Are You Stuck In The Drama Triangle?
We are wired to love stories. Since the dawn of time, humans loved stories, narrated around the fire by a talented storyteller, about the gods, the elements, the hunt.
We haven’t changed much in that regard. Social media is fulfilling our desire to be entertained by stories, by lifes that we wouldn’t see or know about unless we were told about them. Now we can even see them.
Think about “stories” on Instagram or Facebook. They connect us to the person behind the camera, making her more interesting and real.
Is it a process disconnected from your life? Is it only applicable to famous people?
Not at all. We all experience the power of storytelling but we often don’t know how to leverage in our favour. We do it naturally when communicating with each other but there are situations where this skill can make a huge difference in your confidence and your career’s impact.
Every story has a beginning, middle and end. We see it in a movie, we read it in a book, we hear it during an interview. Stories make us root for a character over another. A good story will even make us care about a likeable villain.
Words have power over our brain, over our imagination and you can wield that power every time you talk about yourself.
Have you heard of the “drama triangle”? It’s a social model of human interaction, used prevalently in psychotherapy, transactional analysis created over 40 years ago by Stephen B. Karpman M.D. . I use it as reference when reviewing a situation and my role in it and I teach my clients how to apply it to their own experiences to avoid falling “into the drama”.
It’s an eye-opener and I hope it will help you notice which role you picked for yourself in your story.
THE DRAMA TRIANGLE
There are 3 main roles in this model and we all switch between these three options depending from the situation. The founder of this approach was inspired by the theatre and his years as member of the Screen Actors Guild.
VICTIM: this role thinks the world is against him/her. This person has been victimised in the past, feels victimised now by the events, the people involved.
RESCUER: the rescuer feels a need to help others but the reasons behind it are the main challenge. This role feels guilty if he/she doesn’t help and in doing so enables the behaviour of the victim to continue. The rescuer is not empowering others to solve their own issues.
PERSECUTOR: this role is often seen as the villain in this scenario. That’s not necessarily true. Holding people accountable for their actions, enforcing rules and expectations may be seen as “persecuting” by a victim’s point of view. This is a role we often found ourself in without conscious decision based on how the triangle is created.
What I learned during my work as a manager and also working closely with clients in a leadership role is that there is a thin line between blaming someone for something they didn’t do and holding them accountable for their work. The moment you’re dealing with someone who sees himself as the victim, they will consider you a persecutor. It’s KEY that you don’t see yourself in that light.
There will be a tendency to question yourself, your approach and your actions and as long as your actions are rooted on rational facts and choices, you are not a persecutor.
Looking at your reactions through the lens of the “drama triangle”, can you recognise moments where you blamed others for what they were doing? It can be something small as a discussion with your partner or a colleague but the self-reflection needs to happen fast to identify which role you’re trying to embody.
We flex along these three main roles, sometimes we may be the victim, others the rescuer or the persecutor. These roles also change based on the other people involved as they will play a part too.
Think about your career. Which role are you taking on? Are you the victim because you feel powerless? Are you sad about lack of career progression or maybe you feel that someone is not treating you right?
Or are you a rescuer always helping other people in their job, supporting their goals because they seem to need your help? Are you letting them learn how to do new things or are you taking over for them? Are you maybe focusing so much on their issues so you don’t have to worry about your own?
Are you feeling a persecutor because you have to hold people accountable or are you judging others because they are not working as hard as you think they could? The difference between been seen as persecutor and actually acting as one is the judgment piece. Your intentions in this role are the line between playing a role and having a teaching, coaching, managing purpose.
There have been times in my life when I wanted to blame everyone else but me, when I thought that it was someone else’s responsibility to fix things. I learned fast that - and you heard me saying this often- nothing changes until you change.
Change doesn’t mean having to change who you are authentically. It means that you need to act and do the work necessary to get to your goals.
It also means to develop the compassion necessary to understand that even if you played the victim until now, you weren’t doing it on purpose. If someone in your life is playing the victim, they are not aware that they can change their narrative. The only way to take them out of that role is to refuse to play along in the role of the rescuer or persecutor. They cannot play the victim alone.
The next time you talk about yourself, about your story, make sure you’re rappresenting yourself as you want others to see you.
You can hear more about the drama triangle on my podcast episode Your Story Matters.
If you would like tailored support to present yourself in the best possible way so you can reach your career goals faster, act today and book a free strategy session. We will review your challenges and needs and plan a course of action that you can apply already after our call.