Drama Triangle

Stephen Karpman’s “drama triangle” is a model for dysfunctional social interaction.

Each triangle point represents a common and ineffective response to conflict.

Think back to the last conflict/drama you were a part of? It may have been at work or with family, try to note who took on the roles outlined below:

• Victims – helpless, hopeless, deny responsibility for their circumstances, and claim to have no power to change them. They wont do what it takes, won’t take a stand, act “super-sensitive”, wanting kid glove treatment, and pretend impotence and incompetence.

• Rescuers – constantly applying short-term repairs to a Victim’s problems, while neglecting their own needs. They are always working hard to “help” other people. They are harried, tired, and often have physical complaints. They are usually angry underneath and may be a loud or quiet martyr in style. They use guilt to get their way.

• Persecutors – always blame the Victims and criticize the enabling behavior of Rescuers, without providing guidance, assistance or a solution to the underlying problem. They are critical, unpleasant, good at finding fault. They often feel inadequate underneath. They control with threats, order, and rigidity. They can be loud or quiet in style and sometimes be a bully.

By the way, in any conflict one person can transition through all 3 roles depending on the circumstance.

For example, a Rescuer pushed too far by a Persecutor will switch to the role of Victim or counter-Persecutor. Victim pushed too far can switch to an aggressive Persecutor when feeling attacked.

While most people will perform in each of these roles occasionally; there are those who will actively avoid leaving the familiar role they selected.

The only way to “escape” the Drama Triangle is to function as an “adult” and not participate.

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