Resilience and the Reenactment Triangle


Can changing the way we think, keep us from being pulled into relationship drama?

You might be familiar with the drama triangle (also known as the reenactment triangle) introduced by Dr. Stephen Karpman decades ago. The triangle identifies three roles we take in reenactment (victim, persecutor and rescuer) and is a useful tool for understanding the impact of trauma and adversity on relationship dynamics. It makes sense that our triggered emotional and behavioral responses play out in our relationships. After all, relationships are where we are most vulnerable. During times of stress and vulnerability it’s easy to revert to familiar albeit unhelpful roles.

Most of us can identify times we have found ourselves in the role of the victim, persecutor or rescuer. However, recognizing the roles of the triangle is only the beginning to building resilience on a path to healthier relationships. We must also recognize that the reenactment triangle represents a faulty way of thinking that is becoming prevalent in today’s culture. Although there are three distinct roles in the triangle, all roles represent the same mindset. This mindset is marked by blaming, entitlement, and helplessness.

Next time you find yourself responding from a reenactment role (victim, persecutor or rescuer) try replacing blaming, entitlement and helplessness with the following:

  • Accountability: Owning my feelings and actions and resisting the temptation to assign blame. This also means allowing others to be accountable for their own behavior.
  • Responsibility: Accepting my role in making things better and challenging the belief that I am owed anything.
  • Capability: Recognizing that we are all capable of growth and change.

Changing your mindset and learning to think like a Thriver can be the first step to healthier relationships.

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