Family Drama can teach us so much

Family Drama

Family drama can teach us so much. Think of the most painful family drama you ever experienced, one that has left you with such an indelible scar that it has impacted your relationships, job stability, and satisfaction with life. Then imagine learning about thousands of people who overcame strikingly similar experiences — in which their entire family healed and grew closer, and each individual member transformed into a stable, loving, mature, and dependable person, attaining their best personal success. Imago Therapy at…/

The Lesson of the Family Drama Triangle

For every rescuer, there is a victim. For every victim, there is a persecutor. People familiar with psychology may know about Karpman’s Triangle. Stephen Karpman, M.D., developed a model that captures one of the most common triangular interactions among people—victim, rescuer, and persecutor. The fascinating thing that Karpman reveals is that each role has an egoic payoff.

Victim (“Poor Me”):

The victim avoids responsibility and becomes dependent, getting their egoic needs met by having people do things for them. They also succeed in getting attention, for both the rescuer and the persecutor are focusing on them.

Rescuer (“Let Me Help You”):

The rescuer rushes to the aid of the victim and gets a two-fold egoic payoff by being perceived in a positive light and simultaneously avoiding their own problems and feelings.

Persecutor (“It’s All Your Fault”):

Every persecutor needs a victim, and their egoic need of feeling powerful and superior is fulfilled when they blame, attack, and will bully a victim. Like the rescuer, the persecutor gets to avoid any real feelings and fears they have.

Family drama
Family Harmony

While people tend to assume a primary role in the triangle, they will often shift and take turns taking on the different roles with each other. Thus, the rescuer may get upset with the persecutor and take on the persecutor role and attack them, placing them in the victim role. The victim may then rescue the persecutor. Or the persecutor may shift into the rescuer role, with endless variations of role-switching between the players. The goal is to recognize the trap of the triangle and to distance oneself from getting seduced into any of the roles — especially when it’s so entrenched that it’s the only culturally acceptable way of behaving.

Avoiding one’s role in a family or organization’s drama can be challenging. First, most people are so busy that they don’t stop to put their head above the fray and recognize that they’re engaged in a role. The lure of the role is so reinforced that it’s as comfortable and powerful as a gravitational pull. People don’t know what they don’t know, so stepping out of the triangle is akin to moving to another country with unknown language, customs, and environmental conditions.

Yet, as repeatedly demonstrated by family therapy giants like Salvador Minuchin, significant change can be initiated by a sudden shift. “It’s not a matter of trying harder, it’s a matter of trying something different,” he says. So come try…/

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