This is my most visited and popular blog/article! Here is how it was developed by me and therapist friend, Ria Meronek. Ria was in Uganda working with the Kibo Foundation, helping to develop skills and confidence in young adults. She concluded that they needed a tool to better manage their relationship drama.
She discovered that no matter where you are in the world there are challenging relationship dynamics. They also want ways to relieve the stress in those situations. They want quick relationship advice. But advice is not as effective as a self-awareness strategy.
I recall Ria saying, There are few resources online that are simple and clear. Through the wonders of Skype, Ria and I dialogued and co-wrote this work.
In order to strengthen the young Ugandan’s resilience and communication skills, Ria introduced them to the poster we called Stop the Drama! It has had a number of edits since then. This FREE and downloadable poster is 8 1/2 x 11. Click Here or on the image. It provides simple reminders from Part 1 and Part 2 to help you move from poor communication to self-responsible communication with no game playing. Post it where you can see it, especially when you are on the phone.
After you read this blog/article (Part 1) which identifies three main communication traps, please, please go to Part 2. The second blog/article offers three healthy and alternative communication positions.
Part One: The Drama Triangle
In the 1960s Transaction Analysis (TA) theory, based on the work of Psychiatrist, Dr. Eric Berne, was popular. Berne simplified and made available to the ordinary person the work of Sigmund Freud. One of Berne’s prodigies, Dr. Stephen Karpman, developed the drama triangle, a tool that took TA from a theory to practical application.
The model describes three unconscious and habitual behavioral habits as roles which people often play out or enact in their relationships. It helps you to move out of relationship drama by no longer enacting the roles of victim, attacker or rescuer.
Here is how:
1. The Victim in Relationship Drama
The person who enacts this role believes life–through a person, condition or circumstance–is unfair to her. This position is supported by self-fulfilling stories about injustice and negative self- talk such as, If only X had not happened, I would not be miserable. Behavior may include passivity, curling into self, and slumped posture.
- The victim believes life is just happening to her, that she has no power over what happens and what happens is never her fault.
- The basic belief of the victim is, Poor me, I give up, I am hopeless, I am helpless. another basic belief is I not Ok while you are definitely Ok.
- A title for the victim’s theme could be, I Will Die If You Don’t Solve My Problem.
Ask yourself the five questions below to check how often you play victim:
- Do I feel hopeless, powerless or incapable of making decisions or making positive changes?
- Do I believe my life is just one problem after another?
- Do I manipulate others or use guilt to get help or get what I want?
- Do I blame others or circumstances for my difficulties?
- Do I focus on my problems?
2. The Attacker (Persecutor) in Relationship Drama
The person who enacts this role tries to control, criticize or bully the victim and believes she has power over the victim. Behavior may include bossiness, criticism, rigidity and insistence on how a problem should be solved.
- From the victim’s perspective persecution may also come from a condition such as an illness or circumstance such as drought.
- The basic belief of the persecutor is, You are not Ok, while I am better than Ok, So do what I tell you to do.
- A title for the persecutor’ theme could be, It’s All Your Fault I Have a Problem!
Ask yourself the four questions below to check how often you play persecutor:
- Do I tell others what to do to solve their problems?
- Do I see others as powerless, incapable and needing to be fixed?
- Do I criticize others?
- Do I speak and act in a rigid, dominating, or bossy manner?
3. The Rescuer in Relationship Drama
The person who enacts this role intrudes on the situation professing a desire to help. Note: This role does not refer to legitimate emergency rescuing.
- The rescuer feels compelled or manipulated to help the victim and feels responsible for the outcome and the victim’s problem. Often an underlying motivation to rescue is to feel superior or in control.
- The basic belief of the rescuer is, You are not OK, but I am nice and I will help you.
- The title for the rescuer’s theme could be, You’re So Messed Up, Let Me Fix the Problem and You.
Ask yourself the five questions below to check how often you play rescuer:
- Do I accept responsibility for fixing problems that are not mine?
- Do I believe I cannot say no to a request for help?
- Do I feel guilty when I say no to a request for help and end up helping nevertheless?
- Do I perceive others as incapable of making good decisions or of helping themselves?
- Do I perceive others as needing to be fixed or their lives needing to be fixed?
Typically the players move around the triangle switching roles. For example, a victim may turn into a persecutor or a rescuer might switch to persecuting.
In actuality, each person is playing out his or her dysfunctional pattern in an attempt to receive the kind of attention or control each unconsciously desires. Think of the melodramas of a damsel in distress looking for a prince to rescue her or the poor-me grandmother desiring attention from her family or the critical father who does not feel appreciated.
Nine Dynamics of Relationship Drama
- Problems are the main focus.
- Typical behaviors include blaming, complaining, pitying, manipulating, guilt provoking.
- Feelings include frustration, anger, guilt, resentment, entitlement, hopelessness, oppressed.
- Power is experienced as either feeling powerless or feeling powerful over others.
- Responsibility ownership is not clear. Individuals may blame themselves, others or the situation rather than take appropriate responsibility for their part in the situation.
- Relationship boundaries are vague, unclear and inconsistent.
- Expectations of self and others are unknown and/or unexpressed.
- Actions are reactive to circumstances and problems.
- Outcomes affect no real change and often result in emotional pain and dissatisfying relationships.
Please do not stop here. Go to How to Stop Your Relationship Drama Part 2 (Click Here).