The drama triangle is a dynamic model of social interaction and conflict developed by Dr. Stephen Karpman when he was a student of Eric Berne, M.D. father of transactional analysis. The victim, rescuer, and persecutor refer to roles people unconsciously play, or try to manipulate other people to play, not the actual circumstances in someone’s life.
By identifying the role you play in the triangle or others want you to play, you save yourself and release others from drama as well. You peacefully enjoy your life, experience great joy and focus on being your highest self instead.
We all play these three roles at different times in our lives, depending on the circumstances. There will however be a primary one we stick to and constantly play. For me it was the rescuer role, since quitting it, aligning with the spirit, my life has transformed completely, so have the lives of people around me, people who played these different roles in my life have also achieved healing through me. When you remove yourself from this dynamic, refuse to participate, you stop enabling the other role players. This is both a service to yourself and also others.
It's important to look at your family dynamics, which parent and sibling is playing what role, what's your personal role? We often replay this dynamic in all our future relationships.
Persecutors are dominant, have a high need for control, they're punishing and judgmental. Prone to rigid black or white thinking, they're emotionally unavailable, have difficulty being vulnerable. They take it as a personal insult when someone else solves a problem they can't, seeing it as someone vying for dominance, will be fast to cut someone down. They see it as they're doing all they can to vie for top spot in a constantly hostile world, powerlessness is their greatest fear. They disrespect victims and despise anything that reminds them of their inadequacies, including mistaking kindness for weakness which highlights their lack of empathy. They want to maintain status quo through punishment, always with them as top dog.
Rescuers need to feel needed, their mantras are "let me help you", "what can I do?". Rescuers often overwork themselves care taking, neglecting themselves, not taking charge of getting their needs met. Rescuers are co-dependent and enablers, often feeling guilty about not rescuing everyone, feeling harried, busy rescuing victims and shielding persecutors from victims, eventually burning out. They switch to victim role or persecutor role when overwhelmed, I know I did it occasionally as well.
It stemmed from a deep fear of abandonment, I thought if I did enough that people would start to appreciate me, that they would stay around me if they needed me. I couldn't see my worth is innate, that I didn't have to earn it, people liked me for me and not for what I do for them or what I have. I am worthy as is and I don't have to prove it.
Since I understand it now, life has become far more relaxing, by having awareness when burn out is going to happen and pulling back, rescuers start to experience manageable bouts of healthy stress that motivate instead of distress.
I haven't burnt out at all for the last three years, I am at peace, my health is top notch and I'm filled with joy instead, living a healthy purposeful life of unlimited possibilities, self-actualising every day.
The victim's game is perpetual self-pity, feeling powerless, helpless, dejected and ashamed, coming across as extra sensitive, you walk on eggshells around them for a different reason, for persecutors, you walk on eggshells because you're intimidated by their harsh punishing ways, for victims, you fear their stifling neediness.
Victims cling to rescuers, taking no personal initiative, even for wounds the rescuer didn't cause, the rescuer is expected to take responsibility for them.
A common scenario is you meet a new friend who plays the role of victim, she's constantly negative, expecting you to take on the responsibility of her wellbeing. When you refuse to, she now persecutes you, if you did rescue her and decide to stop, she still persecutes you then, either way you went on a pointless detour only to come back to the initial spot, where she burdens you with her responsibilities.
They live in denial about the inability to challenge persecutors, often consoling themselves with moral superiority or civic mindedness. They want rescuers to help but see the help as a sign of personal weakness and resent you for it.
By painting themselves as victims, they can now excuse themselves from taking charge of their wellbeing, seeing both the persecutor's and rescuer's success as solely due to them having special circumstances, rather than feeling they can do it too.
They don't find much pleasure in life, often relying on rescuers to get their needs met while seeing persecutors as the strong resilient ones, wanting the perceived protection of persecutors, while relying on rescuers as primary crutches when persecutors injure them. They will prioritise persecutor's needs and neglect rescuer's needs, sandwiching themselves between these two and not finding satisfaction from either one.
If rescuers refuse to recuse them, they will immediately view rescuers as persecutors, if rescuers do rescue them, the familiarity of being persecuted would mean redirecting their angst by becoming the persecutor to the rescuer, using rescuers as human garbage dumps, the adage no good deed goes unpunished is an apt one here.
I have rescued many who're stuck in the victim role and what I came to see was they will resort to scapegoating me when things go south, often due to a draining persecutor in their inner circle who they hung onto and never did get their needs met. They're depleted all the time, unable to reciprocate nor are they able to hold persecutors accountable and will start demonising me to soothe their distress instead.
When I started pulling away from what I jokingly call the strangulation triangle, I experienced many jarring reactions. As my wounds melted away, the higher I rose, the more clarity I had, I realised that no mater which role someone played, empathy and compassion was still possible. People with high empathy and compassion are in for a wondrous gift after quitting, the empathy and compassion will serve them even more, like I realised it did for me. People who played either role were incapable of showing me affection, the persecutor exhaust the victim, the victim exhaust the persecutor, they both relied on me to keep them going, I also enjoyed the peacemaker role in an unhealthy way, making it about needing their approval instead of understanding my worth was innate.
I saw persecutors doubling down on the punishment, the mean spirited became more mean spirited. Persecutors with chronic anger rapidly switching to victim role when I confronted their abusive behaviours, attempting to prey on empathy instead of holding themselves accountable. Rescuers guilt tripped me about not wanting to be a rescuer anymore, becoming persecutors, calling me selfish, greedy, etc to pull me back to their comfort zones.
It's like quitting addiction in an opium den where not every addict know they're addicts and not everyone knows what's the drug of choice to even begin quitting. I kept going until I was home free, knowing if someone was in my way, they weren't for me.
I felt all alone at some point, withdrawing into myself and withdrawing from all relationships, old and new. It was a necessary part of my recovery, to pull myself completely away temporarily, to gain perspective by being completely out of this triangle. I had to do it myself because people out of this triangle don't accept the behaviours of people in this triangle, I also saw that plenty of other people were in this triangle as well, not letting myself be dragged back into it was a full time job. So, it you're struggling with this, be kind to yourself, it's way more common than you think.
Since I was primarily the rescuer 95% of the time, there was no reason why I would be around people who primarily played the other two roles. Over time, I started to hate on my empathy because they constantly took advantage of me, which led to my rock bottom three years ago.
Eternally thankful I have the Holy Spirit to keep me rising and God to guide me, it made it far easier than friends who didn't have this source to tap into.
I surrender, I manifest, easy peasy.
I also started loving myself much more because I discovered how extreme a rescuer I was, sorted out that much of it was due to empathy and compassion, seeing the God and goodness in people, far less was out of dysfunctionality which started from being around people in the drama triangle in the first place.
Also thanks to my years of spiritual practice that kept me together, my aligned path was synchronised, smooth as silk billowing in the wind, being in the flow is gentle and reassuring, like warm milk drank in the middle of a sleepless night, it settled me down into myself and the embrace of oneness.
I also felt hanging onto my integrity paid off big time, I didn't incur new wounds or bad karma because I didn't step on anyone or use them to rise upwards. Beware of people trying to rising by stepping on you, I ignored them all and went ahead, did what I needed to do, I hope you do too.
So did putting truth over comfort, as a lifelong chronic rescuer, it was hard to swallow that I wasted so much energy on people who didn't deserve me because I took on the responsibilities of not just people who played the other two roles, also less capable, more erratic rescuers as well, who didn't spend as high a percentage of time playing the rescuer role, cycling through the other two roles rapidly. So if you're not as chronic as I was, no worries, if I can conquer a lifelong case of the rescuer blues, so can you!
I was irresponsible towards myself because they drained me, I had nothing left for myself after I put them first. There's no way someone doesn't become disillusioned by the drama terrorists amongst them either, the narcissists who enjoy the cheap thrill of destroying someone else through lies and manipulation. The less vicious people you can ignore or shrug off, it's the manipulative liars that make you question humanity. Thankfully it helped me develop resilience and strength instead, serving me well.
We go back to this.
The victim, rescuer, and persecutor refer to roles people unconsciously play, or try to manipulate other people to play, not the actual circumstances in someone’s life.
Not the actual circumstances in someone's life.
When you're caught in the triangle, you don't have the energy to self-discovery and heal, people in the drama triangle will make excuses to avoid their wounds, I know I did too. It was hanging onto that false belief that my rescuing was kindness, was compassion, letting it go served me like the queen on a throne I really am, finding the bounty of deep self-love was a bonus.
By noticing which role you play and how these roles feed off each other, you can avoid this triangle totally. Remember to come to yourself with no judgement, be kind to yourself. The truth will discomfort you at first, if you go with the flow, it will eventually set you free.
Learn to sit with your distress and dialogue with it like you would your best friend, your perfect lover, full of grace, bursting with fearlessness.
Love light peace
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