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The Drama Triangle – psychotherapy in London Bridge
Some people seek counselling because they want to understand confusing emotions they feel about themselves or others or as a result of a difficult conversation, an event or often some past experiences. Some, before making a call to a psychotherapist, attempt to help themselves by engaging in a variety of different activities, including sports, socialising and ‘doing’ other therapies. However, it is worth remembering, that it is usually through psychotherapy that we can discover and make sense of how and why we function and operate as human beings.
It is usually through trying to understand our relationship with others that we can begin to make sense of ourselves and most importantly of emotions that overtake us in times of crisis or prolonged stress.
When in therapy it is not unusual to experience a sense of shock followed by a sense of revelation that it is actually the relationship with ourselves that stores the most healing for our other relationships that at present bring so much distress and dissatisfaction.
Understandably it usually proves much more difficult to look at ourselves than others. After all it is so much easier to say ‘it was him or it’s her…’. However, when we find convincing ourselves that all our difficulties stem exclusively from other people’s doings then it is worth thinking about if perhaps (just perhaps!) we are also playing one of the parts of the drama triangle.
The drama triangle is a concept which describes psychological roles we can play in various situations, scenarios and relationships. The name drama comes from the Classical Greek meaning ‘action’. In English, before William Shakespeare’s time, drama was described by words ‘play’ or ‘game’. All these words may be very useful when we try to understand the drama triangle which we may be involved in. It is important to note that the drama triangle dynamic often takes place in relationships where an addiction is already a well established issue, but also in other relationships where there is some kind of a dysfunction. After all, we all play certain roles in all sorts of social situations. However, some of the roles are not going to be helpful at all.
Let us take a closer look at the three roles, which we can identify on the drama triangle.
The rescuer – this is a role which enables us to help others as much as it’s practically possible. We continue to help even when we have exhausted all our energy and resources. However, when we find ourselves in this role we will not be able to recognise that we have been offering help beyond our capabilities. We will begin to feel more and more tired. And… more and more resentful. After all, we have been supporting and helping for some time and we still don’t see any change or any benefits from our actions. Both the physical and emotional exhaustion will cause us to switch to play a different role on the drama triangle – the persecutor or the victim.
The persecutor – here we have had enough of helping and rescuing. We feel angry, we are full of resentment and we try a different tactic – force. We still try to help, but by applying some force, some anger, usually. Unfortunately what usually happens, the person we want to change is not responding and that tends to send us to feeling absolutely furious with them. The chain reaction is that after we have displayed our anger and frustration to them we begin to feel guilty as well. This tends to create a shift in us and we switch back to rescuing. This usually continues for some time until we feel we have no energy left in us and we do not want to continue with life. We feel helpless and useless. We feel like victims.
The victim – when we find ourselves in the victim position we feel absolutely horrible about ourselves – unable to see any way out of the confusing and utterly difficult situation. This can last for some time but it tends to end as well. And when it does we switch to playing… either a rescuer (…right, this time I will succeed and I will show them that I can make them change…) or a persecutor (…ok, they’re not going to be making me feel like that, I will not tolerate to be treated like that! …).
And the cycle begins again… It usually takes a few drama triangle cycles before we notice that we literally go ‘round in cycles’, and before we decide to change it. What we often find is the fact that it is very hard to leave the drama triangle and to set up a new, much healthier dynamic. We try and we fail, and we again end up playing a part of the well known drama.
In psychotherapy sessions we can not only learn about the drama triangle and our part in it but also we can begin to make permanent changes within our psyche, which will help us to not get hooked on the drama triangle in the first place.