How to escape Drama in relationships

Are your relationships fraught with drama? It could be that you are participating in an unhealthy relationship dynamic with has been called the DRAMA TRIANGLE.

The Drama Triangle model which was developed by  Dr. Stephen Karpman and derives from Transactional Analysis (or TA)  and the work of psychiatrist Dr. Eric Berne.

The Drama triangle describes three behavioural roles which people often unconsciously play out in their relationships.

Knowledge of the model and the dysfunctional interpersonal processes it illustrates helps us to move out of our relationship dramas by giving us awareness and the choice to no longer play the roles of victim, attacker or rescuer.

Do you resonate with one or more of these positions on the triangle?

The victim

The victim believes that life is just happening to him or her. Victims believe they have no power over what happens and it’s never their fault. The basic belief is that ‘I’m not OK and you are.’

The attacker or persecutor

The person who enacts this role tries to control others through criticism, bullying, and insistence on how problems should be solved. The basic belief is that they are not OK and better than you, so have the right to tell you what to do and how to do it. And of course the judge of whether you have reached their metrics of successful completion.

The Rescuer

The person who takes on this role feels compelled or manipulated to help those playing the victim role.

With this comes the belief in their responsibility for the outcome of the victim’s problem.

The underlying motivation to rescue may like the attacker of persecutor also be to feel superior or in control.

The basic belief of a rescuer is ‘You are not OK, but I’m nice, I will help you.’

The Drama Triangle reflects Codependent behaviour and has also been called the codependent triangle which I will be writing about in subsequent articles.

Learning about Codependence and the development of healthy BOUNDARIES is useful to escape from the toxic drama triangle.

It is possible to replace our roles in the Drama Triangle with healthier ways of relating to others. In this way, the Drama Triangle can become what has been called an Empowerment Triangle. For a useful descriptive diagram see  The Empowerment Dynamic  

To move from dysfunction to empowerment we need to develop new skills in relating.

Moving from Drama to Empowerment 

The VICTIM needs to develop courage and inner strength together with problem-solving skills and not to look to others to solve their problems.

As she or he may also need to become confident in their own decision-making skills and even if the decisions are not perfect they will learn for the experience and develop a sense confidence that they have the ability to steer the course of their own life,

Furthermore, they may need to be stand up and be firm in asserting their right to make their own decisions. Sometimes the Rescuer and the Persecutor/Controller knowingly or unknowingly get huge payoffs from keeping the Victim disempowered and in the Victim role.

When the victim does this and steps into a more empowered position, then they can gain access to other inner resources which will help them plan and achieve the life they desire rather than being buffeted about the vagaries of life or acquiescing to life blueprint of others who believe they know what's best.

A number of coaching tools will help him or her to find their inner self, direction, motivation, and strength.

The RESCUER - needs to pause when she feels drawn to rescue a person or situation which she sees needs rescuing.

Ask yourself about the underlying motivation - is it to gain love and recognition - to be thought of as nice or good?

Are you neglecting your own wellbeing and perhaps subconsciously avoiding opportunities to do your own growth work and grow psychologically and spiritually?

The Rescuer will also need to build inner awareness and strength and are likely to need to fight with parts of self which will try to sabotage a conscious desire to step out of the drama triangle. It may be necessary to strengthen boundaries with others, who play the victim role and have grown used to being rescued.

The rescuer will do well to learn coaching skills, helping people who are used to playing the victim turn into problem solvers, we can do this by asking clarifying questions, and holding a space for others to discover and work with their own solutions.

The person who identifies strongly with the PERSECUTOR position of the triangle is possibly less likely to see the need to change as they have bolted on their ego defence amour of controlling others very tightly.

Persecutors may undertake reading for personal and spiritual growth and attend courses, however, the exercise is often academic and they are either merely confirming their worldview, or if there is a different view presented, they are more likely to reject it.

However for those who recognise themselves in this role and are willing to change. Instead of bullying or persecuting others they can transform into someone who challenges others to develop in a constructive way. Including encouraging learning, growth, and action in others, saying “You can do it - I believe in you!”

It is quite common to cycle through all of the positions of the Drama Triangle, though we may have a default position.

I certainly have played all the roles as I have faced various stressors in my life, however over the years I have spent much more time than I would have liked in the Rescuers corner.

From experience, this has led to neglecting myself and important relationships in my life, exhaustion, resentment, and not keeping on track with my own goals and dreams.

Since I have reacquainted myself with the principles of the Drama and Empowerment Triangles and taken steps to take better care of my own needs and only assist others in ways that works well for all concerned my quality of life has increased dramatically and I have had the satisfaction of being able to progress my own projects and to see a number of people who have been playing the victim role to my rescuer begin to find their own solutions and thus come from a position of empowerment.

This knowledge has also helped me step out of the Victim role following times of crisis. I stop myself looking to others to tell me what to do when I feel overwhelmed and stuck. Instead, I have coached myself to work on my courage, inner strength, and discernment skills to help resolve the inevitable challenges of life.

•So what role do you often find yourself in?

•Has this been contributing to unwanted drama and frustration in your life?

•Could it be time to leave the drama behind?

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