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The drama triangle

Author: Jackie Tasker
Published: Apr 1 2008

Humans are social animals, and as such we interact with each other daily: at work, at home, socialising, in the shops, in the car next to us at the traffic lights, in the street. We interact with people we know, those we?ve just met, and those we may only have one interaction with.

Many interactions have a positive outcome, but some are negative and result in strong emotional reactions e.g. feeling angry, feeling small, or feeling rejected. This reaction can be unexpected but may be something that you recognise as often happening to you.

For example, do your relationships all end the same way? Are you cheated on, or the cheater? Do you feel you are loved less than the love that you give? In any of these instances, and many others, your relationship is likely to involve the Drama Triangle.

The Drama Triangle was devised by Stephen Karpman and describes the 3 roles adopted:

The PERSECUTOR - "It's Your Fault"

The Persecutor?s role is to oppress the Victim, by using some of the following behavioural traits:

- Being angry;
- Having authority;
- Blaming;
- Criticising;
- Shouting;
- Punishing;
- Belittling;
- Any other behaviour which demonstrates the Persecutor?s power over the Victim.

RESCUER - "I?ll Fix It"

The Rescuer?s role is to rescue the Victim, but not in an authentic way, and so will display some of the following behavioural traits:

- Discounting the ability of other to rescue themselves;
- Helping others without asking if the help is actually wanted;
- Rescuing when doesn?t really want to ? being a martyr;
- Doing more than is needed;
- Feeling guilty if doesn't rescue;
- Any other behaviour which keeps the Victim dependent.

VICTIM - "It?s My Fault"

The Victim?s role is to be oppressed by the Persecutor and/or powerless to help himself and therefore dependent upon the Rescuer. This will be communicated through some of the following behaviour traits:

- Being vulnerable;
- Putting themselves down;
- Being helpless;
- Lack of problem solving or decision making;
- Not looking after self e.g. getting into debt, excessive alcohol;
- Being dependent on the Rescuer;
- Any other behaviour which renders them powerless and helpless.

Think about yourself and your relationships, what role do you play?

We will all have a role we are comfortable adopting, as we?ll have learnt it from our childhood. But the roles are not static, and throughout an interaction it is possible to move around the Drama Triangle and take up any of the positions. However, for the power play to stop one person has to accept the one down position to the other?s one up position.

It is possible for relationships to exist within the Drama Triangle if one of the partners largely occupies the Victim position. Some marriages exist for many years within this framework.

However, if one of the parties becomes unhappy with their position, and this is usually the Victim, then the power struggle will escalate as the other person fights to keep control.

The only way to rectify this situation satisfactorily is to step out of the Drama Triangle altogether, and react from an Adult position.

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