Cummings and Goings!
With the recent goings on in our political world hugely impacting an already difficult time with COVID-19, the drama triangle is an excellent way of making sense of the dynamics between Dominic Cummings, Boris Johnson and us, the public. I won't go into too much detail (if you're interested I recommend reading Suzanne Zeedyk's excellent article:
The Drama Triangle is a dysfunctional model of human interaction originally described by Stephen Karpman. It is used widely in psychotherapy/psychology as it can be easily applied to a wide variety of social situations.
Karpman identified 3 roles as being acted out by people in daily life - Persecutor, Rescuer and Victim. The Persecutor and Rescuer roles appear at the top of the triangle because these roles assume a “one-up” position over others They are ‘more sorted’, better, or smarter. We all have a position on the triangle which is most familiar to us and with which we most identify. This is known as our ‘Starting Gate Position’ (SG) We learn our SG position during our early childhood. However, we can move around the triangle through each position. This movement can happen in a matter of minutes or seconds, many times in a day.
‘Moving on’ essentially means ‘getting off the triangle’. Lynne Forrest, author of ‘The Three Faces of Victim’ explains: ‘Ironically, a main exit way off the triangle is through the persecutor position. This does not mean we become persecutors. It does mean however, that once we decide to get off the triangle, there most likely will be those who see us as persecutors. (”How can you do this to me?”) Once we decide to take self-responsibility and tell our truth, those still on the triangle are likely to accuse us of victimizing them. "How dare you refuse to take care of me," a Victim might cry. Or "What do you mean you don't need my help?" a primary enabler storms when their victim decides to become accountable. In other words, to escape the victim grid, we must be willing to be perceived as the "bad guy." This doesn't make it so, but we must be willing to sit with the discomfort of being perceived as such’.
Rescuers see themselves as ‘helpers’. They are reliant on someone to rescue (victim). It's difficult for Starting Gate Rescuers to recognise themselves as ever being in a victim position - they’re the ones with the answers after all. A Rescuer will help another person whether help is asked for or not, and will feel guilty if they don’t help. By doing this, they keep the person being rescued in the Victim role. Moving on advice for Rescuers - as with Persecutor, self awareness and accountability is the way to move forward. Acknowledge and accept your tendency to rescue others and understand that by rescuing, you are meeting your own needs rather than genuinely helping others. Be aware that changing your position on the triangle does not mean you cannot be loving, generous and kind: it is possible to be supportive without rescuing.
Persecutors blame and criticise others. They may be in complete denial about their tactics, and may argue that their behaviour is warranted and necessary for self protection. They take a rigid, authoritative stance and, like Rescuers, keep Victims in that role. Moving on advice for Persecutors - self-accountability is the only way off The Drama Triangle. When we stop looking to blame or criticise others and we take self-responsibility for everything in our lives we become free. Unfortunately there usually has to be some kind of breakthrough for them to own their part and because of their great reluctance to do so, it may have to come in the form of crisis.
The Victim lives feeling oppressed, helpless, hopeless, powerless and ashamed. This prevents them from taking responsibility for themselves, their circumstances, and actions. They are often on the lookout for a Rescuer to ‘hook’, who will ultimately compound their negative feelings about themselves. Moving on advice for Victims - victims must learn to take responsibility for themselves, rather than look for someone to do it for them. They need to believe that they can take care of themselves and are resourceful, powerful and able to solve problems. There is only a small handful of individuals within society who are truly unable to look after themselves.
The good news is that it is possible to break free of The Drama Triangle:
Firstly find where you are on the triangle.
Next take responsibility for why you are in this role - you may need to examine your past.
List how could your relationships improve by leaving the triangle?