Lynne Forrest gives an overview of the Drama Triangle. This is a framing I’ve found very helpful in my own life when looking at conflict.
The three roles on the victim triangle are Persecutor, Rescuer and Victim. Karpman placed these three roles on an inverted triangle and described them as being the three aspects, or faces of victim. No matter where we may start out on the triangle, victim is where we end up, therefore no matter what role we’re in on the triangle, we’re in victimhood. If we’re on the triangle we’re living as victims, plain and simple!
Starting gate Rescuers (SGR) see themselves as “helpers” and “caretakers.” They need someone to rescue (victim) in order to feel vital and important.
Starting Gate Persecutors (SGP), on the other hand, identify themselves primarily as victims. They are usually in complete denial about their blaming tactics.
Our starting-gate position on the victim triangle is not only where we most often enter the triangle, it is also the role through which we actually define ourselves. It becomes a strong part of our identity. Each starting-gate position has its own particular way of seeing and reacting to the world. We all have unconscious core beliefs acquired in childhood, derived from our interpretation of early family encounters. These become “life themes” that predispose us towards the unconscious selection of a particular starting gate position on the triangle.
A Starting gate Rescuer in the victim role becomes a martyr, complaining loudly, “After all I’ve done for you … this is the thanks I get!”
Starting Gate Persecutors like to tell this story:
“The world is dangerous, people can’t be trusted so I need to get them before they hurt me.” This attitude sets them up to think that they must strike out in order to defend against inevitable attack.
The Rescuer might be described as a shadow aspect of the mother principle. Instead of an appropriate expression of support and nurturing, the Rescuer tends to “smother”, control and manipulate others – “for their own good,” of course. Theirs is a misguided understanding of what it is to encourage, empower and protect.
Rescuing is an addiction that comes from an unconscious need to feel valued.
Having a Victim is essential in order for the SGR to maintain the illusion of being one-up and needless.
Like the other roles, the Starting Gate Persecutor is shame based. This role is most often taken on by someone who received overt mental and/or physical abuse during their childhood.
SGP’s deny their vulnerability in the same way Rescuers deny their needs.
It is most difficult for someone in Persecutor to take responsibility for the way they hurt others. In their mind, others deserve what they get. These warring individuals tend to see themselves as having to constantly fight for survival. Theirs is a constant struggle to protect themselves in what they perceive as a hostile world.
It is easy to think that Persecutors are “bad” people. They are not. They are simply wounded individuals who see the world as dangerous.
A Starting Gate Victim (SGV) has accepted a definition of themselves that says they are intrinsically damaged and incapable.
As much as they insist on being taken care of by their primary rescuers … they nonetheless do not appreciate being reminded of their inadequacy.
playing the part of victim always leads to only one place – straight back to Victim. It’s an endless cycle of feeling defeated and worthless. There is no escape except to take total responsibility for our own feelings, thoughts and reactions.
Her belief that she is at the mercy of someone who is trying to hurt her keeps her striking out in a distorted and unnecessary effort to protect herself.
Whenever we fail to take responsibility for ourselves, we end up on the triangle.
We treat others according to what we believe about them. When we challenge these assumptions, our interaction with that person changes.
Whatever thoughts and feelings we don’t own, i.e., take responsibility for, will end up being projected out into our world, usually on someone we “love.”
When we are ready to be accountable, we begin to sort through our genuine motives and feelings regarding our present situation. We become willing to experience our own uncomfortable feelings and we allow others their uncomfortable feelings too, without rescuing them.
In reality, how others see us is not our concern. How we see ourselves is what can bring us transformation.
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