In your relationship, do you often tend to wilt into victim? Try to pick fights with your partner? Or do you get all enlightened and above it all? Welcome to the drama triangle…
Learning about the Drama Triangle has been game-changing for both Justin and I. This system was first developed by Stephen Karpman in 1968. He saw the drama triangle as a psychological and social model for human interaction. Our mentors, Gay and Kathlyn Hendricks then modified the drama triangle into the current relationship model we have been exploring over the last 4 to 5 years.
What is the Drama Triangle? Imagine the 3 angles of a triangle. Each of the angles represents a different role: The Victim, Villain and Hero.
The Victim is consistently overwhelmed and at the affect of life. Victims say things like, “Poor me, I’ve had a hard day, won’t someone just take care of me, I am so stupid.” The Hero takes care of everyone and everything (even at the expense of themselves). The Hero says, “Don’t worry, I will take care of it, I got it, I will take care of you.” The Villain consistently blames others for any and every outcome. It says things like, “you did it wrong, you are so stupid, you are incompetent, you are so unaware.”
Justin and I have been studying this system for years, yet to be honest, we find ourselves in these roles more often than we would like to admit. Why? Because drama is addictive, and it is a brilliantly captivating distraction from feeling our feelings, opening our hearts, and being in presence. The payoff for hanging out in Victim, Villain or Hero is adrenaline, and adrenaline is one of the most addictive substances on this planet.
You know you have been on the triangle because you eventually crash. When you hang out on the drama triangle you use a lot of energy. You also know you are on the triangle when others (like your partner) show up in one of the other roles. When you are committed to one of the roles on the triangle (victim, for example), you unconsciously “require” others to show up on the triangle with you (in villain or hero).
So what is the point of learning all of this? It is an awareness practice. When you know you are on the drama triangle, you have located yourself. Once you are located you know you have the choice to stay there or shift.
How to Shift…
When Justin and I recognize we are interacting on the drama triangle, we start by naming it, “Honey-bun, I think I am being a Villain right now. What do you think?” From there, we either playfully exaggerate our role (a great shift move), or we breathe, get present and open up to what is really going on by saying things like, “Hmmm…. I wonder what emotions are wanting my attention right now?” Or, “I wonder what what is really true for me right now?” Getting off of the triangle means coming back into presence. When we are in presence we have the opportunity to deeply connect with ourselves and our partner. Connection can feel scary sometimes, thus making the alternative an alluring choice.
Our Invitation: In your relationship, which role do you typically occupy on the drama triangle (victim, villain or hero)? Which role are you “requiring” your partner to show up in? Spend some time this week getting to know adrenaline. What does adrenaline feel like in your body? Be friendly and gentle with yourself as you open up to this practice. Play with noticing when you are on the triangle, and play with shifting off the triangle into greater presence and deeper connection. We are on the journey with you… so feel free to share your thoughts and comments on www.DailyRelationship.com, www.facebook.com/DailyRelationship, and www.youtube.com/DailyRelationship. This is such a good one… Thank you sweet friends!
- Juna & Justin