Drama is something that everyone experiences. Have you ever wondered why that is? Let’s start at the beginning and ask: How does our drama begin in the first place?

The simple, yet complex, explanation is that all of us as human beings learn and develop strategies to get what we want as children and to overcome or deal with fear. Infants and toddlers are little beings looking up at a big scary world filled with giant and powerful adults.  They used their innate survival instincts to secure food, sleep, warmth, love and safety.

No one can escape the small-child experience of figuring out how to survive and deal with what the child sees as scary experiences. The creative genius of the young, underdeveloped mind adapts in amazing ways.

Psychologist Karen Horney studied human nature and identified 3 different strategies that children can use to respond to fears. They are:

  1. Moving toward people to please, accommodate and be helpful. From a child’s perspective, if I please others, they will love and care for me.
  2. Moving away from others to avoid, withdraw, observe and wait. This is based upon the child’s belief that if they isolate and “stay above the fray” they will be safe.
  3. Moving against others by being aggressive. Here the child develops the idea that, if they use control and domination, they will manage their environment to get what they want.

In the late 1960’s, Dr. Stephen Karpman developed the Karpman Drama Triangle, with its three roles of VictimRescuer, and Persecutor. In the TED* work, we call the interplay of these three roles the Dreaded Drama Triangle (DDT) because these roles can become very toxic, like a poison.

Our observation is that all three of Horney’s strategies are a result of victim thinking that says life happens to me and I am powerless to choose my response to life’s challenges.   The resulting behavior from this thinking for the Victim role is to avoid responsibility for their actions, the Persecutor uses control and domination, while the Rescuer moves toward others to please and accommodate.

As we grow older, our “go to” role can become a more exaggerated way of relating to our self and others. We then go on “autopilot” bouncing between all three roles – but relying primarily on our “go too” or default role.

This is how the drama begins!

The discovery of reoccurring DDT roles has meaning only if there is a possibility of liberating ourselves from the repeating drama – and that is where TED* makes its contribution. In order to develop more resourceful and resilient relationships we need a “place to go” beyond saying “just stop the drama!”

Learn more about how to make shifts happen from the DDT roles of Victim, Persecutor, and Rescuer to the more empowered and resilient TED* (*The Empowerment Dynamic)® roles of Creator, Challenger, and Coach. Visit our library and archives for helpful information.

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