Donna recently took a cross-country trip with her three adult children. The last night of their trip, her son enjoyed a night out with friends, feasting on hot wings and a few beverages. As the family headed to the airport early the next morning, it was obvious that Donna’s son had a painful bout of indigestion.
Arriving at the airport, Donna made a beeline to a convenience store to buy her son a roll of antacids. She came up with several ideas about what he should eat for breakfast before they boarded the plane.
As the Rescuer in Donna took full flight, she unconsciously handed him the antacids and asked him what he had eaten that caused his painful indigestion. He confessed that he knew the hot wings would upset his stomach, but it was easier to simply go along with what his friends were eating.
As Donna continued to make several suggestions about how to “fix” his painful indigestion, his older sister calmly said:
“Being responsible isn’t always convenient.”
Donna stopped in her tracks and simply held that statement in her mind for a few moments.
Suddenly she saw the family Dreaded Drama Triangle (DDT)™ in action. She viewed her son as a Victim to his Persecuting indigestion and she defaulted to her role as Rescuer for him, even though he had not asked for help. Her role as the rescuing mother emerged automatically as soon as she heard her son was in pain.
Her oldest daughter, however, decided not to play the family drama game. Instead, she stepped into the TED* Challenger role. The Challenger tells the truth without blame or judgment, with no desire to control the situation or blame circumstances or the person. Simply stating, in a timely moment, that taking responsibility is not always convenient was a powerful Challenger statement.
The Victim mentality is rooted in the belief that one is powerless to life’s conditions and events. Life comes at you, rather than you stepping into life and focusing on what you want and need.
The powerful question we suggest for shifting from Victim to Creator is to ask yourself: “Given the situation, what do I really want?” However, as Donna’s story with her children illustrates, sometimes it isn’t enough to simply pause and ask what you want in the moment. The next step is to take responsibility for action.
Her son may have figured out a way to relieve his pain. But why should he take responsibility when he knows at some level that his mom will help? Taking responsibility isn’t always easy or convenient, but it’s almost impossible when a Rescuer takes charge in the name of “being helpful.”
Many people tell us that they have a difficult time learning to be a Challenger. They tell us they understand the Victim to Creator shift, and the Rescuer to Coach shift but the Persecutor to Challenger shift isn’t obvious.
Donna’s oldest daughter nailed the Challenger role with her brief statement. Her intent was about learning; not winning, being right, criticizing or shaming.
With her truth-telling statement she also exposed Donna’s Rescuing pattern that is so easy to slip into, especially as a parent. Taking responsibility can be hard and inconvenient. It is even harder when a Rescuer interjects themselves into a situation without being asked.
All relationships, especially family dynamics, are at risk of slipping into the DDT. Thanks to her wise adult children, Donna learned that lesson when she least expected it.