Column: Ease stress by escaping the drama triangle

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Commentary by Kim Washam

DRAMA.

You’ve probably heard of the Bermuda Triangle….but did you know there is a drama triangle that is just as dangerous to get caught in? Do you find yourself in a cycle of drama with your coworkers, spouse, children, friends, parents, etc.?

You’re not alone. Many people find that they have the same issues happening in their relationships and are feeling stuck in a cycle.

The drama triangle is a dysfunctional communication pattern discovered by psychiatrist Steven Karpman. It can be hard to identify, because it’s not always in a state of drama. There are three positions one can play in the drama triangle. We have the persecutor, the victim and the rescuer. We generally have a preferred position to be in. When we get exhausted in our position or someone else in the triangle with us does, we switch spots.

Let’s use an example to explain. Stephanie is always helping others, always running to the aid of those in need, and she gets a lot of emotional payoff from feeling needed. Until, Stephanie gets tired, worn down, overworks herself and becomes resentful of always being the rescuer. She may switch to the persecutor within her relationships. She begins yelling, screaming, accusing people of being ungrateful for all she does. She is exhausted of rescuing.

The drama triangle can be a subconscious pattern we were taught, or maybe we simply stumbled our way into the triangle of another. It’s a way to avoid dealing with the real issues, thus making the drama cyclical.

Let’s look at how this would work for Stephanie if she was in the same situation but using a more mature way of dealing with her feelings. She would have to look at why she is rescuing, what her payoff is, and how to take control of her life to bring more peace and less stress. Those can be difficult and far deeper issues she has to consider in order to get to a place of emotional maturity in her relationships.

If you think you may be stuck in a triangle or have gotten trapped in another’s, it may be worth it to dig a little deeper and figure out how to get out. Getting out of the triangle can be hard, but less drama sure does feel great.


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