After our essay last week, entitled “Exaggerated Sense of Responsibility,” we had a few questions and this week we are delighted to respond to one reader’s inquiry.

Dear David and Donna,
Your newsletter last week was about Exaggerated Sense of Responsibility. You wrote about the persecuting role, but isn’t an exaggerated sense of responsibility more of a rescuing role?

This is an excellent question and shows the complexity behind the simplicity of both the Drama Triangle and the shift to TED* (*The Empowerment Dynamic) ™. It is important to remember that there are two triangles operating at once. One triangle is our internal relationship with ourselves and the other triangle is about how we relate to our experiences or other people.

The examples we outlined last week could absolutely be the face of the Rescuer, as well as that of the Persecutor. For example, when we don’t like a situation and act with an exaggerated sense of responsibility, we are trying to rescue ourselves (the inner triangle) from our uncomfortableness with the situation. Our outward behavior toward others (the outer triangle) is often seen as persecuting when we inappropriately intervene.

To go deeper with how these roles co-mingle, we have to look at the intention behind the behavior. When Donna looked at her intentions behind her exaggerated sense of responsibility, she often fooled herself that she was “only trying to help” (Rescuer) but what she wanted was to control the situation so that she was right, or looked good, or because she wanted to manage her stress. While her internal strategy may be rescuing, her external behavior was often seen as persecuting to others.

All three roles in the Dreaded Drama Triangle (DDT)™ want to control what they don’t like or don’t want and the resulting anxiety that arises. By observing ourselves in these roles we can peel back the layers of the deep psychological games that emerge. Trying to correctly diagnosis the actual role we are playing at any one moment is not as important as looking at the underlying strategy that is driving the behavior.

Asking ourselves, “What is my intention here?” gives us a big clue toward what our ego wants to manage. Whether a Victim, Persecutor or Rescuer, when in the DDT we are always about controlling and managing the fear. By observing and naming the roles, we have a better opportunity see the behavior so we can choose to shift into more empowering TED* roles. As we go deeper by observing ourselves in the moment, we must learn to pause and observe our reactive strategies and then choose to shift into the more resourceful roles of Creator, Challenger and Coach that are based upon a higher sense of purpose and intention.


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