Sometimes we find ourselves caught in a drama – it can be a lifelong cycle of wondering “why does everything have to be such a drama!?” or brief bursts of conflict that you don’t like.
Understanding the drama triangle might help you understand what’s happening. It’s a great model devised by Stephen Karpman and is used to explain the psychology behind relationship dynamics.
There are 3 roles at play, the Persecutor, the Victim and the Rescuer. It’s important to remember the Victim is playing the role of a victim rather than being an actual victim. Once you become aware of the role you are playing it becomes possible to change it – until then you carry on.
Rescuers see themselves as helpers, their life role is to look after other people. When they do that, they feel more important and have a sense of purpose. This is subtly different from helping a friend who is in need when you offer genuine support and kindness, or when people ask for help and you decide whether to or not. Rescuers in this model need someone else to help and actively seek them out to meet their own needs.
Persecutors believe that attacking other people is necessary for their own self-protection, they can then justify their actions. They think things like, “They deserved it”, or “No-one can be trusted, so I have to get them before they get me”.
Victims believe they cannot take care of themselves, they struggle with life and need others to help them through. They may have a rescuer in their life or a group of people around them who they believe they need to survive.
The trouble with getting caught in a drama triangle is that sooner or later the roles change. The Rescuer can easily slip into the Persecutor when they don’t do as the Victim needs, and then they may become the Victim, saying “I was only trying to help and this is what you do to me?” or “Whatever I do, it’s not enough”. Ultimately everyone on the triangle ends up playing Victim.
If we realise which role we play, either in life or in a specific situation we have a chance of stopping the drama. We must be willing to identify our role and take responsibility for changing. It may mean apologising and taking ownership for our actions and accepting that we may be the Persecutor after all and then wave goodbye to the drama.