This past holiday weekend (Thanksgiving here in the U.S.), I had the “growth opportunity” to experience first-hand a breakdown in a most important relationship.

We both struggled with the downward spiral of the Dreaded Drama Triangle (DDT) and the all-too-familiar dynamic of “Victim! Victim! Who’s the Victim?”  In this “game” (as Transactional Analysis* calls such a dynamic between individuals), both parties lay claim to the Victim role and react to the other as the Persecutor.  Both feel victimized as the game plays out and both want a Rescuer to emerge to end the game (and, often, to declare who is to blame for the breakdown and who is the “legitimate heir” to the mantle of Victim).

Our question became: “How to break the cycle?”

One insight that arose from the breakdown and exploration was that explaining and justifying one’s actions and perspective tends to perpetuate the DDT.  Instead, we found, what seems to help is to own one’s contribution to the breakdown and to acknowledge it.  Reviewing the sequence of events from the perspective of “what I did to contribute” – rather than “what you did to make me react/feel bad” – can be useful in identifying what behaviors patterns arose.

Once the behaviors are identified – and the DDT role(s) from which they came – we then have the possibility of choosing to make the shift into The Empowerment Dynamic (TED).  We can shift from Victim to Creator by speaking to what we want to create and from Persecutor to Challenger by shifting from an intention to look good or “be right” to speaking from an intention of learning and growth for both parties.  We can also break the cycle by shifting into the role of Coach (rather than Rescuer) and ask questions that help identify what we want to create and/or learn.

Breaking the cycle by owning our contribution and making the shift is a process that is useful in all aspects of life and relationships: at work, at home, in our communities, etc.  To do so is call an effective and empowering end to the DDT “game.”

(* In searching for a link to a brief explanation of Transactional Analysis [TA] and the idea of “games,” I came across the following interesting and useful video describing the DDT in TA terms:  This is actually the third in a trilogy of videos, all three of which I recommend watching.)