I find thess three roles, victim, persecutor, and rescuer, straightforward to understand in the clinical settings. Often, when a client comes into my office, they are often locked into one of these roles and feels dissatisfied and resentful in his/her life.
One can shift in these three roles. For example, in a particular relationship, I might be the rescuer but a victim in another relationship. For example, in the family of origin, a person might be the rescue to his/her mother but a victim to his/her father.
One can also shift among these roles in one issue with oneself. For example, a conflict happened at work or with a significant other, and these three roles might play out like this in one’s mind:
Victim: how could he/she say that? It’s so unfair to say that to me considering everything I have done for him/her.
Persecutor: He/she was so ungrateful. He/she behaved like…… and didn’t hold his/her end of the deal…….. He/she has no right to ask for anything.
Rescuer: Still, how could I let this happen? It is my job to make sure everything goes the way it should be, and everyone gets the best out of the situation. I failed to do so.
As you can see, when a person fails to rescue, he/she can turn into feeling like a victim or blame another party to be a persecutor. Or, the same person might feel guilty for not rescue the situation and feel like a victim of the case while blaming others for not doing their part of the job right.
Have I lost you yet? If you feel overwhelmed with these feelings, you can understand why some people describe their brain never stopped and are always trying to sort out “could have, should have, and would have” in different situations to prevent themselves falling into those three roles they play but unable to get out either of the above three roles.
Drama Triangle in the Couple Relationship
When applied the drama triangle into the couple relationship, it certainly gets complicated but also very easy to see who plays what role in the relationship. When both partners are defensive, it is very likely they felt that they are the victim in the relationship and the other person is the persecutor in the link.
Partner A: “You always do xxxxxxx to make me feel xxxxxx.”
Partner B: “If you didn’t do xxxxxxx, I wouldn’t xxxxxx”
“I feel like a victim because of your behavior.”
“I behave like a persecutor to point out the reason you made me feel like a victim.”
The issue in this type of communication is both of the partners feel as if they are the victims of the other person’s behaviors and expect the other person to change to make oneself feel differently. As a result, the issue in the couple relationship is never resolved because neither one of them are taking the actions for their behaviors.
The other example is one partner plays the role of a rescuer, and the other one is the victim or persecutor.
Partner A: “If you didn’t push my bottom, I wouldn’t get angry at you.”
Partner B: “I am sorry that I should have to get it done sooner.”
Partner A: “I am angry because you didn’t rescue me soon enough. It’s your fault.”
Partner B: “I am guilty of not knowing your needs and taking care of your needs ahead of the time.”
Sadly, this kind of interaction is the co-dependent relationship that one person enables the other person’s behaviors.
How Can You Use Drama Triangle to help yourself?
1. Are you fixed at a particular role majority of time in most of the relationships?
1) If you do, what does this specific role mean to you?
2) Is this the role you played as a child in your family? Or, did you develop this role to cope with the family interaction as a child?
3) What is the advantage of playing this role in the interpersonal relationships?
4) What is the disadvantage of playing this role in the interpersonal relationships?
2. Are you play a specific role in certain relationships regularly? That is, do your role change based on the settings and the connections? For example, in the couple relationship you often play the role of a victim, and in the office settings, you often play the role of a rescuer?
1) If you do, what does that mean to you that you need to change your roles based on the settings?
2) Which role feels the most natural to you? Which role feels the most unnatural to you?
3) Which role did you play as a child in your family of origin? Why?
4) What is the advantage of playing this role in the interpersonal relationships?
5) What is the disadvantage of playing this role in the interpersonal relationships?
6) Which role did you not play as a child in your family of origin? Who played that role when you were a child?
7) Now that you get to play this role in which you didn’t know as a child, what’s like for you? What is the advantage of this role in the interpersonal relationships? What are the disadvantages?
3. Now that you have completed the list above, what are the general reflections?
Please take some time to complete the questions above and your general reflection before you start reading the next section.
Do you feel regularly lock into a specific role and still unable to get out of it even after the reflection?
Do you think those reflections we did in the previous section brings up too many unpleasant childhood memories and experiences?
Do you feel those reflections makes your brain spin and race but not taking you anywhere?
If the answer is yes to any of the above questions, please seek professional help. You deserve to live a satisfied and fulfilled life, and you do not need to figure this out alone.
Drama Triangle Series:
Extended Readings: My “Change” series