Hate Drama? Here’s How to Survive Being Part of the Karpman Drama Triangle

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Hate Drama? Here’s How to Survive Being Part of the Karpman Drama Triangle

The Karpman Drama Triangle consist of three roles which are the victim, persecutor and rescuer. / Photo by: bowie15 via 123rf


In a TV drama, three characters often take the most distinguished roles: the victim, the villain, and the hero. These three characters somehow get themselves into a conflict that appears to have no way out. The situation gets out of hand. The victim feels even more oppressed, the villain continues to abuse their power and the hero, despite all their efforts, still fails to rescue the victim from their predicament. The story goes on until the conflict slowly gets resolved or becomes messier than it first was. Although this would make for a great plot for a TV series, if this plays out in real life, the conflict may never actually end.

When a person gets involved in an issue, they too can unconsciously take on a role. In real life drama, they may also take on three different roles. As illustrated in the Karpman Drama Triangle, these roles include: being the victim, the persecutor, or the rescuer. This model was invented by Dr. Stephen Karpman in 1968.


Introducing the Karpman Drama Triangle

Linda Graham, a psychotherapist elaborates in her article The Triangle of Victim, Rescuer and Persecutor--What It Is and How to Get Out, the description of each of the roles. According to Graham, these are their functions in the drama:


“Poor me!” is the motto of the victim. They appear to be incredibly sensitive and see themselves as vulnerable, abused, rejected and to sum it all up, the ones who are in the most pitiful state. They want others to treat them carefully. They will always refuse to take charge of the negative situations they face and will refuse to believe that they can change the situation.

Individuals who fall under this role may seek a savior to rescue them from what they believe is a desperate problem they could not solve by themselves. If a person refuses to take on the role of a savior or fails to save them from their circumstances, the victim may change their view of the person. To the victim, they are now a persecutor.


The victim is the one abused and in the most pitiful state. / Photo by: Ian Allenden via 123rf



The rescuers live by the statement “Let me help you!” They put a huge amount of effort in tending to other people’s needs. Oftentimes, the only way they can feel good about themselves is when they are helping others. Meanwhile, they forget to take care of their own needs or not being in control of what they need.  

They are said to be extremely attached and enablers. They desire to constantly have a victim to save and most of the time they do not want to see the victim rise above their desperate situation. They try to keep the victims by their side by employing guilt or making the victims depend on them. If they are unable to save anyone, they will feel guilty. Rescuers tend to feel pressured, overburdened and exhausted. They may be trapped in a martyr lifestyle while secretly feeling resentful.


Persecutors live by the saying, “It’s all your fault.” They find victims to condemn and accuse. They are often manipulative, dominant, furious and will set strict boundaries. Persecutors will try to keep the victims defenseless by intimidating and harassing them. They do not want to appear weak and do not adjust to others. They are afraid of also becoming one of the victims. They may often shout and blame others. In turn, they are not able to provide a solution to the problem or help anyone resolve the conflict.



The Empowerment Dynamic (TED) Model

According to Curiosity, it would be more effective to frame these roles differently using The Empowerment Dynamic model. Similar to the Karpman Drama Triangle, it also has three elements:


This is the positive equivalent of the victim. In this role, the individual becomes determined to make the result of the problem become a positive one. If that is not possible, they should be able to at least lessen the conflict.


The challenger is the TED counterpart of the persecutor. Someone who takes on the role of the challenger can be extremely frank, despite how hard it is to be in the situation. Their frankness may bring up issues or may hurt others, but this also helps the creator in the process. Their honesty will lead the creator to examine themselves and grow.


The other side of the rescuer is the coach, who assists them in finding out what they want to achieve by asking them questions.

Even though a person may see the Karpman Drama Triangle from a different perspective, this may still involve someone getting hurt or feeling uncomfortable. However, the benefit is that no one is perceived as a villain. Both of them have a goal they want to reach. The coach no longer becomes the most burdened character in the drama. The three of them would have to collaborate to improve their future. In a TV series, this may make for a boring plot. However, in real life, this could be a much better alternative. It may or may not be a happy ending, but at least the conflict somehow gets dealt with.


The coach is the one assisting an individual by asking questions to find out what they want to achieve. / Photo by: Katarzyna Białasiewicz via 123rf




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