People v. O.J. Simpson, O.J.,Drama, Manipulation, Relationships,Victim,O.J. Simpson

O.J & Drama in Relationships

Drama is about manipulation. Manipulation is about winning, not truth. The brilliance of O.J’s lawyers was all about flipping him from the persecutor into the blameless victim & asking the jury to rescue him which is illustrated in the fine FX show.

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After almost 40 years of working to help couples, I offer a podcast of substance on what relationships require to last for the long haul. I use books & movies to illustrate the points I’m trying to make. I offer challenges of things you can actually do in your own relationship at the end of every podcast which is under 10 minutes.

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Does it bother anyone else that Nicole & Ron, the real victims were erased 20 years ago?? In the excellent television version People v. OJ: American Crime Story on FX we get more than we did 20 years ago, a glimpse of Nicole’s dead body in blood & Ron Goldman’s upset Father. Drama in all relationships suffocates truth & reality. (Just think back to high school…)

Nicole is effectively erased by everyone but Marcia Clark. She is invisible just as Marcia Clark becomes buried by the drama of OJ’s lawyers successfully making OJ the victim. She is invisible as a credible lawyer as the media focus on her perm demonstrates. (By the way, 20 years ago lots of working mothers had perms because it made life easier.)

Twenty years ago, I thought the brilliance of the dream team attorneys was all about flipping OJ from being the persecutor who did wrong into being the blameless victim and then asking the jury to rescue him which they did.

THE Drama Triangle:

So let me explain the game called The Karpman Drama Triangle as I learned it in the 1970’s from Transactional Analysis. Remember I’m OK You’re OK by Eric Berne that was T.A. Picture a triangle and label each corner with Victim Rescuer & Persecutor.

Manipulation is the core of the drama triangle. This game creates confusion and upset, not solutions or a path to truth. Many ordinary couples play this game & we can play it, even within ourselves. The object of the game is to flip roles around to get what you want & erase the other person. Here is just one example: So one partner accuses the other of having an affair, “How dare you accuse me!” turns the accuser into the persecutor & there is no honest dialogue about what is really going on.

Playing Victim, Rescuer has become a powerful cultural pastime in manipulation. It is at the core of all the repetitious plots of soap operas. As a celebrity culture we adore drama & we love avoiding & deflecting. Who wants to be uncomfortable & face hard truths?? We prefer to lie to ourselves than face up to painful situations.

We watch Robert Kardashian listen to the 911 tapes & pretend it doesn’t matter because of his misplaced loyalty as a Rescuer. His denial of the blood evidence is the foreshadowing of what the jury will do.

Denial is the most powerful force in the universe. My evidence for this is The 2008 Bank & Wall street housing crash as depicted in the delightful movie The Big Short, this all about how pervasive denial is. So the Banks who were the perpetrators of vast amounts of fraudulent mortgages became the victims instead of american taxpayers and the government rescued them financially & no one went to jail. The game is played everywhere including election campaigns.


Manipulation & drama is all about power & winning. O.J. was used to winning. His lawyers were used to winning. The desire for power & winning fills the empty holes inside of insecure egos. Several times O.J. is described as charming. Jane Austen knew in the early 1800’s that charm often hides dangerous men, this was a theme in Mansfield Park.

Manipulation is all about blame and never taking any responsibility. Manipulation is usually extremely self-absorbed. Often in couples both people are jumping around in all 3 roles, especially if the game is played over the years. An example of this would be where one person stays with someone they have not really forgiven. Bitterness can be one way to punish & manipulate someone else who has hurt you.

So I have another triangle to offer as a way to dig yourself out of the drama. Drama is ultimately a boring way to spend your energy in this life. So once again, picture a triangle and label each corner 1. Honesty (fearlessly face hard truths in order to grow), 2. Maintain Respect for both yourself & others and 3. Negotiate, make agreements that work for both of you.

Find a partner who spends most of their time in this second triangle & you will last decades.

Find a partner who runs around the drama triangle & you will swell with pride in the rescuer role, feel very pitiful in the victim role & vent your frustration in the persecutor role. You will go round & round & round………………..just like the drama you thought you left behind when you graduated from high school.

When I teach the Drama Triangle to other therapists in workshops at the University of Pittsburgh I show a movie clip from Shattered Glass. Made in 2003 it is the true story of Stephen Glass who fabricated 27 of 41 articles at The New Republic. There are 5 other movies listed on my website therapy that demonstrate the Victim, Rescuer & Persecutor roles.

My Challenge:

My challenge for you today is to ask yourself do you blame or are you able to make I statements? Blame is manipulative. Do you feel sorry for your partner or do you feel you know better than they do what’s best for them? That would lack respect. How honest are you able to be about what’s missing from your relationship? How often do you try to problem solve & meet the other person in the middle or…do you just want your way?

Please let others know about my podcast & help me get the word out! I really appreciate you listening today & I hope you will return!

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About the Rhoda Mills Sommer

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