drama triangle
victim, persecutor, rescuer
psychological games
psychology, psychiatry
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The Drama Triangle

by Steve Karpman with Comments by Patty E. Fleener M.S.W.

Purpose: To promote the life script.
The roles of Persecutor, Rescuer and Victim are portrayed in psychological games.
Serves as a training ground for powerlessness.
Prevents psychological equality in relationships.

Will go on as long as someone is willing to be victimized.

Think if you will about a triangle. On each end are roles that we play in life. One is the persecutor, another is the victim and the last is the rescuer.

**If anyone in this triangle changes roles, the other two roles change as well.

PERSECUTOR - "It's All Your Fault"

  • Sets strict limits unnecessarily.

  • Blames

  • Criticizes

  • Keeps Victim oppressed

  • Is mobilized by anger

  • Rigid, authoritative stance

  • "Critical" Parent


VICTIM - "Poor Me"

  • Feels victimized, oppressed, helpless, hopeless, powerless, ashamed

  • Looks for a Rescuer that will perpetuate their negative feelings.

  • If stays in Victim position, will block self from making decisions, solving problems, pleasure and self-understanding.

  • "Dejected" stance.


RESCUER - "Let Me Help You"

  • Rescues when really doesn't want to.

  • Feels guilty if doesn't rescue.

  • Keeps victim dependent.

  • Gives permission to fail.

  • Expects to fail in rescue attempts.

  • "Marshmallow" Parent


BORN TO WIN by Muriel James
TAJ, Script Drama Analysis


EXAMPLES by Patty Fleener M.S.W.

Small Example

During the time my daughter and I were staying with my girlfriend and her daughter I was missing a very expensive pair of earrings - over $200. worth and announced to everyone what they looked like and had they seen them. Nope, no one had seen them.


Finally, one day, suspicious of my girlfriend's daughter, I went into her room and looked into her jewelry box and THERE were my earrings. I snatched them back and when everyone was home later that night I told everyone where I had found my earrings.

I was clearly the victim right? The persecutor was clearly my girlfriend's daughter and either my girlfriend or my daughter who was very young could have been the rescuer. 

Well! My girlfriend clearly would not come of out denial that her daughter had taken them and her daughter denied taking them stating she had no idea how they wound up in her jewelry box, so my girlfriend began to feel angry at me for blaming her daughter, making me the persecutor and her daughter the victim and my girlfriend clearly the rescuer.

Do you see how my girlfriend changed everyone's roles?

Large Example

My ex, at least according to him, was physically and emotionally abused by his family of origin. 

I have witnessed him in every situation in life imaginable to take the role of the VICTIM. In fact, I have never seen anyone play that role so fiercely as him.

He receives a great deal of attention and loves the "nurturing" of the rescuer. 

He actually creates situations in which he will appear to be a victim. It is almost as if he has to play the victim ten times a month. He is constantly on the lookout for a "PERPETRATOR." He will do anything to make the person appear to perpetrate. In order to do this, he lies (has admitted he has been a chronic liar all of his life) about the "perpetrator" and about himself being victimized. 

He has taken arguments we have had where I have said "Oh, come on!" and gently and barely touched his elbow (It is merely a gesture) and called the police stating he has been hit.

It is very dangerous to be around someone who is an extreme victim. I understood very quickly that a police record was going to start if I stayed with him. 

He has told me for 6 years that his two ex-wives hit him all the time - beat him up even. Yet when he moves closer to his step-daughter from the first marriage he changes the story to not being actually hit but being verbally abused always saying "I never said that" when confronted with his lies.

Now that we have split up he tells everyone he knows and even my own family, that I hit him all the time for 6 years. Of course I have not once hit him, once however being so angry acted as if. Victims like this many times purposely try to anger the person to act like a perpetrator so that they can claim their victim status. This is not true however of "battered wives." That is another area altogether. 

His step-daughter who I once got along well with, believes the lies that are told. lt is very important to her to do that even though she has been told he lies a great deal. This man is the only person in her life who plays a father role and grandfather for her children in exception of her father-in-law. She is deeply invested emotionally in believing him and must keep a good image of this man for her own needs.

This is also the man who completely took my website, my work of 6 years since his name happened to be on it at the time and I could not afford an attorney. He also keeps my share of the proceeds of the website and presents himself as creating more of the website then he has actually done which is almost nothing.

Be very careful of victims in your life. You may find yourself in lawful and legal trouble over lies.

Be very careful who you rescue in your life as well. You may be seeing the situation from one side only. Also victims need to learn to stand on their own feet without a rescuer. If you want to help someone, work on getting that person to take care of themselves, stop blaming others and function without needing rescuers all their lives. It is very important for the victim to take full responsibility over their life as they like to point the finger at others.

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