Recently I found myself in the middle of drama with one of my good friends. The experience was all consuming, one minute I was crying and the next I was angry. During this gut-wrenching conflict I couldn’t eat, I frequently cried myself to sleep and everything in my life seemed to stop. I even stopped training for my 5k run for charity (thankfully I managed to complete the race, albeit with a lot of huffing and puffing). This went on for around a month. What surprised me most was how the situation gained momentum and spiralled out of control so quickly. With no exaggeration, the impact of this conflict was devastating. As I had learned, when we are in conflict with those around us the toll on our lives can be profound. Loss of appetite, acute stress, sleep disturbance and depression can all result from intense conflict. If I was ever to escape this drama and all the stress it had caused me, I knew I had to get off the bus at the next stop.
Eagar to avoid situations like this in future, I immediately decided to investigate. After speaking with a psychologist I was introduced to a little something called the drama triangle. It works on the principal that in some situations, especially in conflict, we all assume one of three roles, these being that of a prosecutor, victim and rescuer. Although most of us have a default mode we all generally revert to in our day-to-day life, in conflict situations these roles can change rapidly. For example, when in an argument I may be the victim, become angry at the prosecutor and then change to being the prosecutor myself. Likewise, I could be the victim and choose to become a rescuer and defend someone else who is also being attacked by the prosecutor. But how do we recognise when we are in the midst of the drama triangle? First, lets explore each role in more detail to understand them better.
The prosecutor blames and attacks others for their upsets. Their subconscious incentive for attacking others and remaining in this role is that they are able to avoid taking personal responsibility for their part in the situation.
The victim often feels inadequate and feels unable to take responsibility for themselves. Their subconscious incentive for remaining in this role is that they are rewarded for their behaviour by those who feel sorry for them or help them. Victims can also encourage others to adopt the rescuer role.
The rescuer continually tries to, well, rescue. Their subconscious incentive for remaining in this role is that their self-worth increases when they feel they are helping others.
If you know anyone that fits into one of these roles generally or are in a conflict situation where two or more people are adopting these roles, you are probably in the middle of your very own drama triangle. But once we know we are in the grips of the drama triangle how do we escape? When I first became aware of the drama triangle I was so relieved I knew the subconscious games that were being played. I finally knew what was going on. However I soon realised I needed to answer the complex question of how to stop the drama triangle whilst also standing up for myself but avoiding the prosecutor role. In my emotional state I was overwhelmed by the apparent complexity of the task before me. I decided to return to my psychologist for some further answers. Having been so close to the situation I had discounted one of my most powerful tools, assertiveness. I was soon informed that by using assertiveness I could break free of the drama triangle, and the good news is, you can too!
Next week we examine how to use assertiveness to escape the drama triangle and leave drama at the next stop!
Are you going through drama within your relationships right now? Can you recall a time when you did? Which role were you mainly playing? Please comment and share your experiences with our community to gain insight, encouragement and support.
- What role do you usually revert to in everyday life? Prosecutor, victim or rescuer?
- Think of an example where you have found yourself in the drama triangle
- What role were you mainly playing in the drama triangle? Prosecutor, victim or rescuer?