One of the most powerful tools I learned recently was a model of relationship drama, known as the Karpman Drama Triangle. This model describes 3 ways you’re creating drama in your relationships. There are three roles: victim, persecutor and rescuer. The Victim is the one who is always having something done to them, and deny any responsibility for their situation or having any ability to change it. The Persecutor is the one who blames the victim for their own circumstances, reinforcing their victim status. The Rescuer is the one who will try to jump in to save the victim, but in the process they actually keep the victim disempowered by creating dependence. See if you can spot yourself or one of your loved ones in here…
The victim see themselves as oppressed, powerless, hopeless. They deny any responsibility. They view the entire world through the lense of “poor me”. Things are always being done to victims, and it’s never their fault. The victim is always looking for a rescuer and if someone won’t step into that role, will view them as a persecutor instead.
Always working hard to “help” and caretake for others, and often don’t feel good about themselves unless they are doing so. The rescuer NEEDS a victim. If the victim was to get better on their own (or better at all) they would no longer need the rescuer. Rescuers will use guilt to keep the victim dependent. They forget their own needs and don’t take any responsibility for meeting them.
This is the person who will put down and blame the victim to keep them in their place. Often they were powerless earlier in life (bullied) and formed a belief that to be strong or on top, they must put down others. They don’t take responsibility for the hurt they do, because the victim “deserved it”.
These are extreme forms of the roles, but you probably have seen something like this play out in your life, or you are part of it right now.
We all play each role at one point or another. Sometimes switching, for example a victim finds a rescuer, and together they turn on the persecutor, turning them into the victim. At some point, one of them may exit the triangle, and the other two will look for someone else to fill the vacuum. They can’t really exist without each other… what is a victim without someone “holding them down” for instance?
It gets murkier when we talk about projection too. You may be playing a role in someone else’s triangle without even knowing it.
If you’re someone who has been guilty of self-sabotage in relationships before, this model can really help you.
What can you do to avoid or step out of the triangle? Just say no. If you’re a classic rescuer, only help those that ASK for it. If you’re a victim, realise that everyone has the power to change how they perceive their circumstances. If you’re a persecutor, realise that putting down others doesn’t make you powerful, vulnerability does.