What is the difference between surviving and thriving?
“Living in a hostile and dangerous world, we human beings have honed the fight, flight or freeze reaction to our life experience.”
This mindset served us well in the harsh conditions early man faced.
Fortunately, for most of us, survival is no longer our challenge.
“Surviving is not thriving – spiritually, mentally, or emotionally,” David writes.
David’s work builds on that of psychiatrist Stephen Karpman who observed human dynamics often involve three roles: victim, persecutor, and rescuer – which result in what he calls the “Drama Triangle.”
I first learned about the Drama Triangle taking the excellent, year-long Integral Leadership Program (ILP) at Stagen. Rand Stagen has remarked this framework is one of the most powerful in the entire curriculum.
For starters, the victim, persecutor, and rescuer roles are not our “identity.” In other words, all of us play these roles at different times – sometimes even in the same conversation.
David writes there is a difference between being a victim and being victimized. We are victimized when another person, a condition, or circumstance impacts our life in an unwanted, unwelcome, or harmful way.
What makes us a “victim” is how we respond to these events.
When we play the victim, life is happening to us. We feel powerless, overwhelmed or hopeless. David points out that there can be a “powerful seduction” in being a powerless victim. The victim becomes “the star in our own drama.” Not only may we solicit pity and help from others, but this mindset reinforces the belief that we are not responsible for what is going on in our lives.
When we play the persecutor, we blame, criticize, and dominate. We feel self-righteous, defensive, or angry. Interestingly, the persecutor can be a person, but also may be a condition (perhaps an illness) or a circumstance (think natural disaster).
The rescuer shields others from the consequences of their actions. When we are in rescuer mode, we want to feel needed, powerful, or superior. The rescuer may be a person, but also can be various forms of escapism and/or addiction such as gambling, alcohol, drugs, or even excessive television or social media.
So, are we permanently stuck in the Dreaded Drama Triangle?
Fortunately, we are not.
Reflection: Are there certain situations or relationships which lead me into the Drama Triangle?
Action: Rather than focus on the problem, ask: what is the desired outcome?