The latest short video (6 minutes) is on Business relationships – Using the drama triangle to resolve conflict.

(Video script)

Hi, I’m Kim Tasso

A short while ago I produced a video on the Parent Adult Child model from Transactional Analysis (TA) to help people understand why sometimes communication and interaction goes wrong. Today we are looking at another idea – the drama triangle – to see how it can help us avoid conflict, even out power in relationships, help people take responsibility for their behaviour and resolve interpersonal conflict situations.

Triangulation – an idea originally from family therapy – is where there is a dysfunctional relationship between three players. Let me explain using some puppets:

  • Unicorn – The victim
  • Crocodile – The persecutor
  • Policeman – The rescuer

The drama triangle

The theory of triangulation was originally published in 1966 by Murray Bowen as one of eight parts of Bowen’s family systems theory. The drama triangle was made popular by a specialist in family dynamics – Karpman

Unicorn/Victim“Poor me”. Victims believe themselves to be oppressed and helpless and powerless. They are unable to make decisions and are full of negative feelings

The crocodile/persecutor – “It’s all your fault” This character is controlling and critical and angry. They blame others. They are authoritarian and superior.

Enter the Policeman/Rescuer“Let me help you” This person is a classic enabler. They feel guilty if they don’t rescue the victim. But their rescue attempts have negative effects as it keeps the victim dependent and gives them permission to fail. Also, the rescue activity diverts attention away from their own anxieties and fears. They rescue others to avoid dealing with their own problems.

Now you can imagine that this triangle continues indefinitely – the persecutor upsets the victim who turns to the rescuer for help – this enrages the persecutor who again attacks the victim. They become locked in this unproductive and unhealthy triangle of drama. And people get stuck in their dysfunctional roles and the situation deteriorates further.

Escaping the drama triangle

So how do you break out of the drama triangle?

Well, each player has to reframe their role.

The crocodile/persecutor becomes the challenger – replacing punishment with assertiveness

The unicorn/victim becomes the creator – accepting their vulnerability and become more self-aware so that they can problem-solving for themselves and come up with different options for future outcomes rather than focusing on the present situation

The Policeman/rescuer still expresses concern and care but becomes the coach – asking questions to help the victim reach a solution rather than taking responsibility for doing so themselves

You can see the drama triangle play a big part in conflict spirals – where someone who is upset enlists the support of a third part to build an alliance against the perceived persecutor. You can stop conflicts spiralling out of control by refusing to be enlisted in such an unhealthy triangulation. Don’t take sides – just ask about each person’s perspective and encourage people to address the issue directly rather than trying to enlist third party support.

Next time you are involved in an interpersonal conflict – see if you can identify who is playing the persecutor, the victim and the rescuer. And see if by adopting a different perspective and role you can break out of the drama triangle.

It’s training Kim, but not as we know it.

Further short videos are available on Kim Tasso’s YouTube channel