Last week we wrote about the Rescuer’s delusions. This week we are focusing on the Persecutor’s obsessions. Next week we’ll delve deeper into the Victim role, which is the third and final role that makes-up the Dreaded Drama Triangle (DDT)™.
The origin of the three DDT roles is rooted in early childhood. As infants and toddlers looking up to powerful adults, the child develops survival instincts to secure food, sleep, warmth, safety and love. The environment in which they grow can sometimes be scary and unstable.
While the Rescuer’s strategy is to become pleasing and accommodating or “move toward” others to be loved, the Persecutor’s strategy is to “move against” others by being aggressive and controlling to create an illusion of safety. When in the Persecuting role, a person often has an underlying fear of becoming a Victim. Therefore, they adopt the idea that it is better to dominate, than to be dominated.
We have identified three obsessions when a person takes on the Persecuting role.
Obsession #1: My world is dangerous, so I need to be vigilant.
This first obsession affirms the Persecutor’s core belief that the world is unsafe and they will get hurt if they don’t aggressively stay on the lookout for danger. It is likely that sometime in their life they experienced chaos or insecurity and adopted a “survival of the fittest” mentality. Ever vigilant, they often wear down other people with their persistent need to control. Persecutors believe that their controlling strategies will minimize the threats and uncertainty they feel.
Obsession #2: I must control and be on top.
The need to win and convince others that they are right evolves from their vigilant need to control, win or stay on top, sometimes at all costs. Their world view is divided between winners and losers, right and wrong, and they determine what and who is right and wrong. Persecutors shudder at the thought that they may be perceived as weak. In the work world, a Persecuting manager uses any number of ways to stay in control and “one up.” It can be the micro-manager, “drill sergeant,” the critic, the manipulator and even the office clown who uses toxic humor to put others down.
Obsession #3: I will think rather than feel.
Persecutors deny their vulnerability, otherwise they would not be in control. Feelings, they assume, could render them weak and disempowered, so they rely on their thinking to keep them strong. Persecutors secretly fear their suppressed anger, so they think (and often manipulate) their way out of situations rather than admit to mistakes or imperfections. Because their heart-centered emotions are suppressed, they can be viewed as unfeeling and without compassion for others.
Ironically, Rescuers can be seen as Persecutors if their “helpfulness” becomes controlling and dictatorial. “Well I am just trying to help” can easily cross into “Do it my way, because I know best.”
The Persecutor’s primary need is to manage their fear of uncertainty. They do this by using control and keeping others “one down,” hoping to mitigate their feeling that the world is a dangerous place.
When the Persecutor learns to be more comfortable, even curious, about things they don’t understand, they loosen their grip on their craving to be in control. Rather than be fooled by the illusion that they can control anything, the present moment becomes an adventure, rather than something that needs to be controlled. This “shift” isn’t easy for a life-long Persecutor.
These questions can support a Persecutor who stops, pauses and asks themselves:
- “What has this situation or problem come into my life to teach me and/or others?”
- “How can I support others growth and development, rather than control, put down and dominate them?”
- “What is my intention—-to put down and blame or, to build-up and support others?”
These questions can help the person who has fallen into the Persecuting role learn to be more present to the moment and what they truly desire for themselves and others. The questions also open them to shifting from being a Persecutor to embodying the Challenger role in TED* (*The Empowerment Dynamic) ™.
Always being on guard to defend themselves robs Persecutors of joy and happiness. All of us want to be loved, appreciated and to experience joyful moments—even when we act like Persecutors!