When my friend Odette (Odette Hoffman, psychotherapist) told me about the Drama Triangle it took a while for the real-life implications to really sink into my brain. Finally, when I did read the Drama Triangle information here I loved how it tied in with all the other reading I’d done (plus real life). Marrying Karpman’s information with my idea of Mindful Disconnection with children, certainly has helped us a lot in our parenting (you can read about that here: When Nurturing becomes Rescuing – Mindful Disconnection – Pt Five) and then I had a real life adult experience of it, which I want to share, because I think it could also be helpful to others.
(I *know* I kept calling it a Power Triangle in the previous post – I got that into my head and it wouldn’t leave, I’ve edited it now. It is called a Drama Triangle, but it sure feels like a Power Triangle when you’re in it!)
The person with whom I had this conversation is someone who has been in my life for a while, and not someone I can cut out of my life. I think many of us find ourselves in this position whether dealing with family members, work associates or neighbours. It is best to cut toxic people from our lives. (Something I was so relieved to learn – having been raised to ‘make an effort’ and ‘be polite’ to everyone.) However, it is not always possible to cut toxic people from our lives.
Here’s an abbreviated version of the conversation. I should have Mindfully Disconnected earlier, but it’s damned hard to when you’re in the pattern of response that I’m in. Now I *am* disconnecting and it’s empowering!
Me: ” I’m saving a little bit of money each payday so that I can buy new tops in the spring. I should be able to fit my old size 10 (US size 8) pants by then so it’ll be like having a whole new wardrobe.”
Other Person: *looks me up and down and sneers* “Do you think you’ll ever get down to size 10 again?” (persecutor)
Me: “Yes, I’m back on the diet I was on last year, and it’s going well.” (Last year I lost 10kg – 44 pounds – and gained loads of energy by using a system that keeps my insulin levels as even as possible. I have another 10kg to go to get down to the ideal body fat ratio of 24.5% for my age, which given that I have 20+ weeks to lose it, it is absolutely do-able.)
Other Person: “Well, you know I’m walking for half an hour a day and I’ve lost two inches from my waist without changing how I eat.” (rescuer, here’s ‘better’ information)
Me: “I like what I’m doing and want to do things my way.”
Other Person: “Aren’t I allowed to have an opinion, then?” (victim)
Me: “Hmmmm. Oh, is that the time. Must go.” (Mindfully Disconnecting)
You can see how this kind of thing can completely mess with your head! By swinging from role to role in the Drama Triangle this person
keeps kept me second guessing my own views/opinions/values. I’ve done this a lot I realise particularly with this person, but with others too.
I would offer information, as you do, to share something that’s going on in my life. It would be implied that I had got it wrong. Then alternative information given (often incorrect as it turns out). Then, if I did make a stand of any kind, the victim role was played. How could I ever learn to trust my own instincts or try things out for myself with this kind of thing going on? I never knew if I was coming or going!
Now when I have to speak to this person. I am a lot more aware of the psychological games going on. Mostly, I can listen to their drama without becoming involved myself. I emotionally detach and don’t offer as much personal information. If I need to, I become distracted by the children or the weather or whatever. Otherwise I just let their words wash over me, without taking it all personally. I’ve known for a while that I needed to keep their problems with them – but I couldn’t for the life of me work out how. Now that I can recognise their position in Karpman’s Drama Triangle, at any given time, I am more likely to Mindfully Disconnect and leave my sense of self intact. It’s not a perfect art for me yet, but it certainly is wonderfully empowering to experience my progress in this area.
Incidentally, I have no doubt that this person means well and has no idea that their behaviour is so psychologically destructive. This person is not malicious, just incredibly unaware.
So there you go. I’d love to hear if you have had similar experiences and, if you do Mindfully Disconnect, how that goes for you. I love, love, love it when people comment!
(This is officially how I help put food on the table. If you’ve found this article useful, please feel free to use the Koha button just above my blogroll. Even the smallest amount is appreciated. 🙂 )