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The Karpman Drama Triangle, Part 1



Sometimes, when we stop focusing on the pieces and instead focus on the whole, we see things in a new way.


I'm learning about something called The Karpman Triangle. In short, it involves the individual moving interchangeably between three roles within the conflicts present in their lives: Victim, Persecutor and Rescuer.

Researchers in this area have found that 70% of people seem to be operating between the victim/persecutor role without being aware of it.


I find this especially interesting for some of my personal drama in connection to my upbringing, social conditioning and gender role.


Beyond this there is also something about the term "doula" that has always niggled at me and it directly relates to The Karpman Triangle, but I wasn't quite able to articulate it until I began learning more about this triangle. In western society pregnant women are often portrayed within the victim role, hired doulas and midwives are often portrayed within the rescuer role and quite often the medical industry lands somewhere within the rescuer or persecutor spectrum depending on the circumstance. I'll explain why I say this. Women often hire doulas as advocates to avoid unwanted medical interventions that begin a cascade leading to caesarean section. Conversely, you often hear women say, "Thankfully [INSERT RESCUER'S NAME/ROLE], did [INSERT HEROIC ACTION] and saved my/my baby's life." Go ahead and tell me I'm wrong. It's not to say that these life and death situations don't occur, but when the World Health Organization puts the ideal rate for C-sections at 10-15% and the average woman entering the hospital has a 33% chance of leaving with a C-section, those numbers don't add up. I also don't want to diminish the comfort measures and important witnessing of a rite of passage that a doula can provide, but there is a difference between seeking a savior versus hiring a helper.


Moreover, I feel like exploring this idea could lead to recognition of where we're giving our personal power away, where we're infringing upon another's sovereignty and where we can help someone stand in their power rather than running around putting out fires acting like their hero (which actually does nothing but further keep the victim in victimhood consciousness).


How can you recognize if you're participating as a victim within the triangle? (And I suspect it's more common than we think as it happens to be the main plot in movies, soap operas, sitcoms and talk shows).


Here are some examples of personal belief patterns of someone who is moving about within the triangle:


1. People get angry with me due to something I have done


2. Other people's feelings/needs take precedence over my own and I often surrender my needs so others won't reject me


3. It's unsafe for me to directly express my feelings/needs


4. I have to walk on eggshells to keep the peace so loved ones don't abandon me


5. I need to be perfect to earn the love of those around me


6. Other people's opinions factor STRONGLY into my decision making process


7. My feelings about myself hinge on other's opinions of me


8. I prefer to not have responsibility or make important decisions


9. I see things dualistically


10. It's good to seek out relationships where people need me and I can make them happy


11. If I have to ask for something, it means they don't love me enough to have considered my feelings, needs and point of view


12. Difficulty knowing what I want or need


13. I exaggerate accomplishments when I first meet someone so they will like me, but if people knew who I really was, they would reject me


14. I have difficulty asking other's for help because it's a sign of weakness and will reject offers of help even though I could really use it


15. I feel it's important to have "the right answers" and cannot admit to having made a mistake for fear of rejection


16. I often feel one-upmanship or, alternatively one-downmanship because I compare myself to others


17. I feel hurt when I don't get the respect I deserve for my accomplishments


I spent all afternoon yesterday thinking about how I've participated within the triangle (mainly within the victim/rescuer roles, but I know that when my feelings have been hurt or I've been thrown off balance I could unintentionally slide into the persecutor role too) and, frankly, I cannot wait to learn more about how to not play ANY role whatsoever in the triangle. If you're interested too, then stick around because I'll put out at least one more part in this series of what I'm learning about the Karpman Drama Triangle. I truly think it's fascinating and deep work. And when we do the deep work for ourselves, the effects ripple out likes waves in a pond to make other's lives better too (spoken like a true rescuer ¯\_(ツ)_/¯😂).


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