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Welcome to a practical pastoral counseling site of Dr. Harold L. White

 Every pastor can be a valued and competent counselor.

Drama Triangle

Some people think that they keep others around them by controlling them.
Stephen Karpman devised what is known as the Drama Triangle as a way to explain games
that people play to control others.

This game consists of an enclosed triangle with persons playing the roles of
Persecutor, Victim, and Rescuer, each occupying a corner.
The “control game” or the “action” gets underway when the players switch

Persecutors, Victims, and Rescuers differ from confronters, hurt persons,
and helpful persons because of the switch.
A person confronting someone else in a conflict situation is not a Persecutor in the game sense
unless, after the confrontation, the confronted strikes back,
and the confronter then feels himself to be a Victim.

Therefore, do not confront unless the Adult is in charge.
You spend too much” is persecution, and an invitation to a game.
The bank account is overdrawn and I’m worried because we have not worked out a budget
is a confrontation, and an invitation to a cooperative effort.

Helping Out” is not a rescue if you are asked for help or if you mean what you say
when you offer help, can follow through, and define what it is that you are willing to do.

You poor thing, having to live in such a rundown house and married to such an unhandy husband!
You and I could paint the whole thing in one weekend
” is a game “hook
you are throwing out as you set about to become a Rescuer.

If, on being asked for help you say, “I can spend one Saturday helping you paint your house,”
you are helping out.
If, after helping out, you are mad because you ruined your new designer jeans
(which you knew better than to wear), and had to give up your only day off,
and your friend hardly said, “Thank you,” you have chosen to become a Victim.

You are in the triangle and headed for the Persecutor corner:
I’ll never do anything for her again.”
And you head for the phone to tell her so.

Being hurt is not the same as being a Victim in the Drama Triangle unless there is a switch
to another corner.
People are hurt every so often because people are human and, from time to time,
disappoint each other.
We can leave it at that and learn to protect ourselves as much as possible by learning
how to avoid the games.

In the book, Staying OK, Thomas Harris and Amy Bjork Harris describes how to recognize
the move from Persecutor to Rescuer.

Marilyn berates Bill at the breakfast table for his multiple shortcomings.
He never takes her out, she accuses.
Other people have fun.
He doesn’t love the children.
They are stuck with too little money because he isn’t aggressive enough with his boss
about the raise.
The husband leaves for work seething as she continues her tirades down the driveway.

By midmorning she is having second thoughts.
Why did he seem so mad?
What has she done?
Bill has been thinking also.
At noon, he phones her and cheerfully announces. “I’ve made reservations for dinner tonight
at Lovers Cove, and we’ll have a nice evening out

Well, how nice”, she says, unsettled, and, ignoring the thoughtful arrangements,
spurts, “Guess what? We are going to have dinner here tonight, with candlelight,
just us.
We can’t really afford to go out.
And guess what? I’ve written a letter for you to give to your boss.
It isn’t fair of me to put everything on you.
I’ll take care of it. You’ll

Bill’s genuine attempt to please his wife is snatched from the spontaneous moment,
and Marilyn has taken over the matter.

A rescue following the persecutor, leaves Bill a victim, feeling there is no pleasing his wife
and also feeling impotent to deal with his own boss on his own.

A persecutor is someone who sets necessary limits on behavior or is charged with enforcing a rule.
A victim is someone who qualifies for a job that is denied it because of race, sex, or religion.
A rescuer is someone who leads a person who is functioning inadequately to become rehabilitated
and self-reliant.

When these roles are like masks, they are illegitimate and are for the purpose of manipulation.
Subsequently when these three roles are capitalized, they refer manipulative, illegitimate roles:

A Persecutor is someone who sets and necessarily strict limits on behavior or is charged
with enforcing the rules but does so with sadistic brutality.

A Victim is someone who does not qualify for a job, but falsely claims it is denied the cause
of race, sex, or religion.

A Rescuer is someone who, in the guise of being helpful, keeps others dependent upon him or her.

Manipulative roles are part of the rackets and games that contribute to a person's script.
A person may play a game in an imitation of parental behavior.
However, games are usually played from the Child ego state.

The Child initiates the game, intending to " hook" the Child or Parent in other players.

The manipulative roles are used to provoke or to invite others to respond in specific ways,
thus reinforcing the Child's early psychological positions.
It is not uncommon for the entire cast of characters to know how to play all the hands
in all the games.

Each is able to switch and play the three basic roles: Victim, Persecutor, and Rescuer.
In transactional analysis this is called the Drama Triangle.

An individual moves into a racket by discounting from either of the three major racket or game positions.
He does this by either exaggerating or devaluating the worth of himself or the other person.

Persecutor (P): " I am better than you, you are inferior."
Rescuer (R): " I am OK only if I help others," or " I know more than you, you are inadequate."
Victim (V): " I am helpless, you are better than me."

These racket and game positions can be demonstrated by using Karpman’s drama triangle as seen here:


There are those who prefer to call this the racket or game triangle to emphasize the discounting aspects
of the three positions.

The Rescuer position is often used as the entry point into a game.
In these instances the Rescuer will eventually switch to Persecutor or Victim and collect a payoff.
It is improbable that a Rescuer consciously sets out to determine ways to prove that she the or others are not-OK.

More likely he initiates his behaviors and transactions from a pseudo-nurturing Rescuing position,
in which he is attempting to stay OK and avoid being a Victim by "helping" others to feel OK.
Some Rescuers do experienced others as inferior and will indicate that they sense a need to take care
of those poor souls.

More important than seeing others as inferior, is the Rescuer's sense of needing to be helpful.
And this need to be helpful results from an inner dialogue in which a person's Parent sends a message to her Child,
"You're OK, only if you help [please, take care of, Rescue] others."

The Adapted Child response with the decision "I'm OK if…" and begins a Rescue transaction.
Rather than experiencing others as not-OK, he is usually so wrapped up in his own inner dialogue trying to please
his internal Parent that he is not much concerned about other people at all.
They merely provide the characters necessary for him to meet these conditions.

Nonetheless, the Rescuer invites others to remain Victims, and needs to keep Victims around
in order to continue his racket or game.

The Persecutor position his assumed when a person makes another person not-OK.
This is more blatant than the not-OKness invited by the Rescuer, and usually includes overt putdowns, sarcasm,
and other negative strokes.
Like the Rescuer, the Persecutor is trying to avoid the Victim position by inviting someone else into it,
and the quantity and intensity of negative strokes is usually increased.

The Victim position is the most common payoff position in rackets and games.
As already mentioned, most people take the Rescuer, or Persecutor position in an attempt to either temporarily
avoid the Victim role.
Or they keep strokes flowing until they switch to Victim themselves.
The Victim role is generally experienced as " I'm not OK -- You’re OK position,
while those who are looking for Persecutors are more apt to be in a I'm not OK -- You're not OK position.

An exception to the above statement is the Victim who experiences himself as OK while believing
that not-OK people are Persecuting him -- for example, " I am OK (and a Victim), but those others are not-OK
and are picking on me
These people are actually in an I'm OK -- almost position.

Get out of the Triangle

The only way to stop the Persecutor-Victim-Rescurer game is to get out of the game.
One requirement for getting out is to have other stroke sources.
You are not likely to change if “it’s the only game in town.”
Another requirement is the decision, “
I will get on with my life no matter what.”

This requires self-understanding, planning of options, and a well-drafted want list.
This also requires Adult protection, and courage and determination to stay out of the triangle.

A simple way is to stay in the Adult ego state no matter how challenging.
I have advised people to stay out by being prepared.
I have reminded them that they have a front door, and that is their door.
When someone knocks, they don’t have to answer the door -- it’s their door.
When the phone rings, they don’t have to answer the phone -- it’s their phone.

This is my way of reminding them that they don’t have to answer the question
or respond to the “
hook” that is being put on them.
They have usually played the same games many times and then get forced into the triangle.
These games have been called “
circulator arguments.”

So, be prepared ahead of time when the next invitation comes to play.
Have neutral Adult responses ready, and repeat them until they see that you are not going to play.

Listen for the “
They are sharp, and they will grab you.

Here are some verbal clues.
Say, you’re good at this sort of thing.”
(A Victim inviting a rescue.)

Or “
I’m going to come on straight with you.”
(A Persecutor about to let you have it.)

A warning from the Rescue corner is “
I know it’s none of my business, bit ...”

Each of these is an invitation to join the game.
These signal the onset of a crooked transaction.

Remember, stop the game by an Adult response.
Sometimes silence by looking thoughtfully and kindly into another’s eyes
may be the best stopper.

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