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  • Writer's pictureDavid Linaker

Beware of Getting Caught in Your Own Soap Opera

In my work as a celebrant, I often encounter conflict. Grief and loss can often ignite long standing resentments into open warfare between people who might be expected to be close; sibling conflict being the most common. This can be bitter, horrible and tricky for everyone to handle.

From my training in Conflict Transformation, I have a really useful tool that can help me to see what’s going on and, if they ask me to, help my clients to understand their behaviour and how to manage it.

The Karpman Drama Triangle is a psychological model that describes dysfunctional social interactions and roles people may unconsciously play in conflicts. The Triangle describes three roles:

The Victim: This role involves feeling helpless, oppressed, or unfairly treated. People in this role often seek rescuers to alleviate their problems. This is, paradoxically, the most powerful role and can be highly manipulative. A primary source of conflict can be when two people are fighting over the right to be seen as the Victim.

The Rescuer: Rescuers feel a need to help victims, often without being asked, and they may become controlling or enabling. They tend to believe they know what's best for the Victim. However, they seldom rescue the Victim in the way that the Victim wishes to be rescued and can end up feeling victimised themselves.

The Persecutor: Persecutors blame, criticize, or judge others, often seeing themselves as superior. They create conflict and can force victims into a helpless state. This role is seldom self-created, but most often a projection of the victims need for victimhood and to see someone else as their persecutor.

Understanding the Karpman Drama Triangle can teach you several really useful things:

  • Awareness: Recognising these roles can help you become aware of your own behaviour and the roles you tend to assume in conflicts.

  • Communication: It underscores the importance of healthy communication and boundaries in relationships. Effective communication can help prevent these roles from emerging.

  • Empowerment: It encourages you to take responsibility for your actions and reactions, moving away from the Victim role and towards a more empowered stance.

  • Conflict Transformation: It provides insight into how conflicts escalate and how they can be transformed by avoiding these roles and fostering more constructive interactions.

By understanding the Karpman Drama Triangle, you can work towards healthier and more functional relationships and conflict resolution strategies and it is a tool that I use a lot in my personal and professional life

The key trick is to recognise when you are playing one of the roles on the Triangle and learn how to step away from it. This, amongst lots of other things, is what I will teach you if you work with me to help with conflicts you are experiencing. Here are some tips:

  • Awareness: Recognize when you’re in the Drama Triangle. Acknowledge your role and the roles of others.

  • Self-reflection: Understand your motivations and emotions in the situation.

  • Take responsibility: Shift from Victim to Creator by taking control of your actions and choices.

  • Boundaries: Set healthy boundaries to prevent becoming a Rescuer or Persecutor.

  • Effective communication: Express your needs and listen actively to others.

  • Empowerment: Encourage others to take responsibility for their actions instead of rescuing them.

  • Seek professional support if necessary.

If you’d like to work with me to understand better the conflicts you may be experiencing, just get in touch.

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