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Drama Triangles: It's Tricky, Tricky, Tricky!

My arms stick adhesively to the poisonous web. The black widow of martyrdom stalks closer. I’m glued to the web by shame, fear that it's all my fault. The web itself is woven of blame, a righteous certainty that others have created my pain. I’ve entangled myself in the web of Karpman’s Drama Triangle. We all do it, yet some of us ensnare ourselves more readily. The pattern feels inescapable. I know this, because I identify as highly susceptible. As someone who’s been held captive by this drama triangle, sometimes for YEARS, I can state from experience, this web can be escaped and circumvented. You can free yourself. It’s possible to preserve your sanity.

It starts with fearlessly and shamelessly holding yourself accountable. Then, re-writing the script of your life to align with the Empowerment Triangle.

When I catch myself in the Victim Role, it usually sounds something like: “Why me? How could you? Or Fuck you!” in my head. Sometimes it feels like righteous rage or wiggling, irritating resentment in my guts. Occasionally it’s a short or lengthy list of infractions.

The Empowerment Triangle doesn’t mean pinning yourself beneath the crippling weight of shame. If you can’t move beneath the heaviness, it’s not empowering. Stepping into the Creator role means asking, “How did I contribute to this situation? How have I been complicit? Knowing what I know now, what would I do differently in the future? What is my plan to execute that change? What do I need in order to carry that out?”

For instance, I previously harbored resentment towards the Modern Yoga Community. (What can I say? I’m a resentful girl.) Resenting whole institutions comes easily to me. When I flipped from victim to creator, I became accountable for my contribution to the institution. I could continue to perpetuate what I resented or I could align myself with the movement to make it better. The plan: to present myself as authentically and flaw-somely as possible, AND to prioritize individual well-being over tradition. In order to carry that out, I needed more education. To be clear, stepping up as the creator is FRIGGIN HARD! If it’s a romantic context, it feels impossible. It’s not impossible. It’s a rigorous rainbow ride to freedom.

On to my Savior Complex. (Aren’t I humble?) In my un-checked brain, I want to fix everything for everybody all the time. Until I get tired and then I will contemplate murder over a dirty dish in the sink. How do I step out of that role and cast myself as the cheerleader and coach? Rule number one: I cannot do it for them. So I don’t try. I can cheer them on or support when I’m asked, but I can’t do the work. If I am doing the work, I’m not actually helping. We call that enabling. Rule number two: Boundaries. If I don’t WANT to help, I can’t help you. Supporting the people I love and strangers feels amazing! (It’s kinda selfish actually. Oh well!) and when it doesn’t, it’s not my turn to do it. If my body gets the yucks over answering a phone call, the person won’t benefit from our conversation. They don’t need me. They need themselves. They need connection, which doesn’t have to come directly from this girl. If I give more than it feels delicious to give, I’m giving myself away… and then, I WILL RESENT YOU. Resentment is how the Savior/Martyr transfigures into the Persecutor, quite similar to the Veela in Harry Potter.

Which brings us to the Persecutor. When I have given you everything I have to give and thus I am drained, I will blame YOU for it. That is, if I take the high positioned seat of the persecutor. Often this voice sounds a lot like the Victim. You hurt me! You’re the villain! Other times, the Persecutor reigns down critical edicts like a morally superior judge. Sometimes the persecutor IS THE VILLAIN. We’re all villains in someone’s story. Such is life, a seemingly inescapable Karpman Triangle… unless you re-write the script.

When I banish the Persecutor and claim the role of Challenger, I become the Victim’s opportunity to become the Creator. I can’t do it for them, but I can trust them to rise to the challenge. Some days I’m the coach, the nurturer, the “good cop.” Some days I’m the challenger, the catalyst, the “hard ass.” Some days I’m a creative being learning to claim my place as Creator. When I view the person persecuting me as an opportunity to examine my choices and step up, I know I’m choosing the right triangle for my well being. When I cast the person struggling as a capable being, engaged in life, worthy of love and support, but fully capable of transcending their challenge, if I refuse to rush or steal their lesson, I know I’m in the right triangle for my mental health. When I’m willing to have tough conversations, hold boundaries, or even let people down, I know I’m in the triangle that tells the true story rather than a fictitious drama.

Sounds easy, breezy, right? Not so much, but the pay out is personal power and emotional freedom. Happy triangulating, my friends!