First question: What IS it?
Grab a pad of paper and draw a triangle on it. On one point write PERSECUTOR. On another write: RESCUER. And on the third write VICTIM.
That’s what the drama triangle looks like. It FEELS like being caught in an on-going, unproductive, constantly repetitive conflict with one or two or possibly more individuals in your life — at home, at work, and sometimes both. In fact if not understood, this “way” of relating can be the way many people function in all their relationships.
Here are the behaviors of the Persecutor who says “It’s all your fault.”
-sets strict limits unnecessarily
-keeps victim oppressed
-is mobilized by anger
-rigid, authoritative stance
Here are the behaviors of the Rescuer who says “Let me help you.”
-rescues when really doesn’t want to
-feels guilty if doesn’t rescue
-keeps victim dependent
-gives permission to fail
-expects to fail in rescue attempts
Here are the behaviors of the Victim who says “Poor me.”
-feels victimized, oppressed, helpless, hopeless, powerless, ashamed
-looks for a rescuer who will perpetuate their negative feelings
-if stays in victim position, will block self from making decisions, solving problems, pleasure and self-understanding
Now the hard part is to see if these definitions of behavior remind you of conversations or perhaps on-going and unresolved conflicts with anyone in your life. And gently check to see if you can identify your own behavior.
One complex part of the triangle is that people move around from one position to another. In other words, if my “poor me” stance is not working, I can easily move to “it’s all your fault” OR “let me help you.” And the reality is that some relationships stay in unhealthy drama by continuing to move from one role to another…..or simply staying stuck in one of the three positions.
If you can identify a relationship issue that seems to never be resolved, study this triangle carefully. Someone, even if not you, is perhaps stuck in one of these positions and you simply don’t know how to EXIT.
Here are the basic behaviors for the EXIT from the triangle.
The Persecutor moves to “clear structure.” That can be anything from setting realistic boundaries, to exploring healthy communication of what you think, feel, need, want….and a willingness to hear the same from the other person(s).
The Rescuer moves to “clear nurturing.” This also means more boundaries, setting limits and being realistic about what you can do. Offer suggestions, ideas and discuss them in a generous, giving and caring manner. STOP doing it FOR the other person(s) It also means taking care of yourself first.
The Victim moves to “problem solving.” Define the problem from your point of view. Ask the same of the other(s). Propose solutions. Examine each carefully. Attempt to find an idea to move forward…slowly.
Until individuals step OUT of the triangle, there is no equality in relationships; the drama intensifies and deepens the trauma in the relationships and threatens to destroy connection. Typically, such triangles have been in place for a long time, so stopping the dynamic can be painful and a bit frightening. AND it can be done. If you experiment with altering your own behavior in a relationship you want to change, go slow. Try a new behavior that is problem solving in nature, or healthy nurturing, or creating clear structure and assess if or how it works. Then move forward with more efforts…one at a time.
If you need more detail, just research the Drama Triangle. The source here is SCRIPTS PEOPLE LIVE BY – Claude Steiner; BORN TO WIN by Muriel James. Boundary Setting, an essential aspect of stepping out of the drama triangle can be explored in my book: RELEASE FROM POWERLESSNESS: TAKE CHARGE OF YOUR LIFE.
Let me know if you need help!
Listen to Dr. Linda Moore and Mike Manko discuss the “Drama Triangle” on the SteveAndMikeRadio.com podcast.