The Karpman drama triangle is a social model of human interaction. The triangle maps a type of destructive interaction that can occur among people in conflict. It’s a tool therapists can use to bring awareness to a client.
So what exactly is the triangle:
The triangle has 3 roles- Rescuer, Persecutor and Victim. Whilst most people will have a dominant role- roles can in fact be switched around.
The Rescuer– Poor you. Pain reliever. Fears not being needed.
The Persecutor– The problem. Dominates. Blames. Keeps the victim down.
The Victim– Feels powerless. Dreams denied. Poor me.
Each role sees the other as the problem to react too. Each drama role is an invented strategy the EGO creates to manage its fear and anxiety about what it doesn’t like or want.
All the roles on some level derive from denied pain. They perpetuate lies and unhealthy secrets. Are the result of feelings of unworthiness. Demonstrate a loss of personal power. Trap people, caught in a web of dysfunctional behaviour. Are usually imported subconsciously and are some of the inner trauma we carry from a young age. I have spoken quite a bit in previous posts about the inner child, wounds and trauma and people need to understand we ALL carry these in some degree and unless we are willing to do the hardwork, identify and work on those wounds we never get sustained growth and healing and forever keep ourselves trapped and one of the places we can get trapped in is the drama triangle. We will continue to search for happiness externally because internally we are not healthy.
Interestingly when I started studying this and using it, I identified many people and the role they fit into. I myself have mostly played the rescuer and at times have fallen into the victim in the past. I can so easily see where others fit, by their behaviour and how they have managed/are managing drama and conflict. The key to removing oneself from the drama triangle is awareness and stepping into a new consciousness. We can either remain stuck in the drama triangle or we can step out. No problem can ever be solved in the same level of consciousness it was created!
Indicators of the Rescuer:
- Good guy beliefs to rescue and enable others.
- Using rescuing or enabling to connect and/or feel important.
- Feels guilty when not involved in others problems.
- Addictive role- feeling good at the expense of others rights to take care of themselves.
- Feels shame about loss of self to meet others needs.
Indicators of the Perpetrator:
- Attempting to feel safe by hurting others and putting others down.
- Displays a false sense of superiority and defensive behaviours keeping them in denial.
- Uses feelings of frustration to trigger the right to get angry rather then deal with their own uncomfortable feelings.
- Shame based and uses negative behaviours to cover up/mask/deny their own problems.
- Needs to be in control and uses verbal and sometimes physical force to stay in power.
Indicators of the Victim:
- Feels safe and secure by being submissive.
- Believes their needs are not important.
- Blames perpetrator and sometimes rescuer for their problems.
- Incapable of standing up for themselves and avoids confrontation.
- Responds to threats by giving in to feel safe and may act submissive even when others are blatantly inappropriate.
Te above list are only some of the indicators for each role but I think this gives the general feel of the roles. I’m writing about this because it’s one of the tools that has really stood out to me thus far in my training and putting it to use has had incredible benefits in raising awareness. Once conscious of these roles and where we fit, it’s an invaluable tool enabling us to grow into a different level of consciousness.
There is of course far more to this than this brief description. As there are tests to use on clients to see if a) they are/have been in the drama triangle b) assist them to see this through some set questions and c) provide them with tools to remove themselves. There are also antidotes for each role empowering them to step outside the role and solve the problem with a new awareness.
It’s a tool that speaks to me. It makes so much sense and if you do what I have done and observe situations you are directly or indirectly in, you will be able to see the exact roles played out. Some people will remain in the triangle because they are either unwilling or oblivious to their behaviour. It’s like growth and learning-we all have the ability to learn and grow but some people will forever remain where they are and that’s ok because someone else’s journey is their journey and they need to want to change direction.
When we begin to recognise these role patterns as they arise, we may then be empowered to simply observe them in action and choose a more useful way to think, relate and take action.