The Drama Triangle was originally developed in 1968 by Stephen Karpman, a Transactional Analysis trainer, as a way of explaining the dynamic that occurs whenever we make someone else responsible for how we feel. According to Karpman, any time we don’t take responsibility for our feelings we are acting in a part of the Drama Triangle. The Drama Triangle can be a simple yet powerful mechanism for understanding relationships.

The roles of the drama triangle are: Victim, Persecutor and Rescuer. Karpman shows the relationship between these three roles by putting them on an upside down triangle. This shows the Persecutor and Rescuer in the one-up position that they take to the Victim.

* A Persecutor is someone who puts other people down and therefore goes one-up. They can act actively aggressive or passive-aggressive in response to the Victim.

* A Rescuer also also goes one-up. They do more than their share and often do things they don’t really want to do. 

* Victims don’t take responsibility for themselves. They will often feel overwhelmed with their feelings or even numb to them. They go one-down.

Triangle

The arrows on the triangle indicate the direction of the transactions, but the drama in the Triangle comes from the switching of roles. As the drama triangle is played out, people change roles or tactics. Others in the triangle will then switch to match this. Sooner or later the Victim, sick of the one-down position, turns on the Rescuer. Or the Rescuer becomes fed up with a lack of response or any appreciation of their efforts, becomes persecuting.

The Drama Triangle role names are part of our everyday language. Most people will be familiar with being called a Rescuer when they are perceived as helping too much. A person who feels overwhelmed, oppressed or depressed can be labeled a Victim. While the Drama Triangle illustrates the problem quite clearly, it’s not always that easy to get out when you are in the middle of the drama. That’s why I like the Healthy Triangle.
The Drama Triangle has been around long enough for there to be many derivatives and modifications. The Healthy Triangle uses the same structure as the Drama Triangle but uses adult roles to replace the parent/child roles of the Drama Triangle. I first came across the Healthy Triangle in an article written by

Acey Choy.

Triangle2

The roles of the Drama Triangle each have their equivalent role in the Healthy Triangle. Each of the three roles in the Healthy Triangle is an ‘OK’ role and requires the development of a different set of skills (see table below).

Drama
Triangle Role

Healthy
Triangle Role

Skill
to be Developed

Victim

Vulnerable

Problem solving

Rescuer

Caring

Listening

Persecutor

Assertive

Assertiveness

Any technique that the Vulnerable person can use to get themselves thinking about options and consequences is valuable. In the Caring role the development of listening skills that involve empathising with the Vulnerable person is required. Listening is frequently the only Caring response needed.  Caring people do not give advice or help that is not asked for directly.  Assertiveness is about getting your needs met without punishing. Self awareness is essential in all three roles.

Download this as a PDF for future reference.