Psychologist Dr. Stephen Karman created the term in the 1960’s to describe the three dysfunctional roles: The victim (Damsel in Distress), The Persecutor (Villain) and The Rescuer (Hero). A model of how we humans interact.
None of the roles take responsibility.
The Victim “Poor Me”- This person gives up and believes everyone else is okay except them. Feels oppressed, hopeless, ashamed, powerless, incapable, and misunderstood.
The victim will seek to hook up with a rescuer in order to validate victim feelings. The victim will refuse to make decisions, get help or change.
The Rescuer “Let Me Help you”– Offers support but really doesn’t want too. Feels guilty and anxious if doesn’t rescue and feels connected when victim is dependent on them. Rescuing sense of capability and often expects to fail in rescue mission.
The Persecutor “It’s All Your Fault”– The persecutor places blame and makes sure others are wrong. They are more than likely angry, accusing, righteous, bossy and inflexible. In order to have their needs met they require the Victim; someone they can project their irritation on. “You are not ok but I am, so do what I tell you.”
All 3 Roles in the Triangle are inauthentic. When someone is in one of these roles, they are responding to the past rather than the here and now. They are using old “scripts” they decided upon as children or modeled from their parents.
All roles are manipulative and each has the following purpose in manipulation:
- Responsibility is left out. Manipulation means never take ownership, always blame.
- There is a lack of internal conflict within the individual. Instead it’s all about creating conflict & stirring it up in others.
- The players lack empathy, are very self-absorbed in their own role of the moment.
- Patterns of the drama game prevent any real problem solving because the drama rules.
- Maintaining bad boundaries is part of manipulation.
- The game provides identity and fills emptiness, because two people can jump around in all three roles to fuel the drama of manipulation.
Good guy/Bad guy split thinking is integral to drama & manipulation. Drama obscures the real issues. People are seduced by the false excitement the drama offers. Manipulators love drama as a source of power.
Manipulation is the core of the game. It creates confusion and upset, not solutions
Breaking out of the Drama Triangle
Be 100% responsible. Be the change you want in the conversation then you will move out of it.
If you find yourself in The Rescuer Role give help without enabling and allow the person (victim) to learn and grow by solving their own problems. The rescuer can move from savior to coach by offering clear support and holding person capable. By holding active listening the coach listens and does not solve problems for them. The coach can set boundaries (I am willing to listen for 5 minutes) and Provide choices (I will listen for 5 mins now or you can call back next week). Feeling – Fear.
If you find yourself in the Victim Role (Helpless) you can move to survivor by problem solving. State what you want and take action, keep agreements, speak gratitude for yourself and what you have. Feeling -Sadness.
If you find yourself in the Persecutor Role (Bully) you can move to challenger by active listening without solving the problem for the other person, clear expectations, and provide choices. Feeling – Anger.
Many of us may not be conscious of operating in one of these roles. As you become aware of each role and how you may cycle in and out of different drama roles you can begin to be responsible.