#264- The Drama Triangle. Psst—You’re Probably On It

Our culture is obsessed with the Drama Triangle. We watch it play out like a train wreck on reality TV, sad love songs, movie climaxes, gossip magazines and in the lives of people we know. The concept of the Drama Triangle was introduced in the early 70s by Dr. Stephen Karpman and it has three points: Victim, Rescuer and Persecutor. You know the victim as, “Poor me, I’m all alone and nobody cares”. The rescuer says, “Let me fix everything and take care of people who don’t need it, neglecting my own needs.” And then there’s the Persecutor who bullies, blames and criticizes. The thing about these positions is they are ALL powerless because you’re making someone else responsible for your feelings. Most people on the triangle don’t just stay in one position—they tend to play all three roles.

We are conditioned to boo for the perpetrator, pity the victim and cheer for the rescuer. We want a good guy and a bad guy; a winner and a loser. The opposite of the Drama Triangle is happiness and empowerment, but we don’t see that as an option… unless that happiness is dependent on someone else. Happiness is NOT a state outside of you, but our society perpetuates that notion based on the Drama Triangle. Thinking other people are responsible for your well-being holds you hostage. It’s a trap. Unfortunately most people who are stuck on the triangle have no idea they are there, which means they stay on it, remaining powerless.

Demonstrations of the Drama Triangle act as a mirror, enabling you to see yourself more clearly. Watch TV and see if you can identify the different roles, noticing how people switch. Pay attention to how disempowering it is, keeping them all in victimhood. Now turn that awareness on your own life and look at where YOU play each of these roles—with your family, your partner, your friends. Instead of blaming others for your unhappiness, ask what you’re trying to get… then give it to yourself. When you stop looking outside yourself, you’ll nudge yourself off the triangle. Empowerment is always about YOU.


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