The Drama Triangle to understand (and change) dysfunctional relationships
In part 1 I introduced the 3 roles of Persecutor, Rescuer and Victim.
I explained in part 2 why we enter into the Triangle and how everything begins. Then I presented several examples of situations with Persecutors, Rescuers and Victims.
- Tools to step out of the Triangle
So, what shall we do to stop playing?
First of all, be committed to living without adopting the roles of Persecutor, Rescuer and Victim.
For that purpose, I am offering some tools that will help you have a better life. Thus, you will live without entering or without inviting someone into the Drama Triangle.
Choose one of the suggested tools and implement it for some time to see the effects. Once it is part of your way of thinking and behaving, take another step.
It is better to make one change at a time.
TOOLS TO STEP OUT OF THE TRIANGLE
Be aware that I am in the Triangle
– Clue 1: I feel uncomfortable after an interaction with somebody.
– Clue 2: The same situations happen again and again.
Ask myself which role I adopt
– Clue: Are you a Rescuer, a Persecutor or a Victim?
Recognize the bait (my weak point) that hooks me into the Triangle, in order to avoid the bait.
– Clue 1: Rescuer – “I need to feel useful.”
– Clue 2: Victim – “I feel powerless.”
– Clue 3: Persecutor – “I want to blame somebody.”
Ask myself these 5 questions to identify if I am entering into the Drama Triangle in the role of Rescuer.
When I have to make a decision or to reply to somebody, I first ask myself these 5 questions. Then I answer honestly with YES or NO to each one of them.
Finally I count the number of NOES.
With 2 or more NOES, ideally I DON’T DO ANYTHING, as to avoid the Drama Triangle.
If I take action nevertheless, I will enter the Drama Triangle in the Rescuer’s role and finish as a Victim.
5 QUESTIONS not to rescue (BY Claude Steiner):
|1. DO I WANT TO DOT IT?|
|2. IS IT MY BUSINESS?|
|3. CAN I DO IT?|
|4. WAS I CLEARLY ASKED TO DO SOMETHING?|
|5. AM I DOING LESS THAN 50%?|
As an example, I apply these questions to the case of a friend who wants to borrow 500€ from me to pay his rent.
1. DO I WANT TO DO IT?
Do I feel like lending him the money?
– Yes (because he always gave it back to me, because I can trust him, …)
– No (because he has already before and never gave the money back to me, because he hasn’t helped me when I needed it, because I don’t feel like it, …)
2. IS IT MY BUSINESS?
Is it up to ME to lend him the money?
– Yes (because he’s family, because he helped me in the past, …)
– No (because I am not a bank, because he has his own family, a partner, …)
3. CAN I DO IT?
– Yes (because I earned enough money this month, because I have savings, …)
– No (because I am not rolling in money, because I will get into problems myself, …)
4. WAS I CLEARLY ASKED TO DO SOMETHING?
Do I have a clear request?
– Yes (because he asked me very specifically for what he needed and he told me when he would give the money back, …)
– No (because he only mentioned he lacks money as an aside, because he didn’t ask at all, because I feel that I must help him, …)
5. AM I DOING LESS THAN 50%?
– Yes (because he needs 1100€, but he asked only for 500€, so I am doing less than 50%)
– No (because he needs 500€ and he asks for 500€, so I put in 100% of the effort).
My answers (imaginary in this case) to each question are:
1- NO, 2- NO, 3- YES, 4- YES, 5- YES.
Result: 2 NOES.
Hence I DON’T lend him the money that he has asked for indirectly.
Naturally my Rescuer’s impulse would be to lend him the money.
But with this tool I know now that if I do, the result would be counterproductive.
I would be accepting “the bait” to enter into the Triangle (and be left high and dry).
Answer in unexpected ways
– Clue 1: “It looks like you have a problem. What will you do?” (ask questions instead of resolving the problem for the person)
– Clue 2: “I feel that you are very angry. Tell me more…” (inquire instead of complaining and taking the Victim’s role).
– Clue 3: « What you have done is unacceptable. Don’t do it again and find a way to make up for it.” (set boundaries instead of attacking and insulting the person).
Move away when I receive a “bait” to hook me into the Triangle
– Clue: Get up, leave, distance myself, go to the bathroom to have time to think before reacting.
Set up clear boundaries by saying “No” if I don’t want to do something
I respect myself.
– Clue 1: “I would like to go to the cinema with you, but right now I don’t feel like it.”
– Clue 2: “I see why you would ask me to do that, but it’s clearly not my responsibility to do that.”
Respect other people’s boundaries
I avoid manipulating people and show respect for their decision.
– Clue 1: If I overpower people’s boundaries to get my needs met or to impose my view, I am acting as a Persecutor.
– Clue 2: I accept “No” as an answer.
Stop contributing more than the other person
– Clue: Stop working more than my colleague, stop always paying the bill for other people, …
Directly ask for what I need (instead of manipulating people)
– Clue 1: “Can you pick me up at the airport Monday at 10.45am?” (instead of just saying casually that I am coming back at 10.45am).
– Clue 2: ” I am very tired now, I need half an hour of quiet time and after that I am with you.” (instead of shouting that nobody listens to me).
– Clue 3: “I am warm. Do you mind if I open the window?” (instead of asking if the other person is warm).
Satisfy my own needs
– Clue: Since I love flowers, I buy myself a bunch of flowers (instead of expecting somebody else giving it to me).
Compliment sincerely and give “strokes”, (positive) signs of appreciation or recognition to myself and to others
– Clue 1: “I did a good job! I am very proud of myself!”
– Clue 2: “Congratulations! Well done!”
– Clue 3: “I love your present!”
– Clue 4: “Thank you for …”
Accept sincere compliments and “strokes”, (positive) signs of appreciation or recognition that other people give me
– Clue 1: “Thank you for your kind words!”
– Clue 2: “What a lovely thing to say!”
– Clue 3: “I love your present!”
– Clue 4: “Thank you for your help!”
Express my opinion without wanting to be right
– Clue 1: Depending on their perspective two people can be right even if they are expressing opposite arguments.
– Clue 2: “Do you want to be happy or to be right?”
Change my belief that there must be a winner and a loser in a conflict
– Clue : I learn how to communicate to resolve conflicts finding a win-win solution.
Make a clear contract: the agreement has to be explicit, leaving no room for confusion or doubt
– Clue 1: I do this (specify what exactly) and you do that (specify what exactly).
– Clue 2: He commits to do one thing; she commits to do another thing.
– Clue 3: You do that and I pay you for doing it.
– Clue 4: I lend you 300€, you give me 100€ back in January, February and March next year.
– Clue 5: Insist on having a clear job description.
Stop feeling responsible for another person or another person’s feelings
– Clue: Is it my responsibility? Is it my business?
Take responsibility for myself and take the necessary steps to solve my problems
I am accountable for my problems and for finding solutions.
– Clue: Do something myself, take initiatives; anticipate the problems and not wait for somebody else doing it for me.
Make “I” statements
– Clue: Make statements that start with I instead of you (say I instead of talking as if what happened to me is a reality for the person I am talking to)
“When you make cakes in the gas oven, you have problems to evaluate the temperature.”
→ “When I make cakes in the gas oven, I have problems to evaluate the temperature.”
” When you say”Hello” to this man, you never get an answer.”
→ ” When I say”Hello” to this man, I never get an answer.”
Ultimately avoid relationships with the people who want to play games no matter what.
We all play and adopt occasionally the roles of Rescuer, Persecutor and Victim. On the one hand we can hook people into the Triangle. On the other hand we can accept the invitation (the bait) when someone wants to play with us.
We waste a lot of energy in conflicts, not only because being in the Drama Triangle is addictive, but also because we are used to live in co-dependency. Co-dependency (the excessive emotional or psychological dependence on another person) encourages us to be passive and to neglect our own needs. Co-dependency also prevents us from developing fully our skills.
Even though some members of our family or friends can be immersed in the Drama Triangle, we don’t have to go along with them. We must take responsibility for our lives instead. Sometimes it means letting go of some relationships if these people want to continue interacting without intimacy. Ultimately, we can create and maintain sincere relationships where we can be ourselves. We don’t need the mask of the Persecutor, Rescuer or Victim.
Getting out of the Triangle to live a happier life is possible, although it’s not that easy. We have to become aware, recognize the roles from the Drama Triangle and apply the tools presented above actively. If you recognize that you are in the Drama Triangle, contact me to begin a coaching process that will allow you to break free from this harmful dynamic and learn to build healthy relationships. The result is certainly worth it.
It’s not the same: helping than Rescuing, being assertive than Persecuting, having a problem than becoming a Victim.
Could you identify a Persecutor, a Rescuer and a Victim?
In the next post, take the test to verify your knowledge of the Drama Triangle…