Recovery Messages & News

The Karpman Drama Triangle

By Ms. Paige Abbott, Registered Psychologist

The Karpman Drama Triangle is a psychological concept that comes out of Transactional Analysis (TA) theory. The idea behind the drama triangle is to describe the roles that individuals may take in a situation. Once an individual takes on one of the roles in the triangle, the other person usually follows suit by taking on another role in the triangle. From there, they may switch to different roles in the triangle as the interaction continues. Proponents of TA refer to the triangle as a ‘mind game’ that people play when interacting with others.

The victim is the individual who feels attacked or persecuted by others.

The persecutor pressures, coerces, or threatens the victim in some way.

The rescuer comes in to seemingly help the victim, but really the desire to help is often motivated by ego and there is a dishonest or mixed motive behind the offer of help. It is not unconditional.

As Claude Steiner, a Transactional Analyst, said about the triangle: “…the Victim is not really as helpless as he feels, the Rescuer is not really helping, and the Persecutor does not really have a valid complaint.” Any of these roles have the ability to generate shame and perpetuate a life of unhealthiness and dysfunction, within oneself and in relationships.

Anytime one finds themselves on this triangle, it is important to step back and ask yourself: 1) What is my motive for behaviour?; 2) How am I feeling?; and 3) What is the real issue here? Continuing to explore your mental health and look at biological-psychological-social-spiritual recovery assist in moving one off this triangle and into relationships that are honest, upfront, and not motivated by ego.