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What is the Drama Triangle? | Video

What is the Drama Triangle? | Video

The Drama Triangle is a model developed by Stephen Karpman. It helps us understand the dynamics of dysfunctional sequences of miscommunication.

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The Three roles of the Drama Triangle

In a short article, Karpman analyzed three familiar fairy tales, and identified the three roles we need to analyze the emotional structure of complex series interactions that he called dramas:

  • Persecutor
    Plays an attacking role – often criticizing or placing the blame on others, to avoid their own issues
  • Victim
    Discounts their own ability to help themselves. They feel trapped and powerless – ‘poor me’. So, they look for a…
  • Rescuer
    Takes care of other, and thus disempowers them by denying the Victim’s ability to help themselves. They may do this with a good intention – and may even see themselves as the hero.

How the Drama Triangle Works

Dramas start with two or more people, each occupying a corner of the triangle.  Players compete to switch position:

  • from victim to persecutor, or
  • from persecutor to rescuer, for example.  

Since none of the positions feels comfortable, players get a psychological payoff – a short-term sense of relief – by switching corners.

Dramas are seductive because there is a pay-off; we either shed responsibility or feel good about our superiority. 

What to do

There is no ‘right position’ to take, on the Drama Triangle. The only stable and resourceful position is to get off the triangle. If you realize you are seeing these patterns, disengage, and invite the other person to. 

Stay alert to what is going on and don’t get drawn back in. If you do find yourself in a drama, declaring ‘this feels familiar’ is the best way to break the cycle and return to a rational and resourceful state.

If the other person refuses to acknowledge the cycle, then step right away.

However, if you try to either

  • Rescue them: ‘why don’t you just…’
  • Play the victim ‘how could you…’
  • Be a persecutor ‘this is your fault…’

Then you will just perpetuate the long-term misery!

The Drama Triangle is one tool from a suite of tools known as Transactional Analysis

🎬 What is Transactional Analysis? | Video

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About the Author Mike Clayton

Dr Mike Clayton is one of the most successful and in-demand project management trainers in the UK. He is author of 14 best-selling books, including four about project management. He is also a prolific blogger and contributor to and Project, the journal of the Association for Project Management. Between 1990 and 2002, Mike was a successful project manager, leading large project teams and delivering complex projects. In 2016, Mike launched OnlinePMCourses.

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