In the 1970’s, Transactional Analysis created an emotional game that was labeled The Karpman Drama Triangle which is still relevant today.  It looks like this:Manipulation games in relationships

The game is profound because it is a way to manipulate over a lifetime and deceive many people. Drama, intensity and power are very seductive elements, which makes it satisfying.  Drama is best left to high school girls because it will ring very hollow over time. Too often, intensity is a demand insisting “THIS” is the truth and it is your job to constantly make me feel special. (On my website I describe this in greater depth under Relationship Triangles, see link top right hand corner.)

People usually favor 2 positions of the 3 roles. Two people can play this game with each other for years while constantly swapping positions.

Many therapists and nurses have a pile of Rescuer energy when they start out. ACOA’s who’ve grown up fixing things also know all about rescuing. Many love relationships begin with rescuing as the prince did with Cinderella. Rescuers put up with too much mistreatment and lose track of themselves in trying to make everyone else happy.

Rescuers inevitably become Victims because they are too focused on someone else. Rescuers have to solve this problem by becoming more indifferent. Indifference is a useful tool – you can’t make someone else’s life work for them. Rescuers often suffer from a lack of respect for the other person’s choices, though they rarely realize this. Rescuers have lost track of their own wants because of their lopsided focus on others.

Persecutors are all about “getting my way.” Rescuers become Persecutors when they’ve finally had enough. Persecutors love the power inherent in this position. Power just to win at all costs is ugly beyond belief. Many couples struggle with sharing power. This game has nothing to do with fairness or equity. Often Persecutors are very Black/White in their thinking & Feeling which creates a win/lose situation which they are determined to win.

Victims are lost in a sea of emotions, usually about feeling hurt. Their hurt becomes a tool to push people into catering to them. They avoid the responsibility of defusing their intensity or working to problem solve in crisis. The intensity becomes a lifestyle of drama which creates many shallow relationships with many partners. When someone wants to be loved no matter what, it is a dangerous sign unless they are under 17.

The more times a relationship stays defined in these three positions the clearer it is that the relationship is all about manipulation and being manipulated. Neither of these is a way to define your life. If you’ve experienced this game of manipulation, please add a comment at the bottom of the post.

(Part 2 is posted on 8/23/10 & Part 3 on 2/28/11. Go to the Manipulation category on the right to find it easily.)

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About the Rhoda Mills Sommer

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