Conflict and the Drama Triangle
I’ve been watching following this week’s debate: ‘to war or not to war with Syria’, on Radio 4 as I drive and despairing. Haven’t they heard of the the Drama Triangle by Steve Karpman?
Here is the Drama Triangle which is how Steve Karpman describes the psychological games we play that lead to conflict and end with everyone feeling bad…see if you see yourself in it.
In each corner you will not only see the name of the role but + and -. + means ‘OK’ and – means ‘not OK’. The first of each of these in any box is ‘I am’ and the second is ‘you are..’. So when we are in the Persecutor role we act as if we are OK and the other person is not OK (I’m OK, you’re not OK). The same is true when we are in the Rescuer role. When we are in the Victim role I am ‘not OK’ and neither is the other person. So + means ‘OK’ and – means ‘not OK’. Each of these positions are roles that we play, and we all play them at some time or another.
Persecutor – when we are in this role we are critical, judgmental, bitchy, sly, back stabbing. In fact we act as if we are better than, smarter than, know more than and are worth more than the other person. We blame, we put them down, we accuse them and we belittle them….and we all do it, even if it’s just in our heads.
Rescuer – when we are in this role we think we are being lovely as we think we can sort things out for other people, that we can fix things and make everything and everyone better. We think we know best and that people need us and can’t do without us. So we still think we are OK and other people aren’t as they just can’t do without our wisdom and kindness. The problem is that when we are doing this we are dis-empowering the other person and assuming that we know what they want. In this role we don’t stop to ask if people need or want our help…we just assume that they do.
Victim – When we are in Victim role we think that we are hopeless and helpless and we believe that the world is an awful place, that nobody cares and that nothing good will ever happen again. We think there is nothing we can do to make this better and there is nothing anyone else can do either.
We know when we are on the Drama Triangle as we always end up feeling bad after we have ‘played’ the game and so does the other person.
So, for example, my youngest son (YS) was playing Lego, happily on his own. Eldest son (ES) came in to ‘help’ him (Rescue). In his rescuing he turned the YS into a Victim. As ES rescued, YS punched him as he didn’t want to be Rescued and at the moment he punched ES, ES became the Victim and YS became Persecutor. ES wailed to me inviting me to Rescue.
The thing with the Drama Triangle is, that wherever we get on it, we move around to play one or more positions and we always end up feeling bad and so does the other person.
Stop and have a think about when you are in all of these roles:
• When was the last time you were behaving like a Victim?
• When was the last time you Persecuted someone?
• What was the last time when you tried to Rescue someone?
• When was the last time you played a Drama Triangle game?
The same is as true for countries as it is for brothers. ‘He punched me so I punched him back harder’ and everyone ends up crying. When my kids treat each other like that, they are told to go and calm down and then we sit and talk about how each of them felt. We don’t always get to apologies, but we do get to peace and re-formed relationships.
I don’t know if I’ve missed something, but have we tried the sit down and listen bit re Syria and people who are at risk of being radicalized yet? Or am I being naive? Time will tell.
Hope you have a peaceful weekend,
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