The victim/drama triangle was originally conceived by Dr Karpman as a way of visually displaying the complex interaction that occurs between people in pathological conflict.
The triangle is a simple tool for conceptualising the dynamics of dysfunctional roles in conflict.
Karpman observed that in conflict and drama, there is “good guy vs bad guy” thinking. He also observed that participants tend to become drawn in by the energy that the drama generates. The drama obscures the real issues. Confusion and upset escalates. Solutions are no longer the focus.
Karpman defined and outlined three roles in the “transaction” – Persecutor, Rescuer and Victim.
He placed these three roles on an inverted triangle and described them as being the three aspects, or faces of drama.
The Victim in the triangle is not an actual victim, but rather someone feeling or acting like a victim. Nonetheless, the victim feels victimised, oppressed, helpless, hopeless, powerless, ashamed, and seems unable to make decisions, solve problems or achieve true insight.
The Solution: Victims must learn to take responsibility for themselves, rather than look to someone to do it for them. They must learn to overcome the belief that they can’t take care of themselves by developing ways to see themselves as resourceful, powerful and able to solve problems.
The Persecutor in the triangle tends to be controlling, blaming, critical, oppressive, angry, authoritative, rigid, and self righteous. The persecutor insists, “It’s all your fault.”
The Solution: Self-accountability is the only way out of The Drama Triangle, regardless of the role you’re in. When we stop looking to blame or criticise others and we take responsibility for everything in our lives, we become free. Unfortunately, there usually has to be some kind of breakthrough/awakening for them to own their part in the situation and because of their great reluctance to do so, it may come in the form of crisis.
Rescuers see themselves as ‘helpers’, usually reliant on someone to rescue (the victim). A Rescuer will help another person whether help is asked for or not, and will feel guilty if they don’t find a way to help. Due to acting in this way, they keep the person being rescued inside the Victim role.
The Rescuer is a classic enabler. They feel guilty if they don’t rescue them. Yet their rescuing has negative effects: it keeps the victim dependent and gives the victim permission to fail. It also keeps the rescuer stuck in focusing energy on someone else’s problems, not solving their own.
The Solution: Acknowledgement and acceptance of your tendency to rescue others and understand that by rescuing, you may be meeting your own needs rather than genuinely helping others. Be aware that changing your position on the triangle does not mean you cannot be loving, generous and kind: it is possible to be supportive without rescuing someone.
Transactional Analysis is a widely recognised form of modern psychology. TA is designed to promote personal growth and change. It is considered a fundamental therapy for well-being and for helping individuals to reach their full potential in all aspects of life.
“Keep your attention focused entirely on what is truly your own concern, and be clear that what belongs to others is their business and none of yours.”