I’ve come to learn that people either radiate energy, or they absorb it.
Consider your current relationships. Who’s radiating? Who’s absorbing? Who’s deliberately or unknowingly draining you?
Either way, the rub is that you’re in a Drama Triangle, which—if you’re not careful—can totally f*cking suck.
The Drama Triangle model was created by psychologist Stephen Karpman. He studied under Eric Berne, who invented the Transactional Analysis theory, which is another really nifty tool I discovered during therapy.
The three personas in Karpman’s model are:
- The Victim
- The Persecutor
- The Rescuer
When someone takes on one of these roles, even though you’ll hear no siren or buzzer go off, the Drama Triangle is being triggered. It usually starts with the persecutor or the victim.
When conflict happens, the other people in the triangle are pushed toward their “preferred” role in the triangle. I say “conflict” but this can actually be subtle, i.e. you might not even realise you’re in dramatic conflict. You might not realise you are playing the role of victim, or quite possibly your empathy simply knows no bounds.
When you exercise this model, you can evaluate your own drama-intense relationship transactions; the connection between your personal responsibility and the power dynamics within conflicts. It also highlights the destructive and constantly shifting roles that people play in this space. It’s fascinating stuff and it changed the way I interact with dramatic people—or not dramatic ones.
“You can lie down for people to walk on you and they will still complain that you’re not flat enough.” ~ Mature Gambino
Bottom line for me? I now see that before I began my addiction recovery, I was either a persecutor or a victim, wielding a hefty and well-tended portfolio of dramas, and woe betide any sorry individual making valiant attempts to rescue me. And pre and post-recovery, I loved to play the rescuer—which hilariously almost always resulted in me becoming a victim.
So, now I avoid this sh*t like the plague.
If, after you’ve evaluated and spotted the Drama Triangles in your life, I recommend you do yourself a favour and walk away.
Seriously, just hold your hand up in their face, stop them in their tracks, and make a loud, “beeeeeep beeeeeep” noise like a reversing truck—giving notice that, for the sake of your own mental health, and to set some healthy boundaries, you’re outta there. You can explain why later if you really must. But, in the meantime, the best way to stop a Drama Triangle from happening is to remove yourself from the equation altogether.
Brutal? Nope. Let’s not mix a lack of empathy or compassion, with setting healthy boundaries that protect us from emotional harm and unhappiness.
Which would you prefer?
- A shorter list of friends who respect and treat you with equality, and who love you entirely free from judgement; or
- A long list of “friends,” who thrive on dragging you into their energetically draining disturbances.