If You Want to Have a Happy Family, You Should Know About the Karpman Drama Triangle

2 years ago

The Karpman Drama Triangle is the a widespread model of relationships between people. It was first described by the classical scholar of transactional analysis Stephen B. Karpman. People manipulate each other, depend on each other — and get very tired of it. There’s not much happiness in these kinds of relationships, and people become too exhausted to change anything. However, there is a solution.

Bright Side would like to tell you about the Karpman triangle. In order to solve a problem, you first have to understand it.

The Karpman Triangle

There can be two, three, or more people within a triangle. There are always three roles: a victim, a persecutor, and a rescuer. The participants of a triangle often switch their roles. One thing remains unchanged: they’re all manipulators, and they bring pain both to themselves and to their nearest and dearest.

A victim

For a victim, life is just pain and suffering. Everyone is unjust, a victim is always too exhausted to cope with the cruel world. A victim feels either scared, or offended, or ashamed. He or she lacks time, power, or the desire to take on resposibilities to improve his or her life. Blames the persecutor and depends on the rescuer.

A persecutor

A persecutor is tense, irritated, and angry. This person controls and criticizes his or her closest people, finding faults and blaming others without actually providing any solution to the problem. May be considered a bully depending on the situation. Blames the victim and the rescuer.

A rescuer

A rescuer feels pity for a victim, but they can also feel angry towards a persecutor or themselves if unable to help the victim. He or she can’t see they’re making the victim more dependent and may end up neglecting themselves for the high mission. Is dependent on the victim and blames on the persecutor.

How it works

A persecutor can’t leave a victim alone, and criticizes and drills him or her. A victim tries hard, gets exhausted, and whines. A rescuer provides comfort and gives advice and a shoulder to cry on. Participants change their roles from time to time.

This soap opera can last for many years. Participants may not even realize that they are stuck in a triangle. They may even think that everything is good, and that they are happy with their lives. A persecutor has the opportunity to discharge his or her anger, a victim gets compassion and doesn’t feel responsible for his or her life, and a rescuer rejoices their role as a hero.

Each of them depends on each other because they feel that someone else is the source of all their problems. They try to change other people so that they can fulfill their own needs.

Partners switch roles in the triangle, and they control or rescue each other. Such a relationship can’t be called love. This is all about a desire to dominate, a feeling of pity for oneself, exhausting complaints, and unheard excuses. There’s no love, no support, no happiness.

It influences everyone around them

When a family lives within the Karpman triangle, it means that their future child will also be involved in it. Most likely, the child will be deprived of self-reliance, having a choice, or the opportunity to take a decision. It’s not intentional — people that live in a triangle think that they protect their child like that. Parents like this often manipulate by using the call of duty and feelings of shame, guilt, and pity.

Is there a way out from the triangle?

An individual should realize that he or she is the only one responsible for his or her own life and desires. It’s necessary to take one’s life into one’s own hands and act without asking for someone else’s permission.

How to escape the triangle if you’re a victim

  1. Stop complaining about your life. Completely. Spend this time instead on searching for ways to improve the things that you are unhappy with.
  2. Accept once and for all: nobody owes you anything. Even if they promised, even if they wanted and offered something to you themselves. Circumstances are constantly changing, as are human desires. Stop waiting for salvation.
  3. Everything you do is your own choice and responsibility. You are free to make another choice if something is not good for you.
  4. Don’t find excuses and don’t reproach yourself if you feel that you don’t fulfill someone’s expectations.

How to escape the triangle if you’re a persecutor

  1. Stop blaming other people and circumstances.
  2. Become assertive instead of aggressive.
  3. You need to become more empathetic towards others and ditch your authoritative patterns.

How to escape the triangle if you’re a rescuer

  1. If nobody asks you for help or for some advice, stay quiet.
  2. Stop thinking that you need to save the day and that without your help the world will collapse.
  3. Don’t give hasty promises. Just say no.
  4. Stop waiting for gratitude and praise. You help just because you want to help, not because you want some reward, don’t you?
  5. Before you start “doing good” to someone, ask yourself honestly if your involvement is really necessary. This may save you from trouble.
  6. Stop asserting yourself using those who love complaining about their lives just a little bit more.

How the triangle can be transformed

If you want to escape the triangle and pursue your goal step by step, it won’t be long until the first changes appear. You’ll have more time and energy, it will be easier to breathe and more interesting to live. The tension in your relationship will most likely fall. And that’s called the Winning Triangle:

  1. A victim becomes vulnerable. Now instead of complaining about his or her destiny, a person will accept the responsibilities and learn how to solve their own problems and defend themselves. He or she will be more receptive to their faults and will hold on instead of giving up or waiting for a hero.
  2. A persecutor becomes assertive. They no longer criticize, but instead give constructive feedback. Their agressive reactions become empathic interactions and he or she is ready to connect to others and communicate their thoughts and feelings better.
  3. rescuer becomes caring. He or she learns to let go of control and to listen instead of trying to fix. They start delegating more and refusing to take part on activities that drain them. It is the best position to start the new Triangle, as they can redirect the victim and stimulate them to take care of their responsibilities.

This is a healthy and happy model of relations between people.

Are you familiar with the patterns of the Karpman Drama Triangle? Share your experience with us.

Please note: This article was updated in May 2022 to correct source material and factual inaccuracies.


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