could easily slip into 'poor me' syndrome (Victim) and then go heavily into self-Rescue mode, becoming the hero in my own drama. This self-validation is common in order to keep our ego feeling like it's in control, but is not a particularly healthy place to live or create from. Creating awareness of this and doing the therapeutic work necessary changes everything and gives us a choice of how to go forward.

So how to use this in your life?

I encourage you to bring awareness to what you experience and to what you do and with whom and begin to open up the possibilities of creating new, more 'Adult' behaviours that can serve you and those around you better. If you find yourself helping others at your own expense or blaming someone else for what you are experiencing, or feeling hard done by and looking for someone else to step in and create a change in the situation, perhaps do an audit on how you could change that old way of being and take responsibility for your own experience more fully.

Bringing these awarenesses to how Karpman's Drama Triangle works on your relationships and in your life overall can really change things for you and for those you love and spend time with. This lens also can be an eye opener into what you see on TV and in the Press, from leaders and politicians, in the organisations you encounter and work within and the school system. At first you might only just see the patterns that are occurring, but over time you can will see more clearly, create difference and see such positive shifts in your life. Healthy relating in your home, in your friendships and in the work place can be achieved quite simply by making small changes. And you can talk to others about what you see too - obviously staying well away from being a Persecutor!

And if you'd like to talk about how we can work together with Coaching, Cognitive Hypnotherapy and Embodiment Training to free some of the more tightly held patterns that keep this in place for you, or anything else you may want to work on just drop me a note here and we can arrange a free conversation to explore the possibilities.

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