Are You Being Controlled or In Harmony With Your Relationships?

“Change the changeable, accept the unchangeable, and remove yourself from the unacceptable.” ~ Denis Waitley


Are You Being Controlled or In Harmony with Your Relationships?

What do I mean by that?

A few years ago, whilst I was doing telephone counselling, I came across the Karpman Drama Triangle. I didn’t know about it before then, however when I was introduced to it, it resonated with me and subsequently I could see how I had been creating drama, creating stress or trying to rescue people without realising.


What is the Karpman Drama Triangle?

The Karpman Drama Triangle is also known as the rescue triangle. It defines the unconscious roles people take on (and can switch between) in stressful, emotional or high-conflict situations. It is what it sounds like – creating drama, creating stress, conflict or rescuing people from their own responsibility of looking after themselves. Being in the drama triangle, can also prevent people from creating and leading their own lives (i.e. a life they love).

The Drama Triangle looks like this –

Karpman Drama Triangle

The Drama Triangle is a lose/lose situation for the people involved. Some of the messages and pay-offs of the roles within the Drama Triangle include –

  • Persecutor: I am OK, You are Not OK.
    • Message – “It’s all your fault, I’m in charge here.”
    • Pay-off – I get what I want.
    • Behaviours – criticising, blaming, labelling, putting down or often feeling inadequate.
    • Long-term dysfunction – other person may not be able to show their full potential; people can move away from the person if they can and also could become a victim.
  • Victim: I am Not OK, You are OK.
    • Message – “I can’t do things without you, I need your help.”
    • Pay-off – I don’t have to deal with things that seem too difficult.
    • Behaviours – complaining, being helpless, withdrawing, catastrophising, pretending incompetence.
    • Problem – people get tired of doing things for them.
  • Rescuer: I am OK, You are Not OK.
    • Message – “Don’t bother you’re poor self; I am better at it than you.”
    • Pay-off – I am needed/wanted/liked.
    • Behaviours – fixing, telling, giving solutions, taking over, self-denying, martyrdom, no life of their own.
    • Problem – often ends up as victim of the victim.


How Can You Tell if You Are in a Drama, Creating Stress or Conflict?

Simply – if your head says “yes” and your heart or intuition says “no”.


3 Ways to Get Out of the Drama Triangle and Not “Play the Game” –

3 ways to get out of the drama triangle are –

  1. Create awareness – quite often in life you don’t know what we don’t know, so you have to develop awareness around situations to overcome them. Depending on the situation, you may like to get some support to deal with the situation or work through it yourself.
  2. Be Honest with Yourself, Have Self-Compassion and Name It – if you recognise yourself in the triangle above, be honest with yourself and name it (e.g. I am Jane and I am a victim / rescuer or persecutor). However, as you are being honest, make sure you be compassionate (yes – just like you would with a friend) and remember you are human like the rest of us! As you continue to develop awareness around your behaviours and discover your courage within you can change if you choose too.
  3. Know and Develop Your Own Boundaries – do you know your own boundaries? Yes – your “non-negotiables” in a relationship – what are you prepared to do and what are you not prepared to do? Are those boundaries written down? Once you know and honour your own boundaries, it is much easier to create effective agreements within a relationship.


The Empowerment Triangle – a Win/Win Solution

By identifying patterns, developing self-acceptance, being responsible and aligning to your true self the drama triangle can become an empowerment triangle over time, which is a win/win solution. The Empowerment Triangle is identified in the diagram below.

Empowerment Triangle


I hope this post has given you some insight in to the drama triangle and ideas to move away from it to live an empowered life.


If you are ready to take yourself on the journey of getting to know yourself (your true self), why not join the Toolkit? A place where I share tools, inspiration and ideas to live a courageous and openhearted life.


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