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The Drama Triangle: Persecutor, Victim, and Rescuer

It's called the "drama triangle", because everyone is distracted from their unresolved baggage and instead acting out a completely misguided fantasy.

  1. Peace
    After narcissistic abuse, survivors often fall into more dramatic and toxic situations. This can usually be explained by the Karpman Drama Triangle - when someone is made to feel worthless or powerless, they tend to take on the "victim" identity, which makes them feel they need to be "rescued", which attracts "rescuers" (who have major issues of their own). Victims also attract more narcissists and sociopaths, who use charm and sympathy to play the "knight in shining armor" role.

    Alternatively, survivors may also become "rescuers" themselves. By saving others and obsessing about their problems, they gain false confidence to distract from their own severely damaged self worth. This attracts "victims", who will never learn how to be independently happy when they have a "rescuer". The rescuer feels safe knowing the damaged person needs them. The rescuer also attracts narcissists / sociopaths, who prey on the constant "giving".

    This is called the "drama triangle", because everyone is distracted from their unresolved baggage and instead acting out a completely misguided fantasy. It is inevitably doomed to fail with everyone's negative self-beliefs reinforced. Nobody is growing or learning.

    No matter how much the rescuer does, it will never be enough to cure the victim's inner issues, which reinforces the rescuer's fear of "not enough". The rescuer ends up resenting the victim, who will then feel persecuted again, reinforcing their fear of being powerless.

    And the cycle repeats itself.

    In the end, nobody wins, everybody loses. The problem is that these are internal issues (usually issues that are unknown or unfelt), and the participants are all looking for external solutions. We leave this triangle by doing the hard independent work to heal ourselves and release old messages of powerlessness, worthlessness, etc.

    This is accomplished by slowing down, learning mindfulness, and building a relationship with ourselves. What's going on inside of our minds and bodies? What are we so reluctant to feel? What are we hoping someone else will cure that we cannot cure ourselves?

    When we resolve these old painful beliefs, there is no longer anything to "save" or "be saved" from. We are unconditionally loved and accepted as we are. Participants in the drama triangle are resistant to that idea. Mindfulness and therapy can help us understand why.

    Abusive people use shame and blame to imprint messages inside of you that you are inherently bad and separate from love. Our bodies can do some pretty incredible things to protect us from feeling that pain. But the only way out of this cycle is by feeling the pain, and releasing it.

    Those old messages are not true, but they are very real and persistent. No amount of saving or being saved will get rid of them. You're the only one who can save yourself.

    I've written a new book about long-term healing. Whole Again is now published! If you would like to be notified about future books, you can enter your email address below. This is not a mailing list. Just a one-time notification:

Article Author: Peace