We are often asked, “How do I get out of the Dreaded Drama Triangle (DDT)?” We avoid offering a prescribed answer to that question because each person is unique, and the situations are often too complex.
Your neurology and body are designed to constantly be scanning for threats, so it is on the lookout for what it believes is a dangerous situation. When you perceive a threat, all your systems go on alert and react – which ignites the DDT.
This is a useful system when facing a true threat. However, this biological trigger is not so useful when your reactive thoughts and behavior are unsuitable for the circumstances. In fact, your DDT reaction may often make such situations or relationships worse.
If you can increase the quality of your attention in the moment, this will help you shift away from the reactive areas of your brain and move toward more stabilizing circuits in the prefrontal cortex. The goal is to grow new brain circuits that will increase the probability of sustaining new and more resourceful TED* (*The Empowerment Dynamic)® behaviors.
One consistent recommendation we make in workshops is to simply pause when you notice you have gone reactive and are in the DDT. As a way to pause, in our workshops one recommended process for pausing is an exercise called “Naming 5 Red Things.”
This exercise has been popularized by leadership coaches who use brain-based programs. The idea is to notice when you are getting triggered, pause and simply look around and name 5 red things. As you do that, your nervous system naturally calms because you have given the brain something to do.
Rather than go reactive, the brain must distinguish the color red (and it can be any color) and count to 5. It only takes a few seconds and a simple way to “get out of the DDT.”
After one workshop, we received this email from a participant, describing how the “Naming 5 Red Things” exercise helped her son (and her family) to get out of the DDT:
Last night, my sweet four-year-old became angry and went to hit his sister.
In the moment I said, “Hey, guess what I learned today?!?”.
He froze in his tracks and said, “What,” with a sneer.
“I learned that whenever I feel angry and feel so much energy in my body that I want to hit something or someone, I say PAUSE! I then look around the room and find FIVE red things. Do you want to try?”
“Yes!” he said.
He proceeded to find five red things, full attention on the hunt and naming the objects her found.
Now calmed down, he asked with a smile, “Mama, can we do this EVERY time?”
This moment, historically, would have resulted in a fight between his sister, our son heading to a timeout, throwing things in his room and yelling at us to shut up. My husband getting mad, and then me getting mad at him for getting mad at our son. Basically, the DDT family style.
Instead it was five seconds, love fully restored, and cuddles commenced on the couch.
I am full of love, gratitude and excitement for this work and especially the 5 Red Things exercise. Thank you!
This simple process can help diffuse many DDT situations. You can also do this in a contentious meeting or any situation without anyone knowing.
As a Creator, you are at choice in how you respond to challenging interactions. “Naming 5 red things” is a memorable tool that can help you pause, calm your neurology, and choose a more empowering response.