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  • Writer's pictureNatalie Hartney, LPC NCC

The Endless Dysfunctional Dance

The dreaded drama triangle. Ever been in an endless fight? After you read this, you may never see the argument the same way again. This is a good thing, because you can avoid being ensnared. You might ask, "How can I do that when they always say..." The answer is, you can control it because you control you. So, let's review some basic geometry, shall we?

We all know from elementary school that triangles have three points. For our purposes, each point will represent a role we adopt when communicating dysfunctionally. Ever accused someone of something in an aggressive way? How about felt deeply injured by someone? Finally, have you ever felt forced to fix something, even if it wasn't your issue?

Can you think of times when you have been each or all of these? The dysfunctional triad, or Drama Triangle is made up of a victim (primary role), a persecutor (who the victim blames for their troubles) and a rescuer (who wishes to alleviate the pain of the victim). And we handily move through each of these roles as we attack, retreat, reenergize, manipulate and get manipulated. It's a terrible dance and it can feel like the music will never stop. There is an alternative, but first:

Imagine a scene where a couple is fighting. One strikes the other. The police arrive, and grab the striker, only to be hit by the person who was just being hit! They scream, "Don't you hurt them!" Well, the attacker has victimized, the rescuer arrives, only to be attacked by the victim. The rescuer will in turn attack back...and it's all a mess. These roles change very quickly, without thought of consequence. 

The Victim message is "I am not okay" and "I need someone to fix this." They will seek a rescuer to validate these feelings. The Persecutor message is, "This is your fault" and "Do what I say, I know what I am doing." The Rescuer message is,"You need my help" and, "You're not okay, but I am nice and will fix you." These are all dysfunctional states of mind and will entrench people in deeply disempowering positions. 

The empowering alternative to the drama triangle is to realign thinking and responses. Next week's post will cover The Empowerment Dynamic and will offer suggestions to move out of these roles of powerlessness, force, and rescue.

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