Every now and again psychological theory seeps into our everyday life, formerly through the medium of self-help books/seminars and now more commonly through TED Talks, blogs and even memes!
I like that we live in a world where we can use terms such as ’inner child’ within the common language, even if sometimes the true psychological meaning of a term becomes diluted or changed through misinterpretation (narcissism is a great example of this!) . As a whole, mental health and psychology in general is becoming more acceptable as a topic, thereby allowing greater empathy and understanding for your own behaviours and that of your fellow man.
In my work I will often share certain theories and concepts for just this reason, as by understanding ourselves in a wider concept can often give us a sense of belonging and acceptance that we might not have considered before. One such theory was one of favourites during training, as it offered a very simplistic but meaningful understanding of my own behaviour and how I related to others: The Drama Triangle.
The basic idea is that during our life we may find ourselves in a position where we have inadvertently adopted one (or more) of the above roles; Rescuer, Victim or Persecutor. I’ll explain them briefly here…
A Rescuer for example is ‘someone you can rely upon’. They are the Mr and Mrs fix-it’s of the world, who will consistently put the needs of others before themselves. They manage anxiety and stress by smoothing things over and are most likely known as ‘positive’ people,
A Victim on the other hand is someone who feels absolutely powerless in their everyday life. This is a person who can be heard saying ‘why does this always happen to me?’ They may find themselves feeling powerless and incapable of doing things alone and may expect/wait for others to come to their rescue.
Finally we have a persecutor. These are people who feel the need to present a ‘strong’ outer image, rejecting help from anyone and only feeling comfortable when they have power over another. They may appear to need nobody but themselves and will insist that they’re fine going it alone.
Do they remind you of anyone? Is this familiar in the way your relationships work? For us to exist in these roles, we will find ourselevs involved with people who often occupy an opposing position eg/ A rescuer will unknowingly have lots of victims in their lives. The quality of the relationship between these two people is therefore familiar but also inevitable. This is comforting on the one hand but will ultimately lead to feelings of being misunderstood and disconnected.
I’m pretty sure the majority of us can admit to possessing some, if not all of the above traits and yet for many we will find ourselves repeatedly adopting one of these positions regularly within a high number of relationships. When we first adopt one of these roles they are often borne out of a reaction to an uncomfortable situation (a child with divorcing parents trying to keep the peace for example) and the act of becoming a Rescuer, Victim or Persecutor serves as a great distraction from what we are actually feeling at the time. This makes sense at the time, but over time and with regular occurrences, adopting this position without thinking can be hurtful.
In all of these above examples, what you are actually doing is pushing people away and denying yourself the right to be heard. It becomes a barrier to relationships and leaves us feeling misunderstood and alone.
So what can we do about it?
Having empathy and compassion for yourself is a really good start. Figuring out why you adopted this position in the first place can be a great indicator of who you believe you are and what you have to offer. Be curious about your relationships and see whether you can identify the roles you take with your partner/your family/your boss. If you can relate to one of these more than another, ask yourself what you’re really achieving by blindly following this routine.
As I said, this was one of my favourite theories during training and it has personally offered me a great insight to who I am and how I work. Having awareness means we have a choice in who we are moving forward, which ultimately brings greater peace and satisfaction.