Drama Triangle

Drama Triangle or Karpman triangle (Karpman drama triangle) is a psychological and social model of human interaction. It is mainly used in psychology and psychiatric therapy. It was first described by Steven Karpman in 1968.

Since we are speaking about online team interaction, we are considering this model usage in the context of work.

According to the Drama Triangle model, a person can work within the current time, and also within a drama, being in the role of the victim, the persecutor and/or the rescuer.

When you or your colleagues are in a drama, the team productivity goes down and, in the course of time, the absence of understanding will destroy the team. Staying in a drama, you can hear accusations from your colleagues, you can face the stubborn desire to be the first/to be right, or you can even feel their fear. There are roles in the drama triangle, just like in a good movie, and every specific role has its characteristic features.

The Rescuer

The rescuer always tries to help, especially if they are not asked to. He (she) tries to bring temporary relief, and ‘temporary’ is the key word here. He (she) thinks he (she) isn’t all right until the others are all right, and it is only him (her) who can help them.

I am not OK until the others are OK.

Phrases characteristic of the rescuer:

They will not do without me!”

Let me do it instead of you.”

Easy-easy, everything is going to be alright!”

The Persecutor

The persecutor is constantly blaming someone: himself, the others and even large groups of people. Everything is alright with him (her), but the others are wrong/unable/unworthy.

I am OK, but the others are not OK.

Phrases characteristic of persecuting oneself:

I shouldn’t have eaten that pizza.”

I should be working harder …”

I have spoiled the whole presentation …”

Phrases characteristic of the pursuit of another:

It is your fault that we haven’t submitted the project on time.”

You are not interested in the customer, so you haven’t done your best.”

Phrases characteristic of the pursuit of a group:

It was those two guys who had spoiled the whole party.”

They just don’t understand it, it is not worth explaining it to them.”

The Victim

The victim feels his (her) impotence and is constantly under the influence of something negative: a person, circumstances or external conditions.

The victim believes that something is not OK with him(her) or with others.

It is not OK with me.

Phrases characteristic of the victim:

I am so lonely, even my husband does not understand me.”

I am a mediocrity, and the superiors are always cross with me.”

The whole world is against me!”

All the roles can be present in a person simultaneously, and the person can switch from one role to another in the same case.

For instance, the manager sees that the programmer hasn’t submitted the task on time, so these are the thoughts he might have in his mind: “What an arshole! Didn’t I know he would let me down (persecutor)? How many times more? It looks like a conspiracy against me. I’m sick and tired of it (victim). I’m not going to give up! Come on, clunker, get a grip and do this task yourself! Wasn’t the programmer’s son born yesterday? You can understand him. It will take only a couple of hours. Come on!” (rescuer)

Get-out from the Drama

In order to get out of the drama, you should know what can draw you into it (get to know your weaknesses), it is important to develop a skill of non-judgemental observation as well. There are also three more methods that help get out of the Karpman Triangle:

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