Breaking the Triangle – The Main Actors
Now it is time for us to explore the three roles of the dram triangle in much more detail. The aim of this is for you to develop an understanding of your default role preference.
Remember though, that your default role my differ around different groups of people, and also when you are by yourself – alone with your internal dialogue.
There is no right, wrong, good or bad with this, just different perspectives and new information that can help you learn and grow.
The Persecutor stands for truth, fairness and justice. At least, from their own perspective.
This role sees itself as the “upholder” of ideals, values and convictions (the ones they are committed to) and they can be fanatical in their attempts to uphold them. This approach can be incredibly judgelike (judgemental) and self-righteous.
It makes people inflexible and therefore unable to view situations from a different perspective.
This places other people into the Victim role if they do not uphold the persecutors values, and importantly, it can turn the persecutor into a Victim if they are not able to uphold their own ideals too.
Fanatics and activists can fall into this role very easily, as can religious fundamentalists.
Persecutors have no shortage of negative feelings and emotions towards people or situations. They feel resentment, aggression and irritation which is then aimed at the one who is unlucky enough to have fallen short of their ideals.
Persecutors do not like being perceived as weak, or wrong. So they deny their own feelings and vulnerability, hiding any hint of imperfection, hypocrisy, mistake or helplessness.
The Inner Persecutor
On the surface there is an attempt to change the behaviour of those who fall short, but underneath, Persecutors are trying to create a self-righteous place of safety for themselves. This might be based on their fear of becoming a Victim themselves.
You see, under the surface, Persecutors actually believe they are unsafe. So they feel they need to protect themselves through defending these ideals. And they do this by trying to control the world and people around them. Security for them and judgement for others.
Persecution is fear driven behaviour.
Instead of problem solving or taking responsibility for themselves, they focus their attention on persecuting others – preferring to blame and push responsibility onto others instead of addressing their own insecurities.
But while the Persecutor may feel they are building a place of safety for themselves, this position is a very precarious one. Persecutors are in danger of falling off their high horse, becoming Victims to their own inability to live up to their ideals – Victims of their own judgement.
Always living just one short fall away from Victimhood.
Rescuers want to help.
The help they offer could be physical, emotional or psychological. But their help, by nature of the dynamics in the Drama Triangle, isn’t actually always helpful. Just like the Victim, they have an identity that is strongly connected with the script for this role.
They like being the one who solves, fixes or helps – there is an emotional and psychological reward for them when they step in. So they might actively seek out people who they can help – always looking for someone to rescue.
By offering advice and support, Rescuers are able to feel needed, useful and important. It gives them purpose.
They are proud of being in the “fixer” role. And they might crave the praise they get as a result. It’s easy for Rescuers to think of themselves as experts in practically every area of life – they always know the answers, and aren’t shy to share them.
They know how to build the right relationship “the right way”, how to cure every illness “the right way.” They know how to provide psychological support in “the right way,” how to rescue Victims in “the right way.”
Basically, they know everything; and we are so very lucky to have them (or so they think!).
Being a rescuer doesn’t mean their own lives actually exhibit this “right way,” they just know what it is … do as I say, not as I do…
The Inner Rescuer
Often extreme Rescuers are just as messed up as the people they are trying to fix – maybe even more so. But they may not be aware of it themselves.
Rescuers may carry beliefs about themselves like: “I know what’s best”… or, “I can fix you”.
They don’t see that Victims might have everything they need to solve their own problems, and that by their constant rescuing they prevent Victims from developing their own potential – keeping them in a Victim role and script.
An example of a Rescuer is an overbearing parent who struggles to let her children mature into independent adults. Essentially an overbearing parent disempowers the developing child.
The same could be true of one partner in a romantic relationship, or a fellow human who always covers for you at work.
It’s important to see that this identity of being the Rescuer isn’t just because there is a Victim that needs saving. Rescuers have their own story; they may have a need to be a Rescuer. Because of this need, their actions can invite someone to play the role of Victim in response to their need to rescue.
They can be role-addicted too, just like the Victim. This obsessive need is rooted in deep insecurity which manifests as the need to feel needed.
By helping others, a Rescuer might even deny his or her own needs and neglect themselves.
Their efforts to help others stem from the belief that one day their needs will be met too, but when they aren’t, these Rescuers can easily switch into the Victim or Persecutor roles too.
Not every Rescuer has a “saviour complex” but it’s helpful to paint the picture in the extreme so we get a good sense of the dynamics at play for this role.
People with a victim mentality consider themselves weak and abused.
They have developed an expectation that they will be taken advantage of – either by circumstances or other people’s actions. Life happens “TO” them.
This means they don’t take responsibility for life’s misfortunes – it is always something, or someone, else’s fault. They have relinquished all responsibility.
Victims feel sorry for themselves and they expect others to feel sorry for them too. This creates an almost insatiable need for help, and to get it, they tell stories of how hard life is.
When people take the bait – accepting the implicit invitation to rescue them – then their Victim role is validated. This becomes, not just a mindset, but an identity, a “life narrative” or a “script” that they live by.
They believe, deep down, that because they don’t have what it takes to fix their own problems, someone else must. That others “owe it to them” because, after all, none of this is their fault.
To get the help they want they can become manipulative (adapted child ego state scripts).
But the kind of help that they need is not the kind of help they want. Someone with a victim mentality is like the beggar who wants a hand-out, not an opportunity to work.
So, typically, they don’t respond well to someone trying to empower them – it goes against the core of their victim identity. They choose, instead, to believe the messages that confirms their existing story and identity. It’s not easy to help victims to take responsibility for themselves. They want you to fix the situation.
But this inadvertently keeps them locked into the victim identity, because when they won’t help themselves, and when your attempt to fix the problem for them isn’t successful, they feel they can now legitimately blame their new failed situation on you (the rescuer becomes the persecutor).
The Inner Victim
When you add all of these things together it creates limiting self-talk, which continues a downward spiral of decreasing vitality.
The foreman of the Victim whispers words such as “I am not enough.” “Life is unfair.” “I don’t know how to.” “It’s not my fault”…
If Victims remain in the victim mindset, how is it we create drama when switching roles on the Drama Triangle? Victims resonate strongly with other Victims.
If someone near them needs rescuing, then the Victim may take on the role of Rescuer to that person – they identify with the story the other person is telling; they see themselves in it and, just like that, they can switch into Rescuer mode.
Or, they might lash out at that Victim’s Persecutor, rescuing that Victim by persecuting that Persecutor (remember, we can play more than one role at a time).
Also, when a potential Rescuer fails to rescue them, a Victim can turn into a Persecutor, lashing out at the potential Rescuer – regardless of whether that person even chose to be a Rescuer or not.
See how the fluidity of roles plays out…
What does all this mean?
In the next post we will explore some examples of the drama triangle in action. Keep these role definitions in mind as you should hopefully start to see how the dramas are playing out in your life.
Enjoy for now.