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,
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 see!”
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.