Have you ever got caught up in a family, legal, community or workplace drama? You know, the ones where there is some form of VICTIM, a PERPETRATOR and a RESCUER.
“Every drama that occurs in life will continue to be played out as long as someone is willing to be victimized.” – I’m unsure who quoined the original quote but it wasn’t me.
According to Stephen B. Karpman, M.D. (who wrote Transactional Analysis articles on the topic), drama begins when these roles are established, or anticipated. There is no drama unless there is a switch in roles. This is commonly known as being involved in The Drama Triangle, The Victim Triangle or The Loser’s Triangle.
Typically seen in the legal system and the media, these three roles work to form a cycle of blame, criticism, defending, rescuing and guilt which allows all three “players” to avoid taking responsibility for their own thoughts, emotions, words, beliefs or behaviour. But these roles are also very prevalent in our day to day interactions at home, at school, in our community and at work, so don’t be foolish enough to think that this form of drama only occurs in court or on television.
ALL drama portrayed in movies, magazines, local gossip, workplace bullying, schoolyard fights and family arguments (to name a few), thrives on the existence of this triangle to perpetuate our need to create variety and escape from our boring lives. If watching television, reading newspapers and talking about bad news has become a HABIT, you may be avoiding living a life of honesty, being willing to deal with your own emotions and taking responsibility for your actions. Some people might want to even encourage you to “get a life”!
“For every victim, there is a rescuer keeping him stuck!” – I’m unsure who quoined the original quote but it wasn’t me either.
There is something you can do!
We can gain a better understanding of WHY we get attracted to these type of situations. If we combine The Drama Triangle model with the Human Needs Psychology model, we get to see that being involved in a drama probably meets most, if not all of the first four needs of the personality. They are:
- The need for CERTAINTY – How certain are we that we can keep on being involved in the drama and making the other players react to what we are doing or saying? How certain are we that WE are the right person who can help someone who’s been caught up in a drama? How certain are we that we are the victim in the whole situation?.
- The need for VARIETY – When we’re involved in any drama, we never know what might happen next – even though we might claim it can be terrifying at times, the excitement of expressing our emotions and getting the other players to react, adds uncertainty/variety to our somewhat boring lives. How much variety do you get from being involved as a victim, a perpetrator or a rescuer in the drama? (Journalists may score highly here as do people with little work to do who thrive on gossip).
- The need for SIGNIFICANCE – How significant do we feel when we can make someone else react to what we are doing or saying, how significant do we feel when we can tell other people about our frustrating situation – that is never our fault of course lol – and how significant do we feel when we can get someone else to sympathize with our situation?.
- The need for LOVE AND CONNECTION – How connected to others does it make us feel when they sympathize about our terrible plight, how does the support we receive from other people make us feel cared for, how useful do we feel when we help other people through their dramas and how loved do we feel when someone actually comes in to rescue us from the situation? (Therapists, law enforcement officers and social workers may score highly here).
HOW TO GET OUT OF THE DRAMA TRIANGLE
1 … Decide whether you are REALLY ready to step out of the drama triangle. If so, this means evaluating exactly how much the actual drama is effecting your life and meeting your needs by answering each of the questions above and scoring them from 1 to 10 with 10 being the highest.
Some people might not be willing to look at these issues and do anything about them. If you know someone like this, keep out of their way. You may gently make suggestions to assist them but our real power is in changing ourselves and teaching by example. I think it was Dr Wayne Dyer who said, “never under-estimate your power to change yourself, never OVER-ESTIMATE your power to change others.”
2 … If you are meeting TWO or more of your needs (as listed above) at an 8 or higher, you are hooked in the triangle. If you are meeting THREE or more of your needs (as listed above) at an 8 or higher, you are addicted. Acceptance of yourself for meeting your needs in an unhealthy way is a key point here. Feeling bad, feeing overwhelmed or feeling guilty about doing it will simply immobilize you. Most, if not all people have played in the drama triangle at some stage of their life. Understanding how you’ve contributed to the situation and taking responsibility for your beliefs, thoughts, words and behaviours are the first steps to changing and stepping OUT of the triangle into a more empowering role.
3 … Be willing to accept how you are keeping the energy of the drama activated and communicate to the other players that you are taking responsibility for your part in the drama. Start playing in the Winners Triangle as illustrated below. (Source: Depression Support Network)
FOR VICTIMS – People who live as victims blame their circumstances, their feelings and whatever drama they have become involved in on someone or something else. They often declare, “It’s not my fault”, “I couldn’t help it”, “I didn’t have a choice” or “I had to do it/say it!”
Playing the victim is a merely a ROLE you are playing in the drama called “your life” – it is not a reality, though it may seem like it at times. It is perpetuated by a belief that you are powerless or that someone else can cause you to feel, think or act a certain way. Admit you are in a vulnerable position and take action to find strategies and solutions to remove yourself from the situation or resolve it. Ask for help, but NOT by blaming someone or something else for your problem. DON’T blame the government, the weather, your parents, your spouse, your boss, your weight, your dis-ease, your disability, your age, your lack of money, lack of knowledge or lack of resources etc. If you haven’t been able to see how your thoughts and beliefs have contributed to your victim status, you need a therapist right now – not a lawyer!
FOR PERPETRATORS – Take complete responsibility for your thoughts, words and actions. DON’T use reason, logic, excuses, blame or justifications. For example, if one of the players accuses you of something such as being a bully, over-dramatic, annoying, angry or whatever, OWN that part of yourself and agree with them. If done genuinely (and even with pride) you will notice it will diffuse the energy thrown towards you almost immediately. If you OWN whatever they are saying about you, they have no energy to fight against.
Just recently, during a family drama, I was told that I am bossy, overpowering, blunt and interrogating among other things. I replied saying that “I own each of those traits with pride. I would rather be hated for who I am than loved for who I am not”. And lets face it honestly, there are always elements of the things people accuse us of, in us to some degree. STOP denying they exist and let the energy flow past you. Doing that lets you play a more assertive and powerful role in the Winners Triangle instead.
A GENUINE apology (one from the heart, NOT from the head) for getting involved in the drama to this level is often useful too. If your apology is received well, your intention was pure. If not, check your motive. Whether you like it or not, how your communication was received by the other person IS the real measure of a pure intention. Forgive yourself and try again – otherwise you are operating from a victim perspective. Saying something like, “I didn’t intend to make you feel ….. ” is a justification and may even escalate the issue again. IT IS MORE IMPORTANT HOW A MESSAGE IS RECEIVED THAN HOW IT WAS SENT.
FOR RESCUERS – Stop believing that others can be victims. Empower them to see how they have created their reality with their beliefs and thoughts. Even in the worst conditions, if people are encouraged to set small goals each day and find their own solutions they discover a resourcefulness that makes them come alive. Encourage them to notice the good things that are happening in their life instead of focusing on problems. Ask them to remember three nice things about the other people involved in the drama before they share one horrid thing. Encourage them to find their own solutions too – it helps them to realize how capable they really are instead of blaming someone or something else for their dis-ease, problems, bad habits, fears and difficulties.
4 … When a situation arises that makes you feel like a victim, makes you want to help or rescue someone or makes you want to “teach someone a lesson”, STOP and ask yourself –
“Which of the 4 human needs (as described above) am I trying to meet by BELIEVING or DECIDING I am a victim, that someone needs rescuing or that someone needs to be taught a lesson or stopped from doing something?”
5 … Be willing to change your beliefs and/or decisions and move towards the Winners Triangle instead. The Winners Triangle model operates magnificently if you base your new beliefs, thoughts, words and actions on the last two facets of the Human Needs Psychology model. These are said to be the needs of the spirit and are –
- The need for GROWTH – Do some research, study, prayer, meditation, self analysis, see a therapist, find a mentor, read books, go to seminars or do whatever will support you on your journey of personal development. It is said that once we begin realizing that we create our own reality and start taking responsibility for our perceptions of life, we can never truly go back to being a victim of circumstances again.As with most things there is usually a flipside. We can use GROWTH to turn into a despicable human OR become a better person.
- The need to CONTRIBUTE beyond oneself – Stop focusing on yourself and your problems. Assist someone else to overcome their problems instead. Even the bible says, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you“, and many other great philosophies say the same sort of thing “what you do for another, you do for yourself“, just in different ways. Adding value to the world and helping others to meet their needs is one of the most fulfilling tasks we can do and is also a strongly help principle of the most happy, peaceful and powerful people in the world – take a look at Mother Teresa, the Dalai Lama, Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Ghandi and Anthony Robbins to name a few. Their success, power and influence comes from contributing to the world as a whole – now isn’t that something to aspire to!We can use CONTRIBUTION to cause the destruction of others OR to enhance the well being of many! What will you choose?
Please help me by adding a few other names to the list of successful, powerful and influential people who make an enormous contribution to the world by adding them in the comment box below … any other comments or questions are also greatly appreciated.
SCRIPTS PEOPLE LIVE BY by Claude Steiner