The Drama Triangle

(From David Emerald, the Power of TED)

Another factor in support is that we can easily change roles from helper (rescuer) to one that makes us a victim or persecute the very person we are trying to help. Awareness of the Karpman ‘drama triangle’ means we can be clear on why we might feel particular emotions of fear, anger, or frustration wither as a support or a person being supported.

  • We rescue others from their responsibilities (Rescuer)
  • We then get angry at them for what we’ve done (Persecute)
  • Then we feel used and sorry for ourselves (Victimised)

But solving other people’s problems is a destructive form of helping. It acts as if trying to stop but it can cause the other to continue.

When we rescue we create a ‘victim’ – we believe they are people who are not capable of looking after themselves. But we become resentful of the person we so generously ‘helped’ because:

  • We’ve done something we didn’t want to do
  • It wasn’t our responsibility
  • We ignored our own wants and needs

We become angry that the victim is not grateful for our help. The victim is not behaving in the way he or she should do. This person is not letting us fix that feeling. Something doesn’t work out, or they don’t follow our advice, so we then persecute. But the victim is responding to the message which directly or indirectly tells them how incapable we believe the to be. They resent being shown they are incompetent and they resent us for adding insult to injury by become angry after pointing out the incompetence.

On the other hand, the person being helped can also take new roles. They can start by being a victim, and then a persecutor, blaming the rescuer for not helping them properly.

Then we move to victim mode ourselves –

v  Why does this always happen?

v  After all we have done for them, how could they trust me this way?

v  We can also feel uncomfortable and rejected when someone refused to be ‘helped’

v  We haven’t learnt to say ‘You are having a problem. What do you need?”. Instead we say ‘Here. Let me do it for ‘you’

Overcoming the  Drama Triangle

Observe what mode you are in, when stressed or upset?

  • When you see patterns in how you behave wade corner of the triangle do you regularly move into?
  • How might you move from one of those positions into a neutral position?
  • When you look at close friends, what corner do they regularly move into?

For More information try “The Power of TED


Support that Works