DISMANTLING THE TRIANGLE OF POWER
This weekend I was privileged enough to participate in a powerful family constellation workshop in Cape Town. One of the major themes that came up was the triangle of power. Let me explain. Nearly 40 years ago, Stephen Karpman (MD), developed his “drama triangle” – victim, rescuer and perpetrator.
These archetypes dwell in each of us and can so often interfere with how we think and the lens with which we engage with others.
Even if you don’t spend much time yourself playing any of these three roles – you probably deal on a daily basis with people who do.
Using our own wise mind to recognize when we’ve regressed into one of these roles ourselves (is essential to making wise, conscious choices in our intimate and social interactions with others.
This is the inner voice that says, “poor me. Why does this always happen to me?” If you see yourself as a victim you might feel oppressed, powerless, helpless, hopeless and ashamed.
You might come across as ‘super-sensitive’, wanting others to treat you with kid gloves. You deny taking responsibility for your circumstances and tend to blame others for the position in which you find yourself.
When you play this role you may want to save others and when they don’t respond, you feel rejected. Sometimes you find it hard to make decisions and solve problems.
“Let me help you,” is the voice of the rescuer. You work hard to help others and even need others to feel good about themselves, while neglecting your own needs.
Rescuers are classic enablers and you often find yourself in co-dependent relationships. You need victims to help and often can’t allow the victim to succeed. You may use guilt to keep victims dependant and feeling guilty themselves.
If you are a rescuer type, you might often feel rushed, tired, overworked and caught in a martyr style of resentment.
“It’s all your fault,” is the stance of your persecutor. You may often feel criticised and blame the victim, set strict limits, and be controlling, rigid, unpleasant and often angry. You tend to keep the victim feeling oppressed through threats and bullying.
Often you are inflexible and find it hard to be vulnerable. If you find yourself yelling and criticising without finding solutions, chances are your persecutor is in town.
Eric Berne in his book, Games People Play, identified these three roles. He points out that what gives the drama triangle much of its power is the recognition that people will switch roles and cycle through all three roles without ever getting out of the triangle. Victims depend on a saviour; rescuers yearn for a basket case; and persecutors need a scapegoat.
The trap is, people are acting out these roles to meet personal (often unconscious) needs rather than being able to see the whole picture and take personal responsibility for their part in keeping the triangle going.
In my Interpersonal Skills & EQ Workshop, I spend time unmasking this vicious triangle and empower participants to break free of their internal dialogues and external relationships.
“What just happened?” is a common moment of epiphany for many participants who leave with a rich skill set that enables them to take personal responsibility for their internal and external communication.