The Drama Cycle describes the journey of ‘drama’ in our lives. There are three key roles or archetypes that we can play in the drama cycle.
The victim is powerless. There are always things happening to the victim over which they have no control. The victim often feels hurt or sadness that they are being picked on, bullied or unfairly treated. Key phrases: “I can’t do it”, “It’s not my fault!”, “Why does this always happen to me?”
The Aggressor is the bully that ‘picks on’ the victim. The aggressor often feels angry, frustrated and misunderstood. They blame the victim for things going wrong. Key phrases: “You’re so hopeless.”, “Why can’t you do it right!”
The Rescuer is the knight in shining armour. The rescuer saves the victim from the aggressor, and gains some satisfaction from that. However before too long the rescuer becomes frustrated with having to constantly save the day and becomes resentful that the victim can’t take care of themselves. Key phrase: “Why do I always have to?…”
The most important thing to notice is that all of these roles resent the others for things that they believe are out of their control. The aggressor blames the victim and bullies them. The victim blames the aggressor for being mean and taking their power, the rescuer resents the victim and the aggressor for having to get involved, but feels compelled to get involved anyway.
Many people identify with being the rescuer, or some might identify with being the victim. Rarely do people identify themselves as the bully, we a re all the hero in our own story, however the truth is that if you play one role in the Drama Cycle you will also play the other two. It is a part of being inside the cycle. When you are in the drama you will cycle through all the different roles, alternatively being the victim, aggressor and rescuer in different situations, sometimes even in the same situation, from moment to moment, shifting and playing the roles of drama.
All of these three roles are powerless. they are all at the effect of the other. Everyone is blaming and not taking responsibility for their actions. When you don’t take responsibility for your actions and results then you are giving up your power to change the situation. By acknowledging that you have had a part in creating the situation as it is, no matter how difficult that might be, then you regain your power to change it.
When you are rescuing someone, then you don’t have the time or energy to follow your own passions and desires in life. You are also reinforcing the idea that the victim can’t take care of themselves. Give the other person some credit and believe that they have the inner resources to handle things themselves. You don’t need to save the world, or make anyone happy. Release yourself from that job. Other people are in charge of their lives and their own happiness. They will never learn to take care of themselves if someone else always does it for them.
When you are being aggressive then you are not being honest with yourself about the internal pain in your past from when you were once a victim. Allow yourself to acknowledge that pain and release it. The only reason anyone is aggressive is because at some point they have learned that it is not safe or ok to be “weak”. It is ok to be sad at times. It is ok to be vulnerable at times, it’s ok to cry. This is not a weakness. This is real strength. When you can accept this aspect of yourself you can gain peace and power over yourself and your world.
When you are playing the victim then you are not acknowledging your own inner strength and power to create and enforce boundaries in your life. You are minimizing yourself. Minimizing yourself does not help anyone else, it hurts you and it hurts them. Focus on your strengths and your gifts, remember that you have power and control over your world. You decide who you allow inside your boundaries. It is ok to say NO and mean it.
Once you can notice these behaviours and what causes them in yourself or others, you instantly leap outside the drama cycle to the role of observer. The observer is in complete control, they are not affected by any of the other roles, because the observer can see the drama for what it is; a never ending cycle of emotional pain and people not living out their potential. It is not always easy to stay in this position at all times. Sometimes you will fall back inside the drama into one of the roles. If you do, just observe that you have fallen in and step back outside by remembering you are always in control of your emotions, thoughts and actions and others are always in control of theirs. If something needs to change remember to focus on accepting and loving the person and changing the behaviour.
The key to observing and escaping the drama is to be curious about how Drama has shown up in your life. Reflect and observe how you have played each of the roles in the drama that has played out. Think of it like a great Shakespearian play that you have been unconsciously acting out. Many people will have drama circle through their entire lives. It has been a constant companion. There are lots of pay-offs to drama, you get to whinge, chatter, gossip, avoid your own problems because you are mired in “fixing” someone else’s. For many people they learned the pattern of drama from their parents and it is the only way they have known. Do not judge or beat yourself up for this. It is not your fault you were never taught any other way to be. Your parents and yourself have always only ever done the best you knew how to. When you know better, you do better.
The key to making the change is curiosity about when the drama has shown up and vigilance to stay strong in your own power and not allow drama back into your life. Talk to your fellow “actors” in your family or friends who you have played the drama with, and acknowledge your roles. Make a conscious decision to act from now in an empowered way to the best of your ability, to focus on being the best YOU can be, instead of fixing or focussing on others problems or failings. When you act in an empowered way, taking responsibility for where you are in life, and begin to communicate clearly about your wants and needs, and enforce what you need then the drama will disappear, and you will find your life and all your relationships improving day by day. It’s not the easiest thing to do, but it is certainly worth it, and is completely possible no matter how much you have lived for drama in the past. You can rise above it. Acknowledge your own power and the power of others and you are halfway there.
I’d love to hear how you have played out drama in the past, and what you have done to rise above it. Tell me in the comments below.
This model was created inside Transactional Analysis by Stephen Karpmann http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karpman_drama_triangle
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