Self-care; the only way out of the drama triangle

Do you know someone who works hard to be the biggest victim in the room?  Someone who is never accountable.  Someone who blames everyone else for everything.  Someone who makes sure their needs are met first and doesn’t think much about anyone else’s feelings.  Someone who tends to be manipulative to get what they want.  Chances are they’re an addict.  Let me be clear, addict can mean many things.  This person might have an obvious addiction like alcohol, drug, gambling or porn.  Or they may have a less obvious, covert or hidden addiction like overspending, religion, relationships or work.  

Addicts also lack impulse control.  They move quickly from pain to blame.  They have a great deal of difficulty managing stress and have high emotional reactivity.  Even when they’re not actively dependent on their substance of choice, they often still present with these traits.  They struggle to prove their worth and present with insecurity.  

How do you navigate a relationship with someone like this?  Very carefully, with self-care in mind and with strong, healthy boundaries.  You must remember what part is yours and what part isn’t yours.  It can be hard to be around someone like this because you can dip easily into their shame story, taking on aspects of what they’re feeling.  The following is my interpretation of the drama triangle, also known as the Karpman triangle, developed in the 1970’s by psychiatrist Steven Karpman.  

Sometimes you find yourself falling into a codependent relationship with an addict where the addict plays the victim in the diagram below.  You are the rescuer and try to help or save them.  Unfortunately, as soon as you take on the role of rescuer to help the victim/addict, you get pushed into victim and now the addict gets pushed into persecutor – causing YOU to feel pain and suffering.  This cycle goes around and around without end.  The ONLY way out of this triangle is for you to pay careful attention to self-care.  

You have to tune in and ask yourself, is this a ‘yes’ for me?  Am I helping and supporting, or am I enabling?  Rescuers will sacrifice their own needs to help the victim which ultimately hurts them both.  When we help someone at our own expense, we ultimately help no one because we end up resenting the person we’re trying to support and our help comes at a large cost to our self-care and self-preservation.  The rescuer is also victim-dependent.  Helping the victim is a way for the rescuer to feel needed and important.  They also feel a tremendous amount of guilt if they’re not in a role of saving or rescuing.  If you notice feeling this way, you’re in the triangle.  

Paying careful attention to your motivations will help you evaluate your participation in this cycle.  Are you motivated by the thought of saving, protecting or curing the victim?  If so, you’re part of the cycle that keeps you both trapped.  Carefully assess yourself and your choices.  Your keen awareness of good self-care practices will help you stay grounded and healthy.  


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

For security, use of Google's reCAPTCHA service is required which is subject to the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.

I agree to these terms.