Intention and the Drama-Winner Triangle

The Drama triangle was first introduced by Stephen Karpman in 1986 as a way of explaining the different roles that we choose to play in life. The way we relate to each other and the roles we choose to play in these relationships are greatly influenced by our personalities and, depending on our conditioning and beliefs, we approach most of our social interactions either as a Persecutor, Rescuer or Victim. We can and we do switch from one to the other even within a single interaction. The three roles are intertwined! So when a person changes positions, the other people involved also shift their roles as well.

Thus, every Victim requires a Persecutor! A Persecutor is not necessarily a person; it could be a condition like a disease, injury, heart attack etc or a circumstance like a natural disaster in life.

In life we unconsciously act out our beliefs and the messages we received from our childhood care-givers and the environment. These imbedded messages lead us to taking up psychological positions and roles in life which further reinforce our beliefs that are subsequently manifested in the roles we play in life. It is unbelievable to think that we take up life roles and positions quite early on in life and even select our partners to suit these life positions. For example a person with an imbedded belief that men or people are not to be trusted will end up attracting relationships with others that will re-enforce this belief by constantly finding fault in the other. When the relationship finally ends because of their nagging and complaints and manipulation, they will conclude, with evidence, that they were right all along! What your mind focuses on, expands!

There was a colleague of mine at work who, at a certain time I strongly felt was “persecuting” me. She complained about everything I did or didn’t do! At that time, I wasted so much energy and time focusing on how badly I was being treated. I went over and over the different conversations I’d had with her, the different looks she’d given me, the times she ignored me or said something that I felt was an insult to me! Then I went through what I would say to her if I did speak to her! I was going to remind her of all the times that she had literally put me down, criticised me in public and made me feel as small as an ant! I literally worked myself up trying to figure out how I would sort her out; let her know once and for all that I felt persecuted by her and possibly recount all the incidences that had led me to this conclusion. But then I thought, would that stop her from persecuting me? What would I achieve by "antagonising" her? What would I gain by simply recounting to her the times she discounted me? What would change after this confrontation? I then decided I would have to approach her and my problem with a different mindset if I wanted my circumstances to change.

Using the drama triangle, I instantly recognised myself as a Victim in the above scenario! What to do? I had to decide on what I really wanted to achieve by speaking to my colleague and bringing up issues that were in the past. What was my intention? Did I simply want to let her know that she was my Persecutor? Did I want to approach her as the Victim that I felt I was or was I attempting to rescue her from herself? What was my intention in having this talk with my colleague? Most of all, why was I focusing on her behaviour towards me? Shouldn’t I be looking into how I attracted this into my experience? Even then it was still easy to see myself as a Victim and simply blame her for every nasty experience I’d had while interacting with her.

Blaming her for her behaviour will make me her Persecutor and her my Victim; trying to rescue her because I believe she is a victim of her unconscious behaviour will not get me far either. I needed a strategy, a way of letting her know I felt persecuted by her and at the same time find ways in which we could both work harmoniously together. Should I just be a Persecutor and blame her for her behaviour? Should I rock that apparent stability at the work place by confronting my demons, speaking up for myself and letting my colleague know she is not as perfect as she thinks she is? That blaming and criticising others doesn’t make her a better worker or person! This approach will certainly be reinforcing the drama I wanted so much to stop and I would have simply switched positions from Victim to Persecutor!

This sounds so trivial, but imagine yourself going through this same thought process with a couple of people at work! Imagine the same scenario recurring at home or with most of your relationships with others. We tend to face such dilemmas when we continue to look outside of ourselves – to people and circumstances - for our sense of safety and security. As Victims we refuse to see what the situation is teaching us about ourselves and continue to focus on the “problem” – the other person, the situation or circumstances.

As a Victim, I can be “defensive, submissive, over-accommodating to others, passive-aggressive in conflict, dependent on others for self-worth, overly sensitive and even manipulative” (Emerald, 2012). As a victim in the above scenario, I appeared to fit into every one of these categories. I felt sad when I realised this especially as I always thought of myself as being strong, understanding and open! I felt even sadder just thinking of the possibility that the energy I was bringing to my interactions at work was that of a Victim! It was hard to acknowledge that I was helpless, out of control and unable to change things for the better. Could I have also been believing and owning all these negative characteristics and consequently manifesting them in real life? Whatever we hold in my mind tends to manifest itself.

I realised almost 100% of my thoughts and actions had been focused on what was being done to me and how I could fix it. Fixing it meant trying harder and harder to be and act in a way that I thought would be acceptable to my colleagues. My intention all along was to create and experience a harmonious work place! Now I know I can’t achieve that harmony from a place of drama – as a Victim!

So what was the vision or outcome I envisioned for my future interactions with my colleague and others at work? How was I going to change the dynamics at work to better enhance my experience? What did I want to create from this experience? I had to re-evaluate my intentions for interactions and the ways and means communicating and achieving them. Were my intentions to get rid of and away from my perceived problems, i.e. the person who I saw as persecuting me or was it to create a better, clearer vision and/or outcome for myself and others? Where was I focusing my attention? On my problems or on clearly perceived visions?

All good thinking but then I noticed that because I had been so good at focusing on my problems in my Victim position, it wasn't that easy to see through the problem into the solution – the vision and outcome from the problem. I could explain in detail, what I didn’t want but found it so hard to know what I wanted. It shouldn’t be difficult, right? Knowing what you don’t want should automatically lead you into knowing what you do want! I’d become so hyper-vigilant around this colleague, always anticipating the next problem when interacting with her that all I could see in this situation were problems. She was my Persecutor, full stop!

Yet, I had a choice about how to relate to those experiences, however difficult or painful the present, past or future experience is, was or would be. If I however identified myself as a victim, my choices would be greatly limited!

Instead of seeing myself as and staying a Victim, I needed to switch to being a Creator. But what could I create from this situation. The fear of upsetting the whole dynamic at my work place and creating a completely new culture just to please my instincts and feelings was scary. However, if I had to feel good about myself, I needed to listen to my true self. I needed to address the issue now so as to avoid it happening again and also to create a deeper, soothing space within.

But how do I achieve this outcome? First of all I needed to focus my attention on what I wanted to achieve. In the victim position, I’d learned so well to focus on the problem. It would take a while before I get results but by doing ordinary, daily stuff like having a conversation with a colleague instead of with myself or behind their back, being more informed about stuff before acting, I would achieve my goal in the long run. In the past I’d been afraid of conversations and had jumped to conclusions and acted based on these ill-informed conclusions! In my Victim position I’d hoped that the other person will “just know” what I was thinking and feeling and the problem would resolve itself. Other times, I had been moody and withdrawn soon after I felt I was being persecuted! What a shame! All that time wasted when I could have been focusing on being a Creator and not a Victim!

Yes, I had to re-evaluate my Intentions and focus on what I wanted to create for myself and others I interacted with. This has been my guiding light each time I had a conflict to resolve, be it at work or at home. Intention, intention! You will get drama if you focus on playing the role of Persecutor, Rescuer or Victim! (That's not to say that these roles are not legitimate and realistic at times - that's a completely different write up for some other time)! However, if you recognise that you can be and are Vulnerable at times, you will learn from this vulnerability to create what you want from it. In the same way, instead of picking on others' fault, you can opt to be assertive and challenge any behaviour you feel is not appropriate at work. The Rescuer instead of rescuing everyone they feel incapable of doing a job, could instead opt to be just as caring by coaching their perceived Victim(s).