Every interaction has two participants. Sometimes these interactions are unhealthy and damaging.
Sometimes persons will battle to defend their patterns and roles, even when these are present in toxic relationships. Identifying which position you play could be an essential key in freeing you from situations that have held you captive.
Recently I did a workshop talking people through Karpman’s drama triangle. The goal of the workshop was to help participants identify where they were on the triangle and use the tools I share to break free. Throughout the seminar people owned their positions; many were surprised when they saw where they fitted. They could also recognise their partner’s status and felt hopeful about change.
Below is a brief description of the items on the triangle.
Victim – The victim has no boundaries, often has a sense of hopelessness, struggles to take responsibility and blames others for their mistakes.
Persecutor – The persecutor often has internal conflict, struggles with anger, often act entitled and fails to take responsibility for their actions.
Rescuer – Underneath the doing the rescuer harbours feelings of inadequacy. They are people pleasers, often co-dependent and struggles with low self-worth.
During the workshop, one woman said ‘I am a persecutor, and my husband is the victim/rescuer’. I believe awareness is a big part of the change. We cannot change until we become aware of what needs replacing.
However, the transition can be challenging, especially when we have lived in a role for many years. Even though it might be unhealthy, it is all we’ve known. The daunting prospect of learning and implementing new skills can seem daunting.
Often this is where persons struggle and ends up justifying why they do what they do. They also challenge the need to change by citing statistics and give evidence of things that happened when they tried to reform.
For example, the rescuer might feel like there will be no one else to do the job they do. The overriding thought is ‘if I don’t do it no one will.’
The rescuer needs to identify why they chose the position they decided and learn steps to break free.
- Here are some core values of a rescuer
- The only person I can depend on is me.
- If I don’t do it, no one will
- If I don’t do it, it won’t be done properly
- The needs of others are more important than mine
- Struggles with feelings of inadequacy
- Suffers from guilt
- Gets value and purpose from other feedback
Each position on the triangle is grounded in dysfunction. These roles usually show up in dysfunctional relations without boundaries and are often damaging to one or both participants.