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

The Karpman Drama Triangle is the most widespread model of relationships between people. It was first described in 1968 by the classical scholar of transactional analysis Steven Karman. 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 is jealous and envious. He or she lacks time, power, and the desire to improve his or her life. A victim is afraid of life and expects only something bad from it.

A persecutor

He or she also thinks that life is an enemy and the source of all troubles. A persecutor is tense, irritated, angry, and afraid. He or she can't forget past quarrels and always predicts future problems. This person controls and criticizes his or her closest people, feels an unbearably heavy load of responsibility, and becomes exhausted because of it. A persecutor doesn't have any energy.

A rescuer

A rescuer feels pity for a victim and angry towards a persecutor. He or she feels more important than everyone else and is proud of their high mission. In fact, a rescuer doesn't rescue anyone, because nobody asked him or her to do it. A rescuer's importance is an illusion. He or she aims to achieve self-affirmation, not at providing help to anyone.

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 controller 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 in his or her 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 for your troubles.
  2. Nobody is obliged to act according to your thoughts on what is good and what is not. People are different, situations are different. If you don't like something, just don't deal with it.
  3. Solve arguments peacefully, without anger or aggression.
  4. Stop asserting yourself using those who are weaker than you.

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 know how to live better than everyone else and without your precious guidance the world will collapse.
  3. Don't give hasty promises.
  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.
  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.

  1. A victim turns into a hero. Now instead of complaining about his or her destiny, a person will fight misfortune, feeling not exhausted but excited. By solving his or her problems, a hero won't complain. He or she will feel pleasure thanks to the ability to solve them these problems.
  2. A persecutor turns into a philosopher. Watching a hero's actions from the point of view of a bystander, a philosopher no longer criticizes, but worries about the result. A philosopher is ready to accept any outcome because he or she knows that everything will be fine eventually.
  3. A rescuer turns into a motivator. He or she stimulates a hero for doing something great, describing the future possibilities. A motivator finds ways of applying a hero's powers and inspires him to act.

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

A perfect model of the triangle

This model of the triangle contains even more energy and happiness.

  1. A hero becomes a winner. He or she performs feats not in order to be praised, but to apply his energy in a creative way. A hero doesn't need public approval; he or she enjoys the process of creativity and the opportunity to change this world for the better.
  2. A philosopher becomes a contemplator. He sees connections that are not seen by others. He acts on new opportunities and creates new ideas.
  3. A motivator becomes a strategist. He knows well how to bring philosopher's ideas to life.

It's important to estimate a situation adequately, to see whether you're being manipulated in order to not turn your life into a soap opera of exhausting relationships. Don't play the roles that are imposed on you. Learn to stand up and leave when you see that something is wrong.

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

Illustrator: Yekaterina Ragozina for Bright Side
Share This Article