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Where does the drama in our relationships come from?

Karpman's Drama Triangle is a handy tool to reflect on the part we play in our relationship drama.


We are often drawn to the same role we inhabited as a child as this feels familiar, and for us humans, familiarity often feels safe.... even if it's actually having the opposite affect on our physical and mental health. In adulthood, we may start to realise the ways we are relating aren't particularly healthy or effective, or are potentially damaging your relationships, but it can be really hard to extricate ourselves from them... We then need to reteach younger parts of ourselves that we will still be safe if we relate in a different way, and that we do not need to follow these patterns anymore.


We will usually start relating from a position on the drama triangle when we experience emotional dysregulation in our relationship, which is often caused by a power imbalance, feeling threatened or triggered, or experiencing emotional misattunement from the other person.


This often happens when there is too much or little:

- respect

- openness

- other’s perspective

- empathy

- prejudice

- self-preoccupation

- power

- needy-ness

- independence

from one side of the relationship.


Whilst we usually start in a familiar position on the triangle, the drama happens or intensifies when we (and the other party) switch to a different role on the triangle. Keep a watchful eye when this happens in your own relationships.


The theory states, we cannot relate healthily whilst we are on the triangle, so we aim to notice our pattern of relating from one of these roles, understand what we are discounting in ourself or the other, and then move out of the pattern to relate in a more positive way. Sometimes just noticing can help us pause for thought and relate differently!


This could include relating: with more empathy for the other (often Persecutor); with more action/energy/self-belief (often Victim); or with more independence/respect for the other's autonomy (often Rescuer). Choosing an new way of relating will depend on the way we learnt to relate to others as children and rebalancing the ways you relate according to what is missing. This often is a part of the work I support clients through in therapy.


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