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Transforming the Drama Triangle

Image of yellow and black butterfly on a pink flower. Raleigh Psychotherapy, counseling, Drama Triangle, Katherine Broadway

Each of us has created or been drawn into a Drama Triangle many times over the course of our lives. It happens on an unconscious level to help us survive difficult situations. We learned how to participate in drama as a child, because it served us well in a time of need. Unfortunately, because it is an unconscious action, it continues far beyond its usefulness and we don’t see it.

This is a cycle designed to keep us from feeling our true feelings.

The way to break this cycle is to develop a new relationship with ourselves; relationships where we are awake, aware and curious. We must listen to our internal conversations and develop internal boundaries so that we can begin to say no to ourselves. We must develop the ability to soothe ourselves so we can tolerate difficult feelings. We can begin to break the cycle by becoming aware of the emotions and messages that we receive from each point of the Triangle.

Karpman Drama Triangle, Raleigh Psychotherapy, Katherine Broadway

The Rescuer needs to learn that they have value and worth without having someone depend on them and need them. They need to transform unconscious messages of “I can’t stand it” to an acknowledgement of “I can face my feelings.

My feelings and my memories will not kill me.” The Rescuer needs to develop a message inside that says, “I have the power and strength to feel what I feel, and know what I know. I have the resources both internally and externally to grow”. The victim is not really as helpless as they present themselves; they can take care of themselves.

The Rescuer learns to empower others to take care of themselves. He or she learns to be supportive and encouraging without solving problems for others. With compassion and questions, the Rescuers uses their influence to empower others to find their own ways.

The Persecutor needs to learn that the critical messages internalized years ago are no longer helpful in current adult life. These messages were developed at a young age to create the illusion that the unmanageable could be managed. New messages of compassion and hope need to be created.

The Persecutor calls forth learning and growth through compassion, and can provoke action. The challenger can be a person, a situation, or a circumstance. It contributes to our life by compassionately asking us to extend ourselves out of our comfort zone so we can learn, grow and develop.

The Victim needs to learn that living in pain and helplessness does not offer protection. No one is going to step in and save the proverbial “damsel in distress.” Inaction and ineffectual action does nothing but keep the them paralyzed in the current situation, and that is neither safe nor healthy. It keeps them stuck in a never ending cycle of pain and victimization, waiting for the rescue that never comes. The victim needs to take responsibility and learn they have the power to change and manage life.

Things to remember:

1. Stay awake and aware. Be curious.

2. When you begin to feel difficult or overwhelming feelings, pause and remind yourself your feelings will not kill you. Ask yourself, are the feelings true for your current situation or something from your past?

3.Ask yourself why you feel the way you do. What was the trigger?

4.Don’t believe all the messages in your head. Many of them were developed when you were very young. Your circumstances are very different now.

5. The rescue begins the cycle. This is where the cycle needs to stop.

6. Learn to recognize when you feel the urge to rescue. Begin to be aware of your feelings and thoughts, because awareness is where action begins. Determine what behaviors usually leave you feeling hurt, angry, helpless and victimized. It may make you feel powerful and good in the moment to rescue someone but it will soon backfire. Learn to say no to yourself.

7. Refocus: Feelings of guilt, pity, obligation and anxiety precede a rescue and are alleviated by rescuing. Don’t dwell on what is going on in your head. Find someone with whom you can talk. Find something to do. If nothing else, use the

“broken record” technique and remind yourself this uncomfortable feeling will go away.

8. Develop a positive belief in others ability to take care of themselves. Believing people can be responsible for themselves, and allowing them to do that, is ultimately the most respectful, loving act we can do for another human being. Learn the difference between helping, supporting and caring for someone instead of doing it for them.

9. When people complain, hint or cry about a situation, do not offer to help or fix the problem. Learn to say, “I am sorry you are having this problem. What do you think you should do?”

10. Learn “No” is not a bad word.

Finding a way to remove yourself from a Drama Triangle is not easy but it can be done. If you are ready to learn a new way of relating to others, call me at (919)881-2001.

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