Violence Anonymous - Drama Triangle Roles



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The following Drama Triangle Roles are taken from Lynne Forest's Three Faces of Victim

Summary of the Drama Triangle Roles

The three roles on the victim triangle are Persecutor, Rescuer and Victim. Karpman placed these three roles on an inverted triangle and described them as being the three aspects, or faces of victim. No matter where we may start out on the triangle, victim is where we end up, therefore no matter what role we’re in on the triangle, we’re in victimhood. If we’re on the triangle we’re living as victims, plain and simple!
Each person has a primary or most familiar role - what I call their “starting gate” position. This is the place from which we generally enter, or “get hooked” onto, the triangle. We first learn our starting gate position in our family of origin. Although we each have a role with which we most identify, once we’re on the triangle, we automatically rotate through all the positions, going completely around the triangle, sometimes in a matter of minutes, or even seconds, many times every day.

Starting Gate Rescuers (SGR) see themselves as “helpers” and “caretakers”. They need someone to rescue (victim) in order to feel vital and important. It's difficult for SGR’s to recognize themselves as ever being in a victim position - they’re the ones with the answers after all.

Starting Gate Victims (SGV) believe they cannot take care of themselves. They see themselves as consistently unable to handle life.

Starting Gate Persecutors (SGP), on the other hand, identify themselves primarily as victims. They are usually in complete denial about their blaming tactics. When it is pointed out to them, they argue that attack is warranted and necessary for self protection. These two - the Rescuer and the Persecutor - are the two opposite extremes of Victim. But again, regardless of where we start out on the triangle, all roles eventually end up in victim. It's inevitable.

You may notice that both the Persecutor and Rescuer are on the upper end of the triangle. These roles assume a “one-up” position over others, meaning they relate as though they are better, stronger, smarter, or more-together than the victim. Sooner or later the victim, who is in the one-down position at the bottom of the triangle, develops a metaphorical "crick in the neck" from always looking up. Feeling “looked-down upon” or “less-than” the others, the Victim builds resentment and sooner or later retaliates. A natural progression from victim to persecutor follows. This generally moves the persecutor or rescuer into victim. Reminiscent of a not-so-musical game of musical chairs, all players sooner or later rotate positions.

Starting Gate Beliefs
Each starting gate position has a “script” made to order for their particular dance around the triangle. These “scripts” consist of a particular set of beliefs through which the world and ourselves are seen.

The Rescuer Story

Rescuers believe that their needs are unimportant and irrelevant. This means that the only way they can legitimately connect with others, feel valued and have their needs met is through the back door of care-taking. Rescuers chastise themselves when they aren't care-taking others. Their starting gate story is; "If I take care of others well enough and long enough, then I will be fulfilled. It’s the only way to be loved." Unfortunately, Rescuers are involved with life-time Victims who have no idea of how to be there for them. This reinforces the SG Rescuer’s story that says they shouldn’t be needy, which then produces more shame and deeper denial surrounding their own needs.

The Victim Story 
Guilt and shame are the driving forces for the perpetuation of the Triangle. Guilt is often used by Victims in an effort to manipulate their Rescuers into taking care of them: "If you don't do it, who will?” The Victims’ story says they can’t make it on their own and they prove it to themselves over and over on the triangle. They believe that they are innately defective and incapable and so spend their lives on the look-out for someone to “save” them. Though this is what they feel they must have, i.e., a savior, they are simultaneously angry at their rescuers because they feel put down by and looked down on by their caretakers.

The Persecutor Story
Persecutors who believe the world is dangerous, use fear and intimidation as tools for keeping others in their place. What they don’t see is how their methods for providing “safety” end up proving to them that life is indeed as dangerous as they believe it to be. Their story says that they are innocent bystanders in a dangerous world where others are always out to hurt them. It’s survival of the fittest and their only chance is to strike first. This story keeps them in perpetual defense/offense modus operandi.


© [Lynne Forest]
Reprinted with permission of the author. Approved for use in Violence Anonymous by the VA Fellowship-Wide Group Conscience [in future: Violence Anonymous World Services, Inc.]. VA’s use of this piece of writing does not imply VA’s endorsement of the author’s other works or activities.

Copyright © 2004 Violence Anonymous World Services, Inc. All rights reserved.