Today we’re discussing my interpretation of the relationship triangle, or what is lovingly referred to as the “Drama Triangle.” By gaining some awareness of these roles that we play out all (to some extent), this can have a positive effect on creating healthier relationships. If you want that, read on…
The Rescuer, Victim, and Persecutor are subconscious archetypal “roles” that are played out in all types of relationships, to include romantic, familial, business, or friendships.
We step into these roles in a subconscious attempt to control others to gain a sense of familiarity and security. And, believe it or not, every one of the roles (Rescuer, Victim, and Persecutor) creates self-victimization.
How it all began… Your primary role began in childhood, when you were adapting and learning how to get your needs met, and you are probably still using it in your adult relationships. Do you know which one dominates you? Let’s look at them a little closer…
Meet the Rescuer…
The Rescuer gets his or her needs met by helping or taking care of others…a “Care-Taker.” Rescuers hate to see others suffer. To get out of their own pain, they lose themselves to “help” victims, who are usually very capable of taking care of themselves. Rescuers feel valued and carry a sense of purpose when they are needed, when they “fix/help” others, and mostly when others follow their advice.
How does one become a Rescuer?
Rescuers might have been the eldest child or had parents who were unavailable, emotionally, physically or both (due to work, addiction, etc.). As a result, they were responsible for their younger siblings. They had to grow up quickly, they had responsibilities that were beyond their young years, and they became the surrogate “parent.”
Since they learned, at that young age, that taking care of others was their job…they became hyper-vigilant to other people’s needs to feel a sense of purpose. In return, they received attention, and were appreciated, seen and validated when they rescued.
Meet the Victim…
The Victim gets his or her needs met by being taken care of. He or she learned at a young age that being powerless, helpless, overwhelmed, or unable to manage resulted in getting attention (that they internalized as receiving “love”).
How does one become a victim?
The Victim might have grown up in a family where getting seen was a challenge, so the Victim became helpless and needy. Having someone take care them is how Victims experience love and attention. The Victim didn’t choose this role, it was a subconscious adaptation that was about survival, getting noticed, and feeling like they mattered. Victims leave relationships and find another Rescuer when they feel uncared for, abandoned and rejected.
Meet the Persecutor…
The Persecutor is the “blamer” and this is where it gets a little tricky. The Rescuer or the Victim becomes the Persecutor at different times, depending on the situation.
This tricky dance…You see, all three archetypal roles hop from tip to tip on the drama triangle. Here’s a scenario:
- Rescuer meets Victim. To the Victim, the Rescuer looks like a “Hero,” someone that will help them with their problems and take their pain away. To the Rescuer, the Victim is someone they can care for…someone who needs protecting. Both are getting their needs met.
- In the beginning, the Rescuer “takes care of” and sacrifices him or herself for the Victim.
- Also, in the beginning, the Victim loves the attention, is appreciative and adores the Rescuer (“my hero”).
- At some point, the honeymoon is over. The Rescuer feels unappreciated. The Victim feels over-controlled and has become defiant by rejecting the help and removing their adoration and appreciation, those things that the Rescuer craves. The Victim is now the Persecutor.
- The Rescuer is now the Victim of the not-wanting-to-be-rescued-anymore Victim (now-Persecutor). He or she feels shame as a Victim. To gain back some control, he or she will now also Persecute by either removing attention and becoming apathetic. Eventually, he will end the relationship and blame the old-Victim (now-Persecutor) for not “getting better.”
- In the end, no matter what tip of the drama triangle they are residing on, both parties are experiencing some form of victimization.
- If they don’t learn how they are playing out these roles, the Rescuer will find a new Victim and the Victim will find a new Rescuer and life will continue in this manner.
How to Step out of Drama Triangle…
The first step in not participating in this dysfunctional dance is noticing which role you typically play out in your relationships. After you’ve done that, here are some questions you can ask yourself:
- What part of myself is looking for attention and rescuing? Can I give that attention to and also rescue myself?
- Do I get my needs met by taking care of others, by being taken care of, or both, depending on the type of relationship (romantic, familial, business, or friendship)?
- What am I doing for others that they can do for themselves?
- What are others doing for me that I can do for myself?
- How do I feel when I see others in pain? Do I have to jump in and fix it?
- If others don’t follow my advice, do I get angry and resentful? Do I criticize, confront and try to control them?
- If others don’t try and help me, how do I react? Do I retreat and act out “poor me-ism” to be heard and acknowledged? Do I find someone else who will help?
It’s a Journey…
This is a really common dance that most of us engage in to some extent. Become mindful of your motives in your relationships. Are you losing yourself to get appreciation, attention or validation? If your answer is “Yes,” have some self-compassion and awareness that you most-likely learned these behaviors to get your needs met as a child. Then look inward and ask yourself this important question, “What am I seeking from others that my soul is truly looking to receive from myself?”
Did I say it’s a journey? It really is.