Prosecutor, Victim and Rescuer- Our Life in a Drama Triangle

May 28, 2018

Few weeks ago we talked about games in human relationship, remember? Games were described as a set of transactions with certain rules that people unconsciously understand and repeat. They usually lead to negative feelings of both partners. Conversations that we call games are more likely automatic than deliberate, repetitive, include series of unconscious behaviours and unspoken patterns and usually make our life difficult.

So if you start yelling at your husband that he left his socks on the bed again and he answers with a few nice words about your lovely mother, you can be sure that you have just started a new match.

Eric Berne, the author of the theory of games, described plenty of them and named games aptly according to the prevailing behaviour of his clients during the therapy (for example: See What You Made Me Do!).

Stephan Karpmann, his successor in this field, went a step further and simplified the theory by splitting actors of the games into 3 groups and vertices of his famous drama triangle.

So in simple words we can recognize 3 types of players:

The prosecutor – a person that is commonly critical, sometimes aggressive (actively or passively), strict, stern and haughty. Very often operates from the position of a critical parent. The prosecutor basically knows what is best for everybody, and does it all for your own good, right? “Why can’t you be more tidy, are you a pig or something?”. The prosecutor will more likely torture you with drops of water running on your head than with a knife, but it is still going to be very painful. Why? Because he/she is frustrated with his own life but somehow convinced that he/she knows better how to live yours.

The victim – seems to be a powerless, seemingly fragile and innocent person. Well, at least at the first sight. All the tragedies of mankind concentrated in one individual. So much of bad luck! “I am so lost, he left me again and my boss is so awful to me as well!”. Is it even possible? Sometimes you almost start to regret and feel guilty that your life is so easy. The victim wants you to take care of him/her and take the responsibility for his/her failures. I am sure you know them, correct?

The rescuer – aspires to be a saviour. The rescuer is so noble, high-minded and helpful. He/she is going to run on his/her white horse to every hopeless case. Usually has the heart on his hand (especially in minor cases). The rescuer is so strong and willing that you almost not notice his huge fear of being left alone and determination to make you dependent on his kind offers. On the other hand, with time you might find that he is always the one who sets what kind of help to give so that sometimes you do not get exactly the help you expected, but you still  feel obliged to be grateful (Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes – beware of Greeks bearing gifts).

If we look carefully we see drama triangles everywhere around us. Sit up when you talk to people who want you to read their minds, try to intimidate you or offload all the responsibility on you. These are obviously experienced players. Basically you can set as a rule that if you do not have a good feeling about the energy of the conversation, usually there is a game involved.

The challenge is that the only people over whom we have power are us, and we should be the first that deliberately and responsibly step out of the triangle.

It is so easy yet so difficult at the same time – we will have to devote a little more time on the subject. For the beginning I have a little exercise for you. Try to notice:

  • What games do you remember from your childhood?
  • What kind of problematical situations do you often see in your life?
  • What position in the drama triangle do you usually take?

Be focused and have your eyes opened. Next week we are going to concentrate on the ways to escape from the drama triangle. The price at the end is big, game free environment is much easier to enjoy.

Or if you want we can come back to this conversation during one of our coaching sessions. Remember, I am here for you whenever you need me.

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