In our TED* work we contend that the Victim (or Problem) Orientation is our default mindset as human beings. This way of moving through our life experience has us primary focused on the problems we face in our life – and in the world. These problems engage an inner state of anxiety or fear which causes us to react to whatever is going on.
One practice we have found helpful for ourselves and our clients is to identify our Reactive Triggers and the Reactive Strategies we employ – often unconsciously.
Think about the situations in which you find yourself in the Problem Orientation. What are the triggers or hooks that typically set you into the problem-based focus, regardless of the situation? Reactive Triggers may be part of the environment or physical space, such as a stuffy room or noisy background. They may be part of the situation, such as time constraints or difficult tasks. Or the triggers may derive from another person, such as aggressive attitudes or a boss with outlandish expectations.
Each of us has strategies for responding to these Reactive Triggers. These are personal and purposeful, at times varying from one situation to the next. Some examples of Reactive Strategies can range from switching to a more aggressive approach to going silent and withdrawing from others. A Reactive Strategy can also be a change in pace. Some people will speed up their efforts when faced with a Reactive Trigger; others will stall and/or procrastinate.
Take a few minutes to list as many Reactive Triggers as you can. What kinds of people, circumstances or situations cause you to “go reactive?” Then go back through the list and briefly describe how you react when triggered – what is your strategy?
And then there is one more step. As you look at each strategy, identify which of the Dreaded Drama Triangle™ (DDT) roles are most closely associated with your reactive strategy. For instance, “going silent” probably means you are in the Victim role. Becoming aggressive or blaming is likely a Persecutor reaction. Trying to fix or take care of someone you see as a Victim puts you in the Rescuer role.
Once you identify the DDT role, you are then in a better position to consciously shift to the “antidote” role in TED* (*The Empowerment Dynamic)™. Asking yourself “how do I choose to respond?” moves you from Victim to Creator. Putting your focus and intention on learning helps shift you from Persecutor to Challenger. By asking questions to help another determine what actions they can take allows you to support them as a Coach rather than a Rescuer.
Just by becoming aware of your reactive triggers and strategies – and the roles they spawn – can help you prepare for more resourceful responses when you find yourself “going reactive.”