The Karpman Drama Triangle

The Karpman Drama Triangle

The Drama Triangle is a theoretical device we use to explain what might be going on in a toxic relationship and how to break free from it.

If you imagine an equilateral triangle with its three points. At each point sits one of these three labels; Persecutor, Rescuer, Victim.
  1. The Persecutor is critical, puts other people down, is bossy and dominating.
  2. The Rescuer feels validated by 'saving' a Victim. They take on worry and anxiety.
  3. The Victim feels oppressed, powerless and ashamed.

The concept is that two or more people in a toxic relationship sit at one of these points on the triangle; in one of these three modes. One of you may be the Rescuer and the other person the Victim. During the course of an argument or a period of conflict, the 'players of the game' may then move around the triangle to hold a new position - for example, the Victim suddenly becomes the Persecutor and the Rescuer becomes the Victim. The conflict continues all the while the players exist in these opposing positions on the triangle and either move around or get pushed to a different position by the other person changing their position.

The only solution is to get off the triangle all together. To de-escalate the conflict, it is possible to remove yourself from the drama and from the drama triangle.
  1. The Persecutor becomes the Challenger, supportive but detached. Clear with expectations.
  2. The Rescuer becomes the Coach. Motivate and inspire but don't interfere, be independent.
  3. The Victim becomes the Thriver. Decide what you want and stick to it. Keep to your agreements and plan clear steps to achieve clear goals.
As you make your move to get off the Drama Triangle, understand that the other player(s) may try to draw you back in to the conflict. You may need to repeat your 'escape move' a number of times before the oxygen to their fire is removed sufficiently for the conflict to extinguish.


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