Are You Stuck In A Drama Triangle?
Are you stuck in a drama triangle?
Recently there have been a lot of people asking me about difficult relationships and how to handle them and how to stop feeling drained by them. With friends, family, significant otters, employees and clients.
I see it in groups i’m in, from clients, I see it everywhere. I was emailed by a lovely listener who also prompted this episode about something similar.
Also according to good old google analytics, month after month, one of the key reasons people find me is they’re googling this problem and they find me through a blog about how to handle it when your friends and family don’t support your business. (You can read/listen HERE)
A lot of it is purely down to communication and an understanding of communication and HOW we communicate with each other.
It’s down to the information that we delete, distort, our own assumptions, the way we mind read each other and hear what we THINK we’re hearing, which is often not what is actually being said.
We make words and physiology MEAN something, that often they don’t. Essentially you cannot not communicate. One of the presuppositions of NLP is ‘the meaning and outcome of communication is in the response you get’.
What this means is people respond to what they THINK you said, not necessarily what you ACTUALLY said.
It’s also everyone reacting in the only way they know how to their own unconscious programming and beliefs.
The thing is, we’re not taught a lot of the things i’m going to talk to you about.
We all just go around reacting to each other all the time, often not knowing where the hell it came from, or why people can’t just do/be X, Y, Z.
Another of the key presuppositions of NLP is that ‘people are always just trying to do the best they can with the resources they have’. The way they behave is based on the best possible choice available for them at that moment and it always has a positive intent for them.
However, there are a few situations we can change for ourselves with a little bit of knowledge.
As I’m ALWAYS saying, awareness is the first key to change.
So when you can become aware in certain situations instead of in reaction mode, you can shift them around at that moment.
You can’t choose your first reaction to something but you can always choose your second.
There is a big piece around responsibility here too. You can only be responsible for yourself, but be 100% responsible. Own your responsibility in whatever is happening.
That doesn’t mean blame, or beat yourself up in any way, it’s just taking a step back and thinking, ok…what’s my part here, where can I change MY own behaviour to make a difference and have a better outcome.
We often don’t want to because it’s REALLY easy to think it’s (and want it to be!!) the other persons ‘fault’ so it requires a level of humility and honesty.
It’s important to understand a few fundamentals of how we take in the external event…or in this case the communication from someone else.
We filter the information that comes through in a number of ways. We do this because we simply can’t take on the sheer volume of information, it would be sensory overload so our minds have a way of filtering out the key information…and we have already set the parameters of those filters though our own experience and also things other people (primary care givers, the media etc) have taught us since we were tiny.
So much of this is going to tie back in nicely to the things I have taught in other episodes and hopefully you’ll start to see how it all links together.
So, firstly, we delete things.
We delete information based on our own maps of the world and what makes sense to us. Essentially it’s like selective hearing.
Next we distort what we’re hearing, and the experience itself.
This is where we THINK something is one way, but it could very well be another.
For example, you could think someone is rolling their eyes at you but in reality they just looked at something across the room. You can swear blind it was an eye roll…but it wasn’t. Or you sense a tone that wasn’t there or think you heard them say something that actually they didn’t.
Next we generalise.
This is where we will use ‘always’ and ‘never’ in our language.
Something may have happened once or twice, but we generalise it out to everything.
For example, ‘you never take the bins out’. It’s probably not true in reality but we really think it is until we challenge it.
We filter conversations through our own values and beliefs.
What’s important to us and what we believe to be true, what we believe is good, bad, right or wrong.
Then we use language to attach meaning and to make sense of what’s going on.
So you can see how a lot of assumptions are made.
We essentially ‘mind read’ other people based on all of these things.
Knowing this can allow us to take a step back and work out if what we’re thinking or believing is actually true or not.
I have a couple of helpful models that may help illustrate how we communicate and how we can actually make a change. I promise I won’t get too ‘technical’ so you can practically apply it.
I want to talk a little bit to you about the basics of Karpman’s Drama Triangle. It’s essentially a model of human interaction, specifically applied to any sort of conflict.
In the drama triangle you have 3 roles.
The victim (this is someone who FEELS like a victim, not an actual victim), the rescuer and the persecutor.
The victim is coming at it from a ‘poor me’ mentality.
Powerless, oppressed and feeling stuck in a negative situation that they believe they have no responsibility in and have no power in.
The victim will seek out a rescuer so they can take the responsibility away from themselves but they will also seek out a persecutor as being persecuted reinforces their own negative unconscious beliefs about themselves.
Then you have the persecutor. They think they have all the power in the situation. They are controlling and blame, they take a position of authority.
Then you have the rescuer who comes from a place of very good intentions but also takes the power away from the victim.
Essentially they are an enabler, so it really doesn’t help the victim in the long run. They don’t empower the victim to get out of the situation.
You can switch between all 3 roles and each role is having their unconscious needs met.
That could be the need to be right, the need to be powerless or the need to ‘rescue’ which will all serve to reinforce their unconscious beliefs and identity.
All 3 roles need each other. Everyone involved gets a positive payback of some sort.
The rescuer and victim can end up creating codependency because they each need each other.
So often the rescuer unconsciously tries to keep the victim where they are because it validates their ‘need to be needed’ and the victim is happy to stay there because it validates their need to be rescued and not take responsibility and they get taken care of.
To keep the drama triangle going all 3 roles need to stay in it.
To stop the drama triangle, one person has to decide to leave…and then do it!
They have to become aware of what has been unconsciously going on and make a conscious choice to leave and stop giving the other roles their positive payback.
For the Persecutor to leave they need to be able to find empathy for the victim and be honest about the role they’ve been playing.
For the rescuer to leave they have to be honest about the part they’ve been playing and distance themselves from the situation (because let’s be honest it’s nothing to do with them anyway!)
For the victim to leave they need to empower themselves, take responsibility and most importantly, WANT to quit the triangle because if they don’t WANT to all that will happen if someone else leaves they will find another person to fulfill that role.
Transactional analysis, of which the drama triangle is a part of, talks of the three ego states, Parent, child and adult.
Again, an understanding of this really helps to create that awareness that allows you to take a step back and make a different conscious choice.
Each ego state has positive and negative traits.
For example, the positives of the parent state are nurturing, responsible, gentle, encouraging, loving, supportive, protective, kind, warm and empowering.
The negatives might be bossy, critical, domineering, condescending, controlling, nagging, suffocating, fault finding, smothering.
The positives to a child state might be curiosity, spontaneity, adventurous, joyful, creative, fearless, uninhibited, open minded, non judgemental and enthusiastic.
Whereas the negatives might be immature, needy, whining, sulky, selfish, stubborn, demanding, irresponsible, unreasonable, i, the odd tantrum here and there, annoying and manipulative.
Now the adult state draws on the positives of both.
It’s about responding and not reacting.
Usually in conflict you have one person in parent and one person in child state.
All of these things are noticeable in our body language, our gut response, our intonation and how we say things, and ultimately form our actions.
When you can meet each other both in an adult state you can create a far better outcome for both.
Adult state allows you to gain perspective and reframe. You’re both conscious and aware and able to make better choices and take responsibility.
It’s really helpful to talk briefly about cause and effect when it comes to communication too.
When you’re at effect you have all the fun stuff that takes the power away from you. Excuses, reasons, blame, playing the victim.
You can see how it takes away your power. You’re essentially not seeing the correlation between yourself and the pattern or behaviour, it’s all about the external influences.
However, when you’re at cause you get all that power back!
This is how you change behaviour.
Focus on, own and take responsibility for YOUR part and YOUR behaviour….and then watch how your changes change the people around you. It’s magic stuff!
So where are you right now? At cause, or effect?
Where are you not taking responsibility?
Remember it’s NOT about blame, being WRONG or FAULT, it’s about seeing your part, no matter how small.
Understanding how you perhaps could have contributed to creating a situation or causing a reaction that may not have happened if you were consciously aware of your behaviour or language.
Understanding these really do allow you to take back power and approach difficult communications and relationships differently. It can help you create empathy or understanding for the other people involved.
It can help you reframe or reassess what’s REALLY going on and take a lot of the raw emotion out of it.
So where are you in your own little drama triangle?
Where are you in parent or child state where you could shift into adult?
This has been just a brief introduction for you and if you want to delve deeper do any research into transactional analysis there are TONNES of books and studies on the subject.
If you know that now is the time to start changing things for yourself and want to explore this further, have any questions or want some accountability to make sure you’re doing the things you need to then please book in a free discovery call so we can see what needs to happen to get you from where you’re at right now, to the successful business owner you know you can be!!
P.S – Last question…Are you sick of self sabotaging and procrastinating on getting your business going? Would you like to learn some practical strategies to stop you procrastinating WHEN it happens so you can FINALLY get the things you NEED to do DONE? Download my FREE guide below and I’ll show you 5 simple strategies to stop procrastination in its tracks!
Fran Excell, Mindset and Productivity Coach & Mentor helping business owners overcome self sabotage and get more done, in less time at www.franexcell.com
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