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Author Topic: 2.01 | Karpman Drama Triangle  (Read 81615 times)
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« on: October 01, 2007, 06:45:48 AM »

This purpose of this workshop is to discuss the dynamics of difficult family and partner relationships and how we become caught up in them.

The Karpman  Triangle, described by Stephen Karpman and elaborated by many others, is a very useful tool for understanding "stuck" relationship dynamics.

The idea is that we often find ourselves playing out scripts. These roles feel safe, as they are familiar; we slip into as comfortable as we sink into the us-shaped indent in our own beds.

But they are very limiting.

They keep us trapped.
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« Reply #1 on: October 01, 2007, 11:51:33 AM »

Our Dysfunctional Roles with Others



Read our feature article here:

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« Reply #2 on: October 02, 2007, 01:43:11 AM »

My understanding is that these positions are not stable. So for example if you play the role of the Rescuer and the other person plays the role of the Victim, then sooner or later you are going to feel resentful towards the Victim and you could end placed in the role of Victim to their Persecutor.

To an extent I can see that played out with my own BPmother. My mother is a BP Queen, so she regards herself as nobodies Victim. Quite the opposite in that she likes nothing better than to find people who are in some way weaker than her and see herself in the role of their Rescuer, but as a result ultimately they end up feeling like her subject or Victim!

Anyway, earlier in the year she broke her arm and for the first time in my life I saw her as the more vulnerable one and did all I could to help and support her during that time. Looking back I realise how much more pleasant she was during that time, so much more humble and human! Now eight months on she is all better and has become an absolute monster, far worse than previously.

What I think happened was this. When she was unwell she ended up feeling that she was more vulnerable which in effect forced her into the role of Victim and me into the role of Rescuer. Now that she looks back I think she deeply resents the fact that she lost a bit of power in the relationship, (as she sees it), consequently she has now turned the tables on me and has become a Persecutor, which forces me into the role of Victim, (as she is quite literally making me sick!)

I think that the ideal is to avoid these roles as much as possible. This can be very hard if the other person takes an extreme stance, which people with BPD are liable to do.
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« Reply #3 on: June 09, 2008, 09:23:45 AM »

It's important to remember that people who are truly victimized have little/no power or choices right now (whereas someone acting in the victim role, DOES have power and choices)

And - no one can truly rescue someone who is not in a true victim situation (e.g. kidnapped, war prisoner, abducted, being actively abused, etc.) - otherwise, "rescuing" is really trying to change someone, inder the guise of "I know what is best for them".  One cannot "rescue" someone from their past victimization - the person has to heal that - not get "rescued" from it.

Both the rescuer and victim roles of the triangle can switch to persecutor, when their role doesn't work.

The classic role of someone with BPD is to start in the "victim" role (with the non entering the drama triangle as the rescuer)

As the interaction is not really about solutions (because it's drama, not healthy interactions), the roles of the people in the drama change.

So, in the BPD interaction - the BPD changes during drama from the victim role to the persecutor (getting angry and lashing out at the non) (or the non can get angry that their "rescuing" isn't working and begin persecuting the BPD)

The non in the drama triangle can also switch from the rescuer to the victim role, if the BPD switches to persecutor.

Ideally - we don't engage in drama.

No drama looks like: normal person + helper person = solution

However in drama people just engage in one of these three roles, and the roles can switch - with no solutions in site.

An NPD usually enters the drama (perceiving themselves) as the rescuer then gets angry his/her ideas about rescuing aren't honored for the brilliance they assume - then they switch to persecutor.

The non may (if in drama) be the victim to the NPD's rescue - then become persecuted for not doing their part to be rescued as the NPD wishes.

Molly
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« Reply #4 on: June 10, 2008, 08:39:02 AM »

Recognizing the dynamics and admitting your place in the triangle is the first step. Now you need an action plan on how to change things.

The hardest part is always the first step.
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« Reply #5 on: August 02, 2008, 11:27:07 AM »

Ideally - we don't engage in drama.
 
No drama looks like: normal person + helper person = solution
 
However in drama people just engage in one of these three roles, and the roles can switch - with no solutions in site.

Good insights.
 
What can we do if we are on a drama triangle - how do we exit?
 
There is a very simply stated strategy published by the Self Help Alliance (Camrbidge, Ontario) for dealing with these situations called "Move to the Center".
 
       
 
  • Move into the center. Resist the temptation to play an exaggerated and complementary role to a Victim, Rescuer or Persecutor. You do not want to stabilize an unpleasant situation. Instead, find and hold the center position, thereby marginalizing your adversary and eliminating their power base. The center of the drama triangle contains elements of each corner. It is a combination of sensitivity, compassion, and responsibility.

  • Refuse to accept your opponent’s force. Do not struggle with them, or yield to them; instead, allow your opponent to move into an indefensible position.

If you have successfully taken the center, your adversary will halt their attacks, rather than risk unmasking themselves and exposing the game.
 
In the style of Eastern Philosophy, you don't want to cast a loved one as your opponent; rather, take their bad habits and unskillful means as your enemy, and destroy them with your awareness and enlightened skills.
 
How do we effect change that will make our environment less prone to drama triangles
 
We change our own personal dynamics so that the triangle is attractive to us.
 
Assert rather than persecute. Instead of the actions of the Persecutor, who blame and punish - give up trying to force or manipulate others to do what you want. Take on the new behaviors of "doing" and "asserting". Ask for what we want. Say no for what you don't want. Give constructive feedback. Initiate negotiations. Take positive action.
 
Be vulnerable, but not a victim. "Victims" often feel overwhelmed, too defeated to solve their problems and emotional. They look to someone else to do it for them. Instead of the Victim role you need to be emotionally mature (vulnerable, not needy), accept the situation you are in and take responsibility to problem solve and function in a more healthy and happy way. Put real thought into what you want and how to get it, and take action to make it happen.
 
Be caring, but don't overstep. We do not want to let our fears, obligation and guilt to control us or allow us to be manipulated into taking care of another person when it really isn't healthy to do so. Instead of being the Rescuer and doing the thinking, taking the lead, doing more than our share, doing more than is asked of us -  simply be a supportive, empathetic listener and provide reflection, coaching, and assistance if the person asks and is taking the lead themselves. It is important to recognize the other person as an equal (not one-down) and give the other person the respect of letting them take care of themselves, solve their own problems, and deal with their feelings as they choose. Remember, the rescuer has the most pivotal position on the drama triangle - you are in the strongest position, at least initially, to redirect the dynamic into healthy territory.
 

 
More here
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« Reply #6 on: March 27, 2009, 12:35:10 AM »

The reality is that it's a HUGE relief to me to be told that it's actually okay NOT to rescue people, NOT to always be the "good guy" and NOT to feel as though I fail others simply because I don't feel the same as they do. For the first time in my life, I feel authentic and self-directed. Do I still fight the urge to rush in and rescue? Yes. But, I also recognize situations where that instinct is being played upon to manipulate me and I can shut it down.

The whole intention of this site is to give YOU the power to lead your life in a grounded, predictable, reasoned way.

Once you structure your own thoughts and feelings and stop reacting to every drama that comes along, you gain that power.

Keep working at it... .life's about change. It never stays the same.

OTP
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« Reply #7 on: March 27, 2009, 07:15:53 AM »

Very relevant for many here... .and knowing that any of the 3 main roles keep us stuck is important to know.  I had mentioned something in another thread recently about "The resilient child" and another article on that subject. When we find that we are identifying to closely to any of the main roles, it is definitely time to take some personal inventory, and get unstuck.
 Remember that you can have some traits of each of the roles and switch back and forth between them!

 Perpetrator—“I Get To Feel Safe by Hurting Others and Putting Them Down”
 
  • Stuck in a false sense of superiority and defense mechanisms keep people in denial.
  • Addictive role—feeling the adrenalin rush during anger and rage. Getting high from fighting and witnessing fights. (If you get energized watching the Jerry Springer show, you might check out adrenalin addiction.)
  • Unconsciously uses anger as an energizer to keep depression at bay.
  • Needs to be in control and uses verbal or physical force to stay in power.
  • Deals with threat, new ideas and conflict with anger to stay safe in the role of being the dominant person.
  • Uses blame, criticisms, attacks and then venting to release stress.
  • Is highly judgmental of others and angry when others do not do what they say.
  • Self righteous judgments about others weaknesses subtly allows the weakness to continue.
  • Strong sense of entitlement—“you owe me” and willing to use verbal or physical force to get it.
  • Feelings of frustration trigger the right to get angry rather than deal with own uncomfortable feelings.
  • Unable to feel vulnerable and denies own weaknesses.
  • Shame based and uses negative behaviors to cover up/deny own problems.
  • Strong need to be right and not have their authority challenged.
  • Finds reasons to make others wrong and scapegoats them.
  • Believes others deserve the abuse and punishment the Perpetrators dishes out.
  • May have had a parent who modeled aggressive behavior and winning through force.
  • May have had a parent who spoiled the child setting up feelings of entitlement and getting his way.

 
 Rescuer—“I Get to Feel Safe by Enabling Others”

 
  • Stuck in a false superiority with defense of acting unselfishly to help others.
  • Addictive role—feeling good at the expense of others rights to take care of themselves.
  • Good guy beliefs, such as takes the “high moral ground” of rescuing and enabling others.
  • Needs to be in control of others to avoid own feelings and problems.
  • Garnering self-esteem by being seen as unselfish for someone else’s own good.
  • Uses rescuing and enabling to connect or to feel important.
  • Highly judgmental of others and angry when others do not do what he/she says.
  • Blames Perpetrator for problems in the family while refusing to address one’s own problems.
  • Is anxiety driven and uses rescuing to reduce feelings of anxiety.
  • Guilts self when not involved with other’s problems.
  • Has shame about loss of self to meet others needs.
  • Super caretaker role can create sense of giving own self away and create depression.
  • Strong sense of entitlement with the Victim of “You owe me because of all I’ve done for you.”
  • Can become a martyr/Victim when he/she feels that he/she has been taken advantage of by others.
  • Parents the child though meeting his/her own needs of shame and guilt rather than meeting the needs of the child to be a responsible person who is allowed negative consequences and learns from them.
  • May feel guilty and try to make it up to a child because of a divorce or due to choosing a lousy spouse who abuses, scapegoats or neglects the child.
  • May feel guilty and try to make it up to a child because of drinking or using drugs when the child was small, neglecting the child or being a single mom.
  • May feel guilty and try to make it up to a child because of a handicapping condition or a perceived weakness in the child.

 Victim—“I Get to Feel Safe by being Submissive”
 
  • Stuck in a false sense of being unworthy with defenses of feeling sorry for self and passive aggressive behavior.
  • Deals with threats by giving in, in order to feel safe and is submissive when others act inappropriately.
  • Unable to stand up for self and avoids confrontation.
  • Believes his/her needs do not count.
  • Can be overly sensitive, wish-washy and unable to make and stick to decisions.
  • Doesn’t take responsibility for own feelings.
  • Feeds off of the beliefs of Perpetrator and rescuer that he/she cannot take care of self.
  • Has shame base for being irresponsible and inept.
  • Is anxiety driven and makes excuses for staying stuck in Victim-hood.
  • Blames Perpetrator for problems in the family.
  • Anger, resentment and retaliation through manipulation and refusal to act as a responsible adult.
  • Moves between “Poor me” and anger with blaming others “He/she is bad.”
  • Angry when goes along with what the Perpetrator or Rescuer says to do.
  • Feels stuck and unfulfilled in life but does not risk moving forward.
  • May have had a lenient or overly-protective parent who set up expectations of helplessness.
  • May have had a parent who feels anxiety when the child has to suffer natural consequences from mistakes.

 Fourth Role—The Neglector
 “I Get to Do What I Want and Ignore the Needs of Others”
 While Karpman did not describe this dynamic, the Neglectful Parent can cause anger, trauma and fears of abandonment in children.
 
  • Involved i
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« Reply #8 on: December 24, 2009, 06:24:28 AM »

This concept has been really helpful in moving forward, although a little... .well, it required some honesty from me. I think I have been stuck in a Victim role a great deal, and I certainly play it with my uBPD mother, who switches between Persecutor and Rescuer.
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« Reply #9 on: December 24, 2009, 09:45:51 PM »

Just because you're given/accused of assuming a role it doesn't mean you're actually playing it. With a BPD sufferer in particular, the roles are going to get thrown around as part of that person's own distorted thinking. And calling 911 when someone is in danger isn't acting as a Rescuer. It's actually rescuing. There's certainly a distinction.

The trouble is in our relationships with BPD sufferers, we get pulled into the triangle and perhaps have trouble distinguishing the truth of the situation (actually rescuing or enabling? setting boundaries or persecuting? being mistreated or acting the victim?). Also, for me it was a great big  Idea when I realized that when my mother, as a BPD sufferer who equates facts with feelings, FEELS victimized, she will find or create a Persecutor and a Rescuer, to complete the triangle. So from her own, internal, not-based-on-anything-in-the-external-world feeling, an entire triangle trap is created. She would seek me and others out to complete the play. It took a lot of awareness not to enter the triangle.

Taking advantage of this early warning system (uh oh, a Victim has show up, better think about how to avoid becoming the Persecutor or Rescuer) can help us defuse difficult situations earlier.

Another important benefit of recognizing these patterns, as random pointed out in a very thoughtful way, is that when exposed to these roles long enough, we come to view them as inevitable models for how to live. Random said:

Excerpt
Well, the thing is that I did get victimized. But the thing is, as an adult, I contributed to my own victimization and willingly entered into situations where I was seeking out a Rescuer, and wound up with a Persecutor.

Understanding these dynamics helps to free us.

B&W
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« Reply #10 on: December 25, 2009, 08:17:50 AM »

Excerpt
The trouble is in our relationships with BPD sufferers, we get pulled into the triangle and perhaps have trouble distinguishing the truth of the situation (actually rescuing or enabling? setting boundaries or persecuting? being mistreated or acting the victim?).

That's a really important point. And sometimes the situation will have elements of both dysfunctional role-play and real actions. Because life is messy  Smiling (click to insert in post)  For instance, in my case, I was actually being mistreated BUT I was also accepting mistreatment and submitting to inordinate amounts of control by another person. I entered the situations willingly and gave my power away in hopes of finally having the parent/family I always dreamed of.

And I'm starting to see that it's not wrong to want to have a family, to not feel alone in the world, to know that if you are sick or in trouble, you have people to ask for help. But it IS wrong to enter into relationships where the price for having those things is accepting the unacceptable and compromising myself as a person by accepting abuse.


With regards to Persecutorship, when a BPD person is accusing you of being one, they are actually Persecuting. It seems to me that there is a very sneaky abuse tactic that BPD folks often use, and that is bringing up a grievance. In theory, all things being equal, a person has a right to complain about something you are doing that is upsetting them. BUT. This social contract is something that gets twisted and used maliciously - like, my mother would constantly pick at everything I said and did, and how I said and did it, and the idea wasn't really that I was doing something that upset her. She complained in order to make me defend myself and in order to assert authority. Meanwhile, she was playing the victim. And when she started escalating her complaints into raging and I would try to leave the room, she would scream, "I HAVE THE RIGHT TO SAY THIS TO YOU!"

At first, this confused me so much and tied my brain into sailor knots, because I was pretty sure that I was just verbally abused and harassed, but then it does seem like a person should be able to talk about something you are doing that bothers them. Then I came to this conclusion: no, you don't have a right to constantly complain about my behaviour if the intent behind your complaining is malicious and aimed at harassing me, rather than at resolving the situation that is bothering them. It's the interpersonal equivalent of a person who sues everyone in sight - they are using a system unfairly and not in the spirit in which it was intended.
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« Reply #11 on: December 25, 2009, 10:00:45 PM »

Recognizing the dynamics and admitting your place in the triangle is the first step. Now you need an action plan on how to change things.

Another antidote or escape from the Drama Triangle is know as TED (The Empowerment Dynamic), created by David Womeldorff. The Empowerment Dynamic has corresponding roles to each of those played out in the Drama Triangle.

• Victim shifts to Creator,

• Persecutor shifts to Challenger, and

• Rescuer shifts to Coach.
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« Reply #12 on: August 31, 2010, 05:35:45 PM »

One of the best descriptions I've ever read of the drama triangle. Well written, and easy to understand. Unfortunately - it perfectly describes the roles that my uBPDm, her uNPD husband, and "their" son have been locked into f o r e v e r.
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« Reply #13 on: August 31, 2010, 09:48:48 PM »

This is a tool that we use in Drama Therapy. I use it when I am doing diagrams and when we are defining roles with our clients and who and how they are affected. This also applies to my uBPDh.
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« Reply #14 on: September 01, 2010, 12:07:54 AM »

WOW what a great article. Very easy to understand. I have been a caretaker/victim my whole life. 3rd of 7 kids, oldest girl, overwhelmed mom when preschool age. Alwasy felt a lot of responsibility and mom not available to help me with depression when a teenager. Lots of issues in family with dh and DD over the years. BPDD is now 24 and superb persecutor/victim. Dh is a caretaker too. But maybe he is the healtiest of us all sometimes. I am trying hard to bring this all into my awareness to provide healthy environment to raise my gd age5 in. DD not allowed to live in our home anymore. She is trying to contain her anger. Hope she can finally accept come therapy choices when she gets done with her month in jail (DUI, Domestic violence) and work with our family T and one for herself to build relationship she is asking for with her Daughter. Dh and I have custody. right now it is too much for her to take in to hear about this triangle. She can apply this to the rest of the family, but never sees it in herself.

qcr
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« Reply #15 on: September 01, 2010, 12:32:47 AM »

I have also found the drama triangle to be a very useful tool to understand dysfunctional relationships. This article is particularly clear and includes good examples.

We have a related workshop:

US: Our dysfunctional relationships with others

The purpose of this workshop is to discuss the dynamics of difficult family relationships and the roles we get caught up in - unconscious defenses that keep people disconnected and distant. Family members with BPD often get stuck in victim, persecutor, and rescuer roles (the Karpman Triangle), and we get stuck with them. These roles are ways we try to stay safe, or feel important. Participating in the "triangle" ultimately buries people in manipulation, blame, shame, and addictions to crisis and chaos. Learn more:

https://bpdfamily.com/content/karpman-drama-triangle

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« Reply #16 on: September 03, 2010, 03:02:41 PM »

I read this article yesterday and read it again today.  It is exactly what I was ready to hear in my recovery process.  In my life, have occupied all three roles, but mostly the victim role in my early adult years and now in my later years, the caretaker role, and now I see what a toll it takes on healthy relating.  This article has given me a renewed since of hope and motivation to hop off the triangle and I'm excited about practicing relating to others without trying to rescue.  It's really a profoundly insightful article.  I also see  now that my relationship with uBPD friend never had a chance.  I was the rescuer and he was the persecutor.  We were opponents in some sense when you look at it from the Karpman Triangle staNPDoint.  Our true selves were never revealed, and thus the friendship was doomed from the start.  I am 74 days no contact.  I can't emphasize enough the value of no contact.  It is the space we need to reflect, stretch our minds and hearts and learn the value of the present moment.  Thank you so much for posting this.  CS
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« Reply #17 on: September 06, 2010, 11:57:47 AM »

It's a great article.  Thanks for putting it up!

I was a SGV but went to Rescuer almost immediately, even as a small child.  Persecutor came later, but I definitely arrived at it and have continued to ping around the triangle.  In ever-changing ways, for which I'm grateful, but would definitely like to get off it altogether!

I particularly liked the candor with which the author addressed the sicknesses of the SGV and the SGR, not just making the SGP the "bad guy."


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« Reply #18 on: September 07, 2010, 08:33:54 AM »

  One cannot "rescue" someone from their past victimization - the person has to heal that - not get "rescued" from it.

This really speaks to me-- I attributed much of my exBPDh's negativity to his past, and believed that if I could "save" him from that our life together would be normal and sane.

I learned to enter the triangle from the rescue position in my FOO.
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« Reply #19 on: September 15, 2010, 06:17:40 AM »

Really interesting  Doing the right thing (click to insert in post)
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« Reply #20 on: September 15, 2010, 04:37:59 PM »

That is how I am in this predicament, "Budding resuecer grows up in an enviromnent where thier needs are  negated ... .without permission to take care of themselves, their needs go underground and they turn instead to taking care of others.! I am realizing how I thought if I took care of him all would be ok... .sorry isn't working. I need to read this several times 
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« Reply #21 on: September 16, 2010, 04:09:11 AM »

WOW!

This describes my ex to a tea

And by the way I can see myself in there too

I am wondering though as I have wondered about BPD for a while - both professionally and especially personally whether the actions / behaviours etc of someone with this is not completely invalid - usually (because yes when they hit delusional it can be!) - however is extreme and that is the issue? It is perhaps why we put up with it also as we know something is not quite right but we are understanding people and can see what is trying to be said and therefore allow the cycle to continue?

I hope this makes sense?

Thanks again for the interesting article!
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« Reply #22 on: November 04, 2010, 08:52:52 AM »

More on The Empowerment Dynamic that Skip mentions: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karpman_drama_triangle#Therapeutic_models

The Empowerment Dynamic (TED) stands as an alternative to The Drama Triangle. The drama triangle is a psychological and social model of human interaction in transactional analysis  (TA) first described by Stephen Karpman in 1968. The drama triangle is used in psychology and psychotherapy to describe the insidious way in which victims, persecutors, and rescuers get caught in a cycle that is hard to escape. For many years, the key to escaping this triangle was thought to be awareness plus willpower. However, there was no clear alternative to the drama triangle. In 2005, David Emerald (aka Womeldorff) published a short book called The Power of TED* to provide a new model that offers an antidote to and escape from Karpman's drama triangle. TED* involves three key roles that correspond to the roles found in the drama triangle. In the drama triangle, the major role is known as the Victim. The Victim is someone who sees life as happening to them and who feels powerless to change their circumstances. Victims place the blame for their status on a Persecutor, who can be a person or a situation. Being powerless, the Victim seeks a Rescuer to solve the problem for them. This dynamic is cyclical and repeats as one problem replaces another, creating a roller-coaster effect of tension and relief in a person's life. These roles are intrinsic to the idea of Victimhood or, as David Emerald describes it, the Victim Orientation.

The empowerment dynamic (TED*) is goal or outcome oriented and replaces the Drama Triangle roles as follows. In the TED* framework, the Victim shifts into the role of Creator. The Persecutor takes on the role of Challenger, and the Rescuer assumes the new role of Coach. A Creator is someone who stops to think about what they want - what their long-term goal or vision is. Creators are outcome-oriented as opposed to problem-oriented. Problems will always occur, but instead of acting as a Persecutor, the problem now takes on the form of Challenger. A Challenger is a person or situation that forces you to clarify your goal. Challengers encourage us to get clearer about what it is we do want, then focus our efforts towards moving closer to that goal. Emerald calls this Dynamic Tension[1]. Dynamic Tension is the difference between current reality and the envisioned goal or outcome. By taking what Emerald calls Baby Steps a Creator gets closer to and clearer about the goals or outcomes they are trying to create in their lives.

The final role of the TED* triangle is that of Coach. Instead of Rescuing someone, a Coach asks questions that are intended to help the individual to make informed choices. A Rescuer, by definition solves a Victim's problems, which keeps the Victim powerless and dependent upon the aid of others. This is a form of mind-game that can be found in Transactional Analysis[2]. This is a self-perpetuating cycle designed to keep the Victim down and powerless. The key differentiator between a Rescuer and a Coach is that the Coach sees the individual as capable of making choices and of solving their own problems. A Coach asks questions that enable the individual to see the possibilities for positive action, to focus on what they do want instead of what they don't want. Coaches see victims as Creators in their own right and meet them as equals. This process interrupts the drama cycle and puts the former victim in the powerful position of Creator where they make informed choices and focus on outcomes instead of problems.
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« Reply #23 on: November 30, 2010, 10:42:03 PM »

I've just ordered the book 'The Power of TED' www.powerofted.com/ and look forward to reading it.

On the drama triangle, I've certainly played the role of victim to UBPDW's persecutor, and I want to end that toxic dynamic.  It's interesting that within the past few weeks, I've had some moments of strength and clarity, where I can start wrapping my head around the idea of creating goals for myself, becoming more pro-active in my life, and less reactionary to W's drama and chaos.  Granted, the moments are fleeting, but I do sense that I'm making some progress.

I also sense that our changing to a healthier dynamic (i.e., victim to creator, persecutor to challenger, rescuer to coach) can facilitate the ability for us to set and maintain appropriate boundaries... .and perhaps it's all really intertwined as part of a positive, upward cycle on our individual paths to better emotional health?

blackandwhite, am I on the right track with this?
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« Reply #24 on: May 01, 2011, 10:52:18 AM »

Here's an excerpt of another formulation related to the drama triangle. This one describes four roles ("states" that a person with Borderline Personality Disorder is likely to play, and the way that others (in particular therapists, but we can also consider how these states impact partners and family members) are likely to respond. The author looks at these states in terms of value, agency, and attribution--who has power (in the person's mind) and who is good or bad (in the person's mind).
 
Excerpted from: "Borderline Attributions," by Robert J. Gregory, Robert J. American Journal of Psychotherapy, 2007, Vol. 61 Issue 2, p131-147, 17p
 
Four States: Helpless Victim, Guilty Perpetrator, Angry Victim, Demigod Perpetrator
 
[There are]... .four common states of borderline personality disorder, i.e. helpless victim, guilty perpetrator, angry victim, and demigod perpetrator. Each state of being is characterized by a predominant motivation for either dependency or autonomy and assignment of polarized attributions of value and agency to self and others. The rigid and polarized attributions within each state lead to well-defined expectations for the self and how others will respond to self. Moreover, since others frequently feel compelled to respond in a manner consistent with those expectations, the net result is a self-perpetuating, stereotypical, and repetitive pattern of interpersonal relatedness.
 
THE HELPLESS VICTIM STATE (OTHER IS GOOD, OTHER IS BAD)
 
In the helpless victim state of being, both agency and value are assigned to others. Self-image is as an innocent and helpless child, whereas other people are split into either all good and powerful or all bad and powerful images, thereby creating a triadic relational system analogous to Karpman's (1968) drama triangle of victim, rescuer, and persecutor.
 
This state allows patients to maintain self-esteem through shifting the locus of responsibility for negative consequences from self to others. It also satisfies the patient's need for unification with an idealized caregiver, though at the cost of undercutting the patients' sense of power and autonomy.
 
Countertransference reactions to patients in this state are very positive, assuming that the therapist is on the good side of the binary attribution of value. [To help]... .The therapist partially gratifies dependency wishes by a warm and soothing manner in the role of the ideal other, while also supporting the patient's independent decision-making and creative exploration of his/her unique attributes... .
 
THE GUILTY PERPETRATOR STATE (SELF IS BAD, OTHER IS GOOD)
 
The guilty perpetrator state is characterized by depression and hopelessness. Self-image is very negative and assumes total responsibility for every bad thing that ever happened. Persons perceive themselves as inadequate, defective, evil, and/or a hopeless case, i.e. "I'm just this crazy person who will never get better, so I might as well end things right now." There is a significant risk of suicide.
 
Separation fears and/or fears of retaliation for attempts to differentiate the self through assertiveness commonly trigger the guilty perpetrator state (Rogers et al., 1995). It serves to maintain attachment in a conflicted relationship by owning the blame (i.e. sense of agency) for any difficulties. It represents a last ditch effort to hold onto an untarnished image of the ideal other in the context of emerging feelings of anger and resentment. For example, the guilty perpetrator state often follows a therapist's vacation or an incident of physical abuse from a spouse.
 
Self-destructive behaviors, such as cutting or overdose, are common in this state, serving as symbolic atonement for self-perceived badness and thus, relieve dysphoria. These behaviors also serve to displace aggressive impulses that might otherwise jeopardize a relationship.
 
... .The therapist is in the awkward position of being stuck in the role of the idealized rescuer, but having no agency. For example, the patient might state, "I know you mean well, but nothing seems to be working. I'm so depressed and need some help!"... .The therapist must avoid enactment of the role of the rescuer, regain agency, and challenge the patient's self-perception of irredeemable badness. This may include refraining from excessive interventions and/or by pointing out ways that the patient is choosing not to not participate fully in treatment.
 
THE ANGRY VICTIM STATE (SELF IS GOOD, OTHER IS BAD)
 
In this state, agency is given to others, who are seen as persecutory. The patient's self-image is idealized as the heroic victim who endures life's trials. The slogan is "I can't soar like an eagle when I'm surrounded by turkeys."
 
Mood is irritable, as patients feel justified in denigrating the many people, including the therapist, who are giving them a hard time. Patients' behavior is frequently demeaning, controlling, and intrusive. They have prominent paranoid, obsessive, and/or narcissistic traits, seeming suspicious, entitled, and blaming others for their problems.
 
The angry victim state serves to protect against feelings of humiliation and enhance self-esteem through idealization of the self and externalization of responsibility for negative consequences... .
 
In addition to protecting against feelings of humiliation, the angry victim state fulfills wishes for autonomy and mitigates merger fears. The cost to the patient, however, is isolation and fearfulness. Unlike the helpless victim state, there is no soothing and accepting ideal other to allow space to reflect upon experiences and attributions. Instead, the patient's negative attributions of the other prompt control struggles, i.e. internal conflicts between positive and negative self-images become external conflicts between the grandiose self and the persecutory or shaming other.
 
Patients in this state frequently utilize substances, such as alcohol or drugs as a substitute for the soothing functions of the ideal other (Johnson, 1993)... .
 
Therapists often feel irritated and devalued by the patient's criticisms and whining complaints. There is a strong impulse to retaliate for the patient's unjust attacks by "setting limits" or giving the patient a "reality check".

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« Reply #25 on: May 07, 2011, 06:24:49 PM »

So many of the ideas and concepts that i have been exposed to the past year are helping me to refocus myself to this way of thinking. I don't know how efficient my mix 'n match process has been, but the baby steps seem to be starting to work. My life feels so much less chaotic and I see baby steps being taken by everyone in my little family - dh, gd5 and our limited contact relationship with BPDDD24. I am more and more aware of the dysfunctional coping strategies EACH OF US brings to bear on making our way through a typical day. And I have to say, I can be really loud sometimes and feel very justified in my loudness. I am working to take time-out quicker, use my calming techniques to gain self-control, and come back into the family. I am being able more often to listen quietly to DD24's complaints, be validating of her feelings and ask validating questions to leave things open for her to problem-solve her own issues. Then let go of her outcomes - they are hers, not mine. I just have to keep practicing all this stuff.

Now my greatest wish is to share this with DD24 - without her tearing it up, or texting me to not send her my 'crap' that she is waiting for REAL MAIL. ie. a positive outcome to her SSI appeal to get benefits or the letter with the meeting for orientation to apply for assisted housing. Her complaining today was that bf was feeling angry with her because she is so dependent on him and he doesn't want to be attached to someone that cannot be independent and get a job. (I don't see him having a job - they live homeless together with lots of other homeless in their city park, hoping to avoid illegal camping tickets.!) So I remind myself again to LET IT GO. She has to find her own way, and she is surviving, she is no longer raging or blaming - at least to my face, we have had two weeks in a row of a positive visit time with gd5 - short visits but no anger.
<br/>:)oes anyone have ideas of how to share the idea of being a 'creator' with my BPDDD24 - she hates big words or "pshycology talk".

qcr
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« Reply #26 on: May 08, 2011, 01:46:41 PM »

Does anyone have ideas of how to share the idea of being a 'creator' with my BPDDD24 - she hates big words or "pshycology talk".

Not sure, but I think the idea here is to not try to change other's actions, or the roles they try to play on the triangle. It's to be self-aware and control where you are in things?
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« Reply #27 on: July 16, 2011, 11:30:14 PM »

Wikipedia has a long page on Transactional Analysis too.

www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transactional_analysis

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« Reply #28 on: November 05, 2011, 06:49:22 PM »

How to escape the karpman drama triangle?



              Click on diagram for more information

Since the ending of my relationship with a girl who suffered from BPD and much introspection, my perspective of the world had a paradigm shift. I see differently. I feel differently. I think differently. It is like being new in many ways. I am now aware of many things I never was aware of before... .such as the drama triangle. The question remains, however, how to always avoid it?
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« Reply #29 on: November 05, 2011, 06:59:38 PM »

The best way to escape this triangle is to take responsibility for your own actions and emotions and refuse to take responsibility for anyone else's. Don't let yourself be a victim, and don't rely on anyone else to save you or blame. If you own your emotions and ride through them, stay mindful, and take care of yourself, you'll be able to avoid being a victim.

Now the other part to avoid being the rescuer or the persecutor - you have to let others take responsibility for themselves. Don't try to swoop in and rescue anyone - you have to let people suffer their own consequences and deal with things on their own. You can still help people and advise them, but don't take too much control over the outcomes of THEIR decisions. The only person you can control is yourself, and the only person you can save is yourself. Also, if you find yourself being blamed for everything, you need to find strategies that places the correct emotions back on the person feeling them - the "victim." Don't blame yourself for someone else's emotions and construct firm boundaries and you can keep from being turned into the bad guy.

It's probably more difficult that it sounds, but that's my advice to you. I hope it helps.
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« Reply #30 on: November 05, 2011, 07:13:50 PM »

The only way I know to stay off the triangle is to work hard toward your own development as an adult and that means self care and self responsibility is a priority. This truly is a paradigm shift for many of us who, mostly due to family of origin, became habituated to feeling responsible for others which makes us prime for rescuing others while abandoning ourselves. One of the biggest shifs for me is realizing that my attempts to rescue actually do not help the other individual but makes us both more unhealthy and more stuck on the triangle. It is actually a gift to take care of yourself first. The books How to be an Adult and How to be an Adult in Relationship by David Ricco are excellent. Lynn Forrest has a website and free email service about how to get off the drama triangle, her information is very helpful. Al Turtle's website and blog is full of free essays that are also excellent. There's lots of good stuff out there that helps us to get out of the FOG .
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« Reply #31 on: November 05, 2011, 08:11:19 PM »

My therapist's take on this is "don't feed the animals" by which he means don't reward bad behaviour only the good.

Easier said than done I'm sure...

Take care

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« Reply #32 on: November 05, 2011, 08:48:56 PM »

I think a main concern of mine is that in introspection, I see how I've been the rescuer on the triangle. My EXGF with BPD was the victim when we met but once there was intimacy, she tried to make me the persecuter which I tried to avoid and so she eventually became the persecuter to me(vicitm) and played herself as victim to the outside world in order to find a new rescuer. So, I wonder how to change from that role in romantic relationships.

Secondly, I see the triangle dynamics at play very clearly now in others and really want nothing to do with it, but it seems that I often feel like others try to suck me into their drama. I've gotten really good at keeping it out of my personal life, but doing it at work is a challenge!
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« Reply #33 on: November 05, 2011, 09:23:26 PM »

How to escape the karpman drama triangle?

For me... .emotions, emotional decision making, and weak/no boundaries were the driving forces for participating in the drama triangle.

I mainly identify with the role of rescuer but I found I played all three. 

When I was in the role of:

Rescuer... .driven by sympathy, enmeshment, over-confidence in the rescue, fairy-tale illusion of love.

Persecutor... .driven by anger, frustration, confusion, impatience, stubborness to admit failure in the rescue attempts, realizing she did not want to be rescued even though she was demanding it.

Victim... .driven by depression, confusion, rejection, low self-esteem

Boundaries are pre-thought out rules for yourself using your rational mind... .keeps emotions from muddling things up.  Cognitive awareness when my emotions are making the decisions has helped.  No contact has worked the best so far out of everything.

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« Reply #34 on: November 06, 2011, 02:10:35 AM »

  No contact has worked the best so far out of everything.

Worked great for me in the aftermath of my relationship too. My EXGF with BPD even contacted me and attempted to portray herself as in need of rescuing. I remained NC.

Thanks for the feedback everyone!
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« Reply #35 on: December 15, 2011, 06:53:20 PM »

This is one of the best articles I have read to understand how I get into sticky situations in relationships. I have ran around this triangle many times. I have played rescuer and victim. Going back to my early childhood I without doubt was a victim and a rescuer and eventually with my mum I became the persecutor. I ended up hating her because I rescued for so long I began to feel abused. In the end it got me off the merry go around or the dance of danger. But when things began to feel safe with her I kept going back into the fold. My need to be needed by her was so strong. Until again another argument brought me back in there as victim. Again and Again, around and around we went! Thankfully my persecution was mainly to distance myself from her. But my anger and hate were raw. She did not like my decision. She then became the persecutor! She blame and bad mouthing me to other family members to the extreme of total exclusion by not inviting me to family gatherings. Surprise, surprise  all family members played the game with her. Manipulation to the end. I felt totally isolated and felt like my family had become a judge and jury of my crimes. What crimes I was been accused of I was never told.

But this I do know and felt it was I believe because for the first time I was stood on my own two feet and said:  NO I WILL NOT ACCEPT YOUR ABUSE OR ANGER ANY MORE Mum!

Thank you  Smiling (click to insert in post) I will be re- reading this article again and again to improve my situation and recognise where I really want to be to be healthy.   Voice. x
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« Reply #36 on: September 18, 2012, 06:36:26 AM »

Fascinating stuff. Thanks for posting it!

I definitely saw myself and my roles and how they switched. Originally, I was a rescuer. I was the savior and the one who would bring balance to her world. I later became tired and annoyed with the surprises of the disorder and transitioned to the persecutor. The fights became epic during this time.

I'm not proud of how I reacted.

Excerpt
So, in the BPD interaction - the BPD changes during drama from the victim role to the persecutor (getting angry and lashing out at the non) (or the non can get angry that their "rescuing" isn't working and begin persecuting the BPD

This really speaks to me. I became angry any pretext of a functional relationship as I knew it wasn't working. So much was off. Then there were the additional things like dumping primary parental care on me, the intense enmeshment projected on me and always having to placate her with nothing in return. I also transitioned to understanding that her youngest's problems weren't because the child was flawed, it was because mom was disordered. The child was the one exhibiting the stress and strain of it. She was the 'bad' child role.

I became resentful and angry. Especially when after we'd agreed early on, she'd address her mental issues - she later said she was fine and had no problems. A direct contradiction to earlier statements by her.

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« Reply #37 on: November 05, 2012, 01:16:53 PM »

Trying to get this into long term memory.  The other articles on Karpman Triangle helped because it also talked about "starting gate" positions.
 
https://bpdfamily.com/message_board/index.php?topic=108384.0
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karpman_drama_triangle
 
I recently had a big problem with my BPD mother getting my Dad so riled up that he yelled at me in an uncharacteristic major temper tantrum.  I saw it coming.  I had some recent career success that I could tell she couldn't cope with because it'd change the family mythology about my worth.
 
After Dad's (not BPD as far as I can tell) blow-up, Mom went in for the kill telling me that it was my place to fit in to her view of me and stay there.  Any disagreement on my part is totally unacceptable.  Now, Dad has apologized and asked me not to take my reaction (unfriended Mom on Facebook) to his temper tantrum out on Mom.
 
In the meantime, I've realized that I need to get out of the childhood fantasy of thinking my family could ever be emotionally supportive of me. Is that moving towards the middle?
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« Reply #38 on: November 17, 2012, 10:44:21 PM »

I'm beginning to wonder if ANYTHING I communicate is not on this triangle! Call me an SGR, who married a SGP (no wonder we argue so much!)

This is worth printing off and reading every day. I need to talk to my T about this. Not sure I'm clear on this "moving to the center" concept (but need to be!)
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« Reply #39 on: November 25, 2012, 11:19:18 AM »

So... .HOW does one move to the center?  Examples?
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« Reply #40 on: November 26, 2012, 12:27:51 AM »

Skip often shares a technique of rephrasing the antagonists question in a centered way and then answers the centered question.

For example:

Antagonists Question:  You don't care about me, you never spend much time visiting because you hang out with your stupid girlfriend.

Rephrased ("centered": I'm not feeling loved these days because your father is traveling a lot with the job.

Responding ("centered": You know mom, I miss you - I wish we could spend more time together.  How are you feeling with Dad traveling all the time now?

The original statement is sometimes hard to decipher, but it's important to try and understand where a statement like this might be coming from, realizing it has little to do with you.
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« Reply #41 on: November 27, 2012, 02:50:20 PM »

So Wise Minding, basically?  Finding the underlying primary emotion and responding to that?
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« Reply #42 on: November 29, 2012, 01:08:57 AM »

Really good question.

I think there can be situations where the implementation of "Karpman" and "Wisemind" are similar - but as these tools are taught here, they are different.

Wisemind: Wisemind is about us centering ourselves - solving the dialectical dilemma when our logical mind and emotional mind are in conflict - basically harmonizing or balancing the two. 

Karpman Centering: Karpman is about not taking the bait reacting when someone retreats into a Karpmen corner.  Rather than react to their over emotional reaction, we filter what they are saying to something more centered and then respond to it. It could be an underlying emotion or it can simply be a matter of fact. In this example, it is about avoiding the emotional all together: You don't care about your mother. - Sorry mom, it would be great to spend time, I couldn't get off work.

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« Reply #43 on: November 29, 2012, 05:51:36 AM »

In this example, it is about avoiding the emotional all together: You don't care about your mother. - Sorry mom, it would be great to spend time, I couldn't get off work.

In your example, you apologize, which is a little sticky. Laugh out loud (click to insert in post)  I do get the point of your reply and appreciate the clarification.  There are obviously times where centering involves an apology if I have done something wrong.  However, I'm very comfortable backing into a JADE corner and apologize for everything.  If I bump into a tree I apologize.  I'm trying to eliminate "I'm sorry" from my automatic speech because I shouldn't be sorry for having my own needs and life.  When my mom drops by unannounced at work and expects to be seen when I'm in a meeting, the last thing I should say is "Sorry Mom, it would be great to spend time, I couldn't get off work."  Can you give a different example?
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« Reply #44 on: November 29, 2012, 08:13:35 AM »

When my mom drops by unannounced at work and expects to be seen when I'm in a meeting, the last thing I should say is "Sorry Mom, it would be great to spend time, I couldn't get off work."  Can you give a different example?

I think in that example, it would be fine to leave off the "I'm sorry", and just say the rest of it.  I totally know where you are coming from on that one.

Karpman is a hard one for me as it involves responding instead of reacting.  I have so many things on my plate, multi-tasking, etc. that I'm usually in reaction mode instead of thoughtful response mode.  Wise Mind is a bit easier, as it has to do with me and my own thinking.  That I'm good with... .reflecting on my emotions and taking my time to make decisions that are good for me.

As with many of the tools we use here, it takes awareness and practice.  Smiling (click to insert in post)
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« Reply #45 on: November 29, 2012, 08:39:38 AM »

When my mom drops by unannounced at work and expects to be seen when I'm in a meeting, the last thing I should say is "Sorry Mom, it would be great to spend time, I couldn't get off work."  Can you give a different example?

This is not a Karpman event. A Karpman situation is when someone over-reacts - becomes a victim - draws emotion into the moment (one example). Your mom dropping by work is more of a boundaries issue.  At some calm time, you can explain how it's best to get a hold of you during the day.

Now, if your mom was upset at the time and telling you that you were not treating her right - then you have a Karpman situation - and you want to give a centered response.

The word "sorry" is fine.  It's polite and its cooperative.  We use it all the time. It doesn't imply guilt. The reason you're keying in on it is because you have become programed to react. Saying "I'm sorry" is triggering for you. Based on the past, you don't want to concede.

Karpman is really about letting all that go. Staying centered.  If the average person's average Mom showed up at work, the average person would say "sorry".  If the secretary was carrying the message she would say "sorry".

Find words you like - the word is not important.  The point is to not have anger, attitude, annoyance, triggers, etc. in your response.  

If you do, then you have let yourself be drawn into a Karpman corner.
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« Reply #46 on: November 29, 2012, 08:46:49 AM »

When my mom drops by unannounced at work and expects to be seen when I'm in a meeting, the last thing I should say is "Sorry Mom, it would be great to spend time, I couldn't get off work."  Can you give a different example?

I think in that example, it would be fine to leave off the "I'm sorry", and just say the rest of it.  I totally know where you are coming from on that one.

Karpman is a hard one for me as it involves responding instead of reacting.  I have so many things on my plate, multi-tasking, etc. that I'm usually in reaction mode instead of thoughtful response mode.  Wise Mind is a bit easier, as it has to do with me and my own thinking.  That I'm good with... .reflecting on my emotions and taking my time to make decisions that are good for me.

As with many of the tools we use here, it takes awareness and practice.  Smiling (click to insert in post)

Thanks, W2K--leaving sorry off would work.  Awareness and practice are where I'm at currently.  I am a reactor and she has trained me to jump when she needles me. 

The word "sorry" is fine.  It's polite and its cooperative.  We use it all the time. It doesn't imply guilt. The reason you're keying in on it is because you have become programed to react. Saying I'm sorry is triggering for you. Based on the past, you don't want to concede.

You hit the nail on the head.  It is a trigger word for me and guilt is an automatic negative thought. 

I think I get Wise Mind, I would just love to see more examples of centering in Karpman situations. 
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« Reply #47 on: February 21, 2013, 04:02:05 PM »

i'm curious about this triangle... .  

if i am no longer with my ex-gf with BPD, and i was the victim, does she seek out someone to fill the void now since we have NC? i guess what i'm asking is does she always have to have either the persecutor, victim and rescuer in her life?

if she foudn someone else (which i presume she did) i'm guessing she made him the rescuer, so how does he get out of the emotions that she used to place on the victim?
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« Reply #48 on: February 21, 2013, 04:25:06 PM »

i'm curious about this triangle... .  

if i am no longer with my ex-gf with BPD, and i was the victim, does she seek out someone to fill the void now since we have NC? i guess what i'm asking is does she always have to have either the persecutor, victim and rescuer in her life?

if she foudn someone else (which i presume she did) i'm guessing she made him the rescuer, so how does he get out of the emotions that she used to place on the victim?

It's about understanding the dynamic, and moving to the center of the triangle, using tools like Wise Mind and SET:

Wise Mind - https://bpdfamily.com/message_board/index.php?topic=64749.0

SET - https://bpdfamily.com/content/ending-conflict
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« Reply #49 on: February 26, 2013, 10:08:00 PM »

So what role is the BPD usually?

I have a confession that I am often in the victim position with him alternating with his ego-boosting hero mode or being nasty and kicking me while I'm down in persecute.

Sometimes I'm rescuing at the same time as being a victim if that makes sense. I've spend portions of the relationship relying on him financially, but at the same time as being emotionally supportive to him.

When he splits me he talks in facts so he earns more or whatever at the time so therefore contributes more, and I'm assuming this but I think it makes him think he has more rights because of the money thing.
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« Reply #50 on: March 04, 2013, 05:11:15 AM »

So what role is the BPD usually?

We can all switch around to the different roles.

I think the main point is to try to be aware, and try to center ourselves - make sure that we don't fall in and get stuck in any role, no matter what the other people do.

Try to stay balanced and centered ourselves - since "me" is the only person that I can control.
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« Reply #51 on: March 22, 2013, 08:38:01 AM »

I find the Karpman triangle interesting, and wrote a paper on the topic of the power of the victim in this model.  My experience dealing with my DH's BPDex has really shifted my view on the degree of power the victim experiences.  Also, being a parent informs me in this way.  In a sense, the power of victimhood is the ultimate power, meaning the power of last resort.  It is very powerful, but only to win, not to retain a positive outcome for oneself other than trumping the rescuer or persecutor.  Here is what I mean.  For the BPDmom of my SDs, she was raised in a very abusive home. She is extremely constant in using victimized language, even in a persecutor role.   She is very attached to the role of victim, though she often is playing all three roles at once or at least attempting it... .  yelling at someone that they ruined her life while giving in and telling him she is willing to do anything for him but they do nothing for her.   But in her descriptions, she played this role as a child to get out of terrible abuse.  I see shadows of this in her two girls, too.  The victim has two powers in a powerless situation.  First, there is power over those in a rescuer role.  If the rescuer wants to rescue (and my T calls parenthood a "mandatory rescue", you can deprive the parent of that power by being a victim beyond rescue.  My SD8 mimics mom and plays this role at times when she is in a lot of pain over her relationship with mom.  She does not want to be touched, insists that Dh and my love is hurting her and she just wants us to go away, says she wants to die.  How painful to be a parent and to be able to do nothing.  In a less intense context, I see many young children gravitate to this role naturally when parents are in charge in a way that feels unfair to a child.  

A second power is over the persecutor.  To gain power over the persecutor, you have to show them that nothing they do can hurt you.  That I think is where some dissociative mental illness can originate, including personality disorders, PTSD, etc.  To get a person to stop hurting you by not reacting or by acting like it is not powerful takes a lot of denial of one's actual experience.  I think BPD mom use this with her mom and mom's abusive BFs.  The words she uses now are that everyone hates her, that "you hate me anyway, so why should I treat you well?"  A willingness to constantly fail and blame others, rather than taking steps to have a good life.  For example, it seems whenever she tries to get more time with the kids through the courts or mediation, she almost always has some mishap... .  last time, two weeks before her court date in legal action she initiated, she got a DUI.  When she wanted a job at the school, she showed up at a school even drunk and yelling.  She then totally justifies these acts irrationally, denies them, to such an extreme degree that it is believable just in it strangeness, or she is so pitiably and appears so helpless that people have sympathy for her.  There is also an effect that she flails so badly, that no-one can imagine that DH does not already have full custody, so people imagine there must be something wrong with him, too.  If you act like a totally incompetent victim, people tend to take your side, so you are more effective at obtaining outside allies.  

The risk of these powerful strategies is that in the victim role, as with each of these roles, you harm yourself as well as others, but in the victim role the risk is profound, including in extreme cases the risk to your own life, including risks of suicide, in my SD's BPD mom's case, risk of death in drunk driving, many job losses, etc.  So it is worth it when you have a mom who is willing to beat you as this strategy may save your life, and it does have power to trump the power of persecutor or rescuer.  It is also a much more controlled power--rescuer is a vulnerable place to be, and persecutor is often very out of control and condemned by society.  But it is the manipulative power with the greatest price.  
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« Reply #52 on: April 30, 2013, 10:13:51 PM »

Wow!  This helped.  I realized previously that I am a 'rescuer'.  I worked on my codependency issues but never realized that it kept me in the victim triangle.  Something that recently happened to me really illustrates what the article was about and helps me to understand why I've been feeling so put out.  I was recently asked to lead the women's group at my church.  I accepted and everyone began saying things like "I just knew you would be called."  "You are going to fix everything"  "You are the one who'll make everything better"  People started attributing things to me that I didn't do.  They were good things, but i didn't do them.  It felt like I was being made out to be a savior or something and I got freaked out.  When I started saying no to all the needy people I got some major pushback.  I tried to go to my higher up for support, but they were rescuers too and began talking down to me for trying to set boundaries.  I realize that a year ago I would have been sucked into this dynamic... .  but I don't want to be.  I resigned after 6 weeks because I finally realized that the whole group had this very dysfunctional relationship (I had just moved her and started going to this church so it was new for me) and nothing i could do would help.  Afterwards I've started getting this weird treatment from others that makes me feel bad and I realize that when they couldn't have me as the rescuer they are trying to force me into one of the other roles.  Gonna have to spend some time thinking how to get out of it.  I thought I wasn't getting sucked in but I did.  habits suck.
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« Reply #53 on: May 13, 2013, 07:34:44 PM »

Excerpt
Fair warning, this is going to be a rather long post.  Also, if I have used terms incorrectly, please feel free to correct me so I can correct myself and learn better.

Firstly, to address the question about the helpfulness or usefulness of understanding the concept of triangulation - specifically Karpman in understanding drama-related triangles, I want to say that in my opinion, potentially, the most beneficial use of understanding triangulation is to:

1)  Simply understand what is going on on a basic model-based level.

I will be upfront and honest.  I personally hate gossip and I really do not do well with 'groups' of friends.

Why?

I have had experience dealing with multiple forms of triangulation from the more innocuous to the more malicious and though I never had words for it (I never knew what triangulation was and that it had a name until I started therapy years before; my psyD explained it to me when I expressed constant frustration and aggravation at encountering such situations), I definitely could see a pattern and boy oh boy did it bother me.

Excuse me, but I don't need to know something akin to, "Oh hey, did you know that Bill's screwing Jill and 'whine whine whine'," when I am friends with both Bill and Jill and neither Bill nor Jill thought to tell me this fact for themselves though we ARE friends and have interacted as such.  It isn't that it's TMI, it's the fact that I simply respect both Bill and Jill to tell me something important if it pertains to me.  Neither Bill nor Jill are my SOs or are people I am interested in, so why would it matter if they're together?  Perhaps more importantly, why in the world did Adam bother telling me something like that in the first place?

In Real Life, such a thing did happen and 'Adam', it turns out, was feeling put out that 'Jill' had chosen 'Bill' over him and was trying to gain my sympathy and support and to also hopefully instill some sense of animosity in me towards the new couple.  Neither of the two worked and I politely told 'Adam' that if he had issues about the whole situation (which, it really seemed like he did), then he ought to be talking to the new couple and not me.  Thing is, he was never the 'direct' sort and 'direct' communication was never his forte and so he consistently chose to communicate in more indirect and obfuscated manners.

In another example (I couldn't find my other old post or the Triangulation thread where I had typed out a diagram of a Karpman triangulation scene involving the evolving roles of Victims, Rescuers, Persecutors etc within a circle of friends):

[Becoming a Rescuer] I once had a friend who all but idolized me to the point where they more or less acted like I could never do wrong... .  even though I always outed myself as any other human being who makes mistakes... .  and even though I wanted nothing to do with that role.

I didn't necessarily see my friendship with them as me wanting to 'rescue' them, but I certainly did want to offer support and 'be a friend' in general.  Being that I was - at the time - generally unaware and non-communicative with their other friends and whatevers and being that our friendship didn't start out with drama, it also contributed to my late realization that I was tangled in a Karpman-type drama triangle.

[Becoming a Persecutor] Later as time went on and I confronted them on some issues and put my foot down on some boundaries, they kind of sulked and unbeknownst to me until later, they ran to our mutual friends to get support from all the horrible things that had come from me... .  without addressing the situation with me AT ALL in any kind of an honest fashion.  Once they ran and were in the 'safety' of our other friends, they turned around to verbally abuse me.

By setting my foot down on boundaries and 'triggering' the hurt they had once experienced in regards to notions of abandonment, I went from being their Rescuer to being their next Persecutor.

The fact that I was left in the dark about their running to our mutual friends and badmouthing me is of particular importance in the fact that it demonstrates their unwillingness to cope with the issue (having issues with me) in a healthier and more straightforward manner.

Bowen would say - to my understanding - that they did this to escape the stress and abandonment fear they experienced owing to the triggering of said abandonment issues.  In this case because of the avoidance of dealing with the actual issue (fear of abandonment even though I wasn't about to 'abandon' them) and because of scapegoating (blaming me for every problem they had instead of addressing their attachment disordered way of thinking and feeling), this sort of triangulation would be considered dysfunctional.

Hence, also, a Karpman drama-related triangle.


[Becoming a Victim] Confused as %^$# as to what had happened and reeling from the drama that had ensued, I felt really wounded... .  and with no explanations or understandings.

Easy one.  I felt victimized because I couldn't understand why in the world would someone who was once so formerly close to me choose to attack me in such ways without any kind of previous discussion about issues they might have had with me.

[Becoming Recycle Material aka the Triangle Restarts Again] And so the cycle continued when eventually, my former fwBPD attempted to return to me to share their latest drama about their new perpetrator and to gain my sympathy and support.  

Specifically, when a mutual friend (the only one left of that group of friends whom I still kept in contact with) finally put their foot down on boundaries, they, too, went from Rescuer (they were the one who the fwBPD used to hide behind and idolized in much the same way they once idolized me) to Persecutor (they set off the abandonment trigger) and Victim (as the former fwBPD painted them black... .  ) and RAN BACK TO ME wanting my support in regards to their latest drama.

The cycle of recycling never started as I ended-ended everything at that point and though they have since made attempted repeats at trying to reconnect with either me or our mutual friend (who doesn't consider them a friend anymore either), neither of us has 'participated'.

The Karpman triangulation, in this case, has thus come to an end.


All that said, you don't know what you don't know and before this incident, I didn't even know that there was a name for such a behavior in the first place.

Having a name for it simply made it easier for me to just be able to SAY, "Okay, THIS is what it is.  Now what can I do about it?"

Related to that... .  

2)  Using this understanding to better understand ourselves and the situations we are in or show a pattern for getting into.

If you burned your hand on a hot toaster or a hot oven, it's logical to say that in the pursuit of NOT being burned again, you probably wouldn't touch a hot toaster or a hot oven again.

But what if you were walking through a forest and something bit you, but you couldn't tell what it was?  In the pursuit of not being bitten again, it perhaps would make sense that one might avoid the situation where being bitten happened - namely, the forest.  But on the other hand, sounds a bit silly to avoid any and all forests given that it was something IN the forest (in this example, a fictitious snake whose nest was disturbed by people running around and who bit out of self defense) that bit you and not the forest itself.

Knowledge is power and being able to identify and understand a situation gives a person the ability to make a better informed decision on what to do next or how to deal... .  

And depending on the person, how they choose to handle a situation will be different from person to person.

At this point in my life after having a name for triangulation behaviors and an understanding for why some of these behaviors happen from the most innocent to the more malicious, I am better able to rationally identify it, classify it... .  and then act accordingly.

If someone is triangulating because they are avoiding a situation involving me and the situation overall is 'innocent' enough and maybe something that can be worked on (eg: a co-worker has problems with me but can't seem to talk with me about it and so talks to another mutual co-worker about their problems with me), knowing about the triangulating gives me an opportunity to try and address the issue of avoidance.  In some cases, this movement towards directly addressing the issue can mark the end of such a triangulation.

If someone is triangulating because they are avoiding a situation involving me in the manner of my former fwBPD, then knowing about the triangulating helps me to understand that it is a coping reaction and mechanism and to be able to potentially anticipate what may happen next and simply be prepared for it... .  and be prepared to make a decision to forcibly end my part in the triangulation if need be if the original/actual issues at hand cannot be addressed in a healthy manner.

That said, realizing that my fwBPD was engaging the Karpman dramatic triangle out of a disordered-influenced emotional response to the triggering of abandonment topic(s) was actually instrumental in my own healing.

Without knowledge, I was going, "Why did this happen?  WHAT happened?  AM I some kind of godawful monster?  WHY did I go from best friend to worst enemy?  WHAT did I do wrong?"

With knowledge I realized, "I stepped on a trigger by putting my foot down on boundaries.  Feeling threatened and unable to cope with directly dealing with the emotions triggered, they reacted by shunning me/refusing to deal with me, getting support from someone else, and perpetuating their 'I can't deal with this!' mindset/giving themselves the opportunity to not have to deal with the problem by blaming someone else for the issues that cropped up."

The triangulation in this case, is largely a defense mechanism and also largely if not fully emotion-based.

The questions I asked were questions that confounded my sense of logic; everything has a logical answer (or so I thought), and if someone reacts so poorly to me/with me, then logic dictates that something I did was at fault and if the accusations continue and there is nothing contrary (besides my own WTF), then logic continues to dictate that somehow in the grand scheme of things, I was wrong and did something really bad.

But fight or flight and highly emotional reactions are seldom infused with much logic and so there may not be any actual 'logical' response to the questions and sort of as a rehash of my mental thought process, this is what my therapist worked out with me.

Why did it happen?  It was a fight or flight and highly emotional response.

What happened?  Your friend reacted emotionally and defensively in a negative way and instead of directly addressing the issue with you, they went to someone else who felt 'safer' and who could 'rescue' them from the pain they felt.

Am I some kind of godawful monster?  No, you simply stepped on a highly sensitive trigger.  Setting boundaries is healthy and so is communicating them honestly when done in a respectful manner.

Why did I go from best friend to worst enemy?  Because at the time of their emotional reaction, they felt ultimately wounded because their abandonment fears were triggered and they couldn't or wouldn't deal with it in a healthier manner.  You triggered it, so you became the 'enemy'.  A 'quick' way for a disordered attachment person to 'heal' from having their trigger triggered.

What did I do wrong?  At the time, nothing.  You inadvertently stepped on the trigger related to abandonment even though abandonment was not the intent.  Basically, you broke an eggshell.

Emotional responses.  All the way through.

And to me?

If isn't fair to compare a logical thought process stemming from rational thinking with a thought process stemming from disordered thinking and feeling.

I can rationally approach someone who is rational-thinking but who might simply be scared (aren't we all) to get a topic addressed directly.

I cannot rationally approach someone who is not rational-thinking and who is responding out of near pure emotion to get a topic addressed directly much less 'honestly'.

It's why BPD IS a disorder and it is also why I feel that it doesn't do any good to ruminate on it (past the point of understanding on a basic and diagram-level what is going on) and to keep trying to find a 'logical' answer to it all which goes hand in hand with accountability.

Disordered thinking and thought processing and dysregulated emotions which contribute to a high level of emotional-only responses ARE disorders.

As such, to me, understanding and remembering this is crucial if a person wants to start or continue a relationship with someone who has these disorders... .  and actually give it a fair and fighting chance from both sides.

... .  
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« Reply #54 on: October 06, 2013, 06:17:05 PM »

HOLY MOLY! This is amazing to me and soo extremely helpful! WOW! I'm totally going to keep this at the top of my mind for awareness so I can stay off of the triangle, using my place of work as constant practice. Thank you!  Smiling (click to insert in post)
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« Reply #55 on: January 13, 2014, 12:24:32 PM »

When I read about these roles for the first time, it was like everything all of a sudden made sense.  My husband's family operates so obviously as this model describes.  While my "more normal" family certainly exhibited elements of these roles from time to time, my in-laws could be a case study.

When I entered the picture, I took on the role of the rescuer.  My own mother died young.  I was 20, but I had younger sibling who were only 10 & 13.  I immediately took on the role of "mom" with them.  I was lucky to have a wise mentor and circle of women friends who were older, and so I think I was able to stay away from some of the negative roles I could have easily slipped in to.

So, when I entered my husband's family, I was primed to rescue them all from their dysfunction, and felt as if it was my duty to do so, in order to help create the happy family my husband had always wished for (or at least have a holiday not sabotaged by drama).  Boy, was I naive!  Over the ensuing years, I have made myself "the one" that all of his family members wants to speak to and have help from when there is a problem.  They will each go on endlessly about how the other drives them crazy and is the source of all the problems. 

Unfortunately, 3 members of his family are currently dealing with major health issues, and so all of the dysfunction has been greatly increased.  I have been completely overwhelmed, receiving multiple calls each day with the crisis du jour!  I found this site, and am now realizing the part I have been playing.  I know I have a lot of work to do on myself.

In the past, I have dealt with over-interaction by setting boundaries, but with all of the health issues, the lines have been greatly blurred.  I'm having trouble differentiating between real issues that need attention, and manufactured issues that I might be able to ignore.  My MIL, who has udBPD, makes every difficulty she encounters no matter how small, seem like it is a life-or-death situation.  She will often exaggerate the situation, so I don't know what is true and what is hype.

Then, if I dare take a step back, my husband's 2 sisters attack him for not helping enough, and not caring about their mother.

How do I, the "Rescuer," not engage in the drama, without neglecting actual medical needs?  How do I even tell the difference when every issue creates the same level of panic?
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Harri
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« Reply #56 on: September 13, 2014, 08:03:18 PM »

This is a great article.  I found it very helpful to see the different roles laid out in such a simple yet comprehensive way.  I was primarily a rescuer in my family yet I can move quite easily through all 3roles.  With my ex, who was also a rescuer, I put myself into victim mode.  I am embarrassed to admit it, at first it felt so damn good.  It was a relief to get help in life as I thought I was completely clueless about HOW to live, never mind that I had been taking care of my family all of my life, I felt helpless and overwhelmed.  So it felt good to have assistance but I took it too far and went to the extreme.  Then I ended up resenting him and his help and moved into the persecuter role.

  What I found the most frustrating though was that when I did take responsibility for myself he had me so stuck in the box that was labeled "to be fixed"  there was no way to move to center while maintaining the relationship.  I closed myself off and stopped allowing myself to share orhave any intimacy.  I was no longer willing to be vulnerable with him.  He either had to rescue me or persecute me.  I wanted to stop being the victim and stop getting angry and persecuting him.  We started the relationship in those roles so the whole foundation was based on us both being victims of and for each other.

I don't think there is any way to salvage that if only one person hollers uncle.  Or is there?   Is there  way for this to work in relationships other than family?
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« Reply #57 on: September 15, 2014, 07:09:36 AM »

This article was very insightful and I can recognize a lot of my own family in this triangle. It's just like we had been doing a dance of dysfunction for years. My mother loved playing the victim and placing me in the role of rescuer and caretaker. If I resisted she'd either intensify her victim role or turn on me becoming the persecutor and making me her victim. And sometimes I'd get so fed up with her behavior that I myself would find myself behaving more like a persecutor than I would like too. It's true though that no matter on which corner you are on this triangle, you're a victim and stuck in very dysfunctional relationship dynamics.

I can see a link between the Karpmann Triangle and the four character profiles Christine Ann Lawson presents in her book 'Understanding the Borderline Mother': Waif, Hermit, Queen and Witch. I'd say my uBPD mother's preferred state was that of the Waif (Karpmann's victim) but as I resisted more she would go from waif to hermit to queen and eventually to witch (Karpmann's persecutor). Not necessarily in that order though because the Witch could appear at any moment. I'd classify the Queen as a persecutor too and the Witch as the ultimate persecutor. My uBPD sister's preferred state is that of the Queen and when she gets challenged (flashes) of the Witch come out and sometimes a full-blown Witch-attack. When my sister wants to get away with things, especially after a Witch-attack, she reverts to a state of waifhood and assumes an extreme victimrole.

I can also see how the Karpmann triangle can be linked to the extreme splitting behavior often exhibited by people with BPD. You're either all-good and almost deified (rescuer) or you're all-bad and then get completely demonized and attacked by the persecutor.

This article was a very interesting read for me. I like the simplicity of the triangle and how it can be linked to other characterizations and concepts.
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« Reply #58 on: November 27, 2014, 08:48:32 PM »

For a long time I was not getting this concept of "move to the center". What "center"? But I think I finally get it. Have had some opportunity to practice as well.

As usual, it keeps coming back to... .values/boundaries (and keeping in mind that the boundaries are to protect our own values, not to make others act the way we want them to).

Also getting this responsibility concept of owning up to biting bait, rather than "getting baited" (as if I didn't choose to bite on some bait--or even throw some bait out myself).

Still need more practice, but at least I finally get it. What do you do instead of ping from corner to corner of the triangle? You review your values and select appropriate boundaries and then enforce those boundaries. Simple. Yet so difficult at times! Deeply ingrained patterns don't go away over night.
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« Reply #59 on: December 05, 2014, 06:15:21 AM »

Thanks for the enlightening and well structured article.

Moving to the center had me confused for a while but then I came to the same conclusion as doubleAries. It's about owing up to one's actions and decisions - and to the fact, that whatever I choose to do, I am doing it for myself. Never for anybody else. This realisation helps me keep the responsibility for anything I do on me.

What rests is shed the notion that doing things for oneself is bad and the guilty feelings... . 
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« Reply #60 on: December 05, 2014, 04:31:30 PM »

The trouble is in our relationships with BPD sufferers, we get pulled into the triangle and perhaps have trouble distinguishing the truth of the situation (actually rescuing or enabling? setting boundaries or persecuting? being mistreated or acting the victim?)

I completely agree. When things happen quickly and when they get emotional - and with BP that's often the case - the awareness and the ability to recognize become muddy. Sometimes I need to stop and look at the motives behind my actions - as long as I take personally the outcome of my intervention, I am probably rescuing. When I do things out of spite, with a silent "eat that!", voila persecution. Should I delegate the responsibility for my actions onto someone/something else, thus gaining a helpless feeling, I am playing the victim.

For me, enabling means giving opportunity for (whatever) - the outcome is not my responsibility. Setting boundaries is done primarily for my well-being and being mistreated arises in situations where I am being mistreated even though I have done my maximum to change the situation.

Thank you for your post, Skip, it helped me sort these things out for myself Smiling (click to insert in post)
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« Reply #61 on: January 01, 2015, 12:14:46 AM »

God, I wish I knew about this at the beginning of my relationship... .

   
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« Reply #62 on: January 11, 2015, 04:00:50 PM »

I read this article many months ago but re-reading it now makes a lot more sense (I guess I have done enough work to see the reality of things).  My uBPDexh is classic Persecutor.  He didn't show that at first.  He showed Victim which brought out my Rescuer.  As time went on and I could never do enough to satisfy him, he moved into Persecutor.  This moved me into Victim which I hated and brought out all my dysfunctional coping mechanisms.  Then something would happen (such as an injury) and he would slip back into Victim which moved me back into Rescuer, somewhere I obviously felt more comfortable in and we'd be back to that nice honeymoon feeling for a while.  As long as he needed rescuing, things 'seemed' good.  In the end I really resented being the Rescuer.  I didn't want to play any of these parts any longer.  I wanted things to be healthier.  I wanted to move to the Centre.  Which seemed impossible to do.  I just could not stop reacting.  Now almost 7 mths out of the r/s I'm finally starting to understand how my choices can help me stop reacting (getting stuck in the corners) and move to the healthier Centre.
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« Reply #63 on: January 11, 2015, 04:04:02 PM »

I read this article many months ago but re-reading it now makes a lot more sense (I guess I have done enough work to see the reality of things).  My uBPDexh is classic Persecutor.  He didn't show that at first.  He showed Victim which brought out my Rescuer.  As time went on and I could never do enough to satisfy him, he moved into Persecutor.  This moved me into Victim which I hated and brought out all my dysfunctional coping mechanisms.  Then something would happen (such as an injury) and he would slip back into Victim which moved me back into Rescuer, somewhere I obviously felt more comfortable in and we'd be back to that nice honeymoon feeling for a while.  As long as he needed rescuing, things 'seemed' good.  In the end I really resented being the Rescuer.  I didn't want to play any of these parts any longer.  I wanted things to be healthier.  I wanted to move to the Centre.  Which seemed impossible to do.  I just could not stop reacting.  Now almost 7 mths out of the r/s I'm finally starting to understand how my choices can help me stop reacting (getting stuck in the corners) and move to the healthier Centre.

Can you elaborate on that?  The pattern you described is exactly what I experienced... .and the fact that I could not stop reacting.

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« Reply #64 on: January 11, 2015, 04:37:05 PM »

I read this article many months ago but re-reading it now makes a lot more sense (I guess I have done enough work to see the reality of things).  My uBPDexh is classic Persecutor.  He didn't show that at first.  He showed Victim which brought out my Rescuer.  As time went on and I could never do enough to satisfy him, he moved into Persecutor.  This moved me into Victim which I hated and brought out all my dysfunctional coping mechanisms.  Then something would happen (such as an injury) and he would slip back into Victim which moved me back into Rescuer, somewhere I obviously felt more comfortable in and we'd be back to that nice honeymoon feeling for a while.  As long as he needed rescuing, things 'seemed' good.  In the end I really resented being the Rescuer.  I didn't want to play any of these parts any longer.  I wanted things to be healthier.  I wanted to move to the Centre.  Which seemed impossible to do.  I just could not stop reacting.  Now almost 7 mths out of the r/s I'm finally starting to understand how my choices can help me stop reacting (getting stuck in the corners) and move to the healthier Centre.

Can you elaborate on that?  The pattern you described is exactly what I experienced... .and the fact that I could not stop reacting.

I think it comes from awareness.  Once you see the triangle and see your dysfunctional coping mechanisms, you then have a choice to stop, take a breath and consider an alternate response.  I'm just at the very beginning of practising this.  I have spent my whole life 'reacting'.  And my reacting went into overdrive after the BU of my marriage.  It seemed quite involuntary, a bit like PTSD.  I do a lot of talking to myself when I get triggered now.  Almost like I'm watching myself from above.  For example, if someone says something to make me feel slighted or my opinion rejected I tend to get triggered.  My usual reaction would be to lash out or run away (usually the latter).  Now I stop myself from doing either and ask myself 'what am I really feeling here?  Where does this come from?  Could there be another explanation?'.  Usually just taking that time to question my emotions to see if they are based in reality is enough to calm me down and then I'm able to either let it go or respond by asking for clarification.  I have found this also helps with lessening the ruminations after the event which is my fall-back coping mechanism.  Like I say, I'm just starting to understand this all and I'm only so far able to change the pattern with small triggers.  I'm hoping that with practise I'll eventually be able to handle the big ones! Smiling (click to insert in post)  I believe mindfulness is the answer.  When we can learn to be mindful we can see ourselves more objectively and realise we have choices and we don't have to be a prisoner of our past and our patterns.
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« Reply #65 on: January 20, 2015, 06:35:19 PM »

Hmmm... .this definitely shows me a darker side to my rescuer tendencies than I was aware of. I mean, "rescuing" sounds so much nicer than "persecuting." I always knew my uBPDh was a hurt person underneath, but changing up my place in the triangle showed we couldn't really get healthy together... .

Pingo's story pretty much tells mine!

Great article, i'm gonna need to read it again.
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« Reply #66 on: January 28, 2015, 06:53:23 AM »

Reacting to the perceived issue/ story before you creates a counter reaction. This sends all the players off into their designated corners to start the game and the music starts. The chain reaction roles out.

Moving to the center is a way of disassociating from your normal role, and not triggering your reaction or counter reaction and hence giving the music one more spin. It is also a means to reflect projection from the various players, as projection is a major driving force in this triangle. Projection fuels the feeling of injustice and betrayal which causes the desire to strike out/blame.

The rescuer and victim interaction reminds me of something my pwBPD once said... "stop enabling me to be disabled". I thought that quite insightful... It was just one of those momentary flashes in the pan though, for once I followed this advice and stopped enabling, I was then assigned the role of persecutor for not rescuing, I went into victim role with "you dont appreciate what I do etc... "... .The spin of the triangle again.

Even when you see the dynamic it is still so hard to stay off it, as it seems to be present in normal interaction to a degree not just completely dysfunctional ones. It is the core dynamic of everyday gossiping.
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« Reply #67 on: January 28, 2015, 08:53:42 AM »

as projection is a major driving force in this triangle. Projection fuels the feeling of injustice and betrayal which causes the desire to strike out/blame.

The point about projection is a good one.

I think the opposite of the statement above is true, however. A triangle a be use to validate or enhance projection. Most triangles don't involve projection.

It's important to know that triangles are a normal part of life.  It's a way to relieve then tension between two people by involving a third. It's not a pathology, it a human dynamic.  We do it too.

Triangulation an be good and it can also turn bad. Sometimes involving the third person resolves the tension. This is a fundamental principal of Bowen's Family Systems Theory.

Projection is not a necessary component or even a common component of triangulation. However, triangulation is one vehicle for projecting.

Here is an overview discussion on triangulation which help established how the Karpmen triangle fits into the scheme of things.

https://bpdfamily.com/message_board/index.php?topic=121673.0

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« Reply #68 on: January 28, 2015, 03:50:54 PM »

SOO--in a practical sense--now that my uBPDh is portraying himself in the victim role with me as the persecutor, i'm trying to balance that ball in the center of the board by not becoming engaged in any of the roles he has set up. Not defending myself to anyone, trying to just tell the truth of my one-on-one relationship with the daughter he's drawn into his picture of the relationship.

Is that the general idea of "the center"?

Elpis
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« Reply #69 on: January 29, 2015, 05:38:24 AM »

Great article!

I can definitely see the different triangles we had in my FOO. I was a SGV, my oldest sister also, and other sister would be SGP. I am not sure how to place mom. I think probably due to her rages, she is a SGP.

I can also see how this transferred to my adult relationships with partners and daughter. I think I was in the SGR role with partners and daughter. Now that daughter is half-way around the world, we have both had time to unlearn the patterns I set in motion so many years ago. I know she can manage her own life, and I am just as capable of managing my own.
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« Reply #70 on: February 06, 2015, 01:46:42 PM »

trying to just tell the truth of my one-on-one relationship with the daughter he's drawn into his picture of the relationship.

This is playing into the drama.

Staying in the center is to give your daughter a copy of Lynn Forest's article - validate her for being a good person - and to ask her not to be the rescuer - that it makes matters worse - then let her read.

As for your husband - rephrase in your own mind what part of what he says is reasonable and respond to that.

Q: Hey are you going to pick me up at 10 or make me wait around like you always do because I am not important to you.

A: I know its important - my phone alarm on - I'll be there at 10:00.
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« Reply #71 on: March 04, 2015, 03:30:29 PM »

Thank you for this wonderful article. I finally have a detailed explanation of the pattern/cycle I've been feeling stuck in.

Is it possible to switch starter positions? I easily identify with SGR but reflecting back, I was more SGV. The turning point was around the same time that religious views shifted, paving the way to recognizing personal responsibility and power. With that said, the family dynamics were set up to create SGRs. Since the shift occurred during adolescence, could it be more likely a matter of the triangle manifesting later in development? In other words, as a child I was victimized but not yet caught in a victim-mindset as I was not yet aware of the abuses or that it was abnormal and simply displaying typical behaviors of abused children.

Also, is it typical to go back and forth between cycling the points of the triangle and separating from the triangle? Comparing the unhealthy habits of the various positions within the triangle and the healthy counterparts, I've had moments, even stretches, of demonstrating the healthy aspects while not fitting into any of the negative positions. However, I know I'm definitely still struggling with going around the triangle, especially internally. As I'm building awareness and adjusting accordingly, should I anticipate detaching from the triangle only to catch myself back in it regularly?
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« Reply #72 on: March 09, 2015, 07:23:33 PM »

trying to just tell the truth of my one-on-one relationship with the daughter he's drawn into his picture of the relationship.

This is playing into the drama.

Staying in the center is to give your daughter a copy of Lynn Forest's article - validate her for being a good person - and to ask her not to be the rescuer - that it makes matters worse - then let her read.

As for your husband - rephrase in your own mind what part of what he says is reasonable and respond to that.

Q: Hey are you going to pick me up at 10 or make me wait around like you always do because I am not important to you.

A: I know its important - my phone alarm on - I'll be there at 10:00.

Oops--I phrased that wrong. I'm not telling anybody but MYSELF the truth of the situation. I'm just being her mom by asking about her kids and other things going on in her life. Just continuing to be the same old me I've been. There was a point much earlier on where I had mentioned to my h that our daughter and sil weren't speaking to me, but I don't talk with him about anything anymore other than straight up questions about stuff like our son's dental problem, stuff like that. I love the way you put the "rephrase in your own mind what part of what he says is reasonable and respond to that" Q and A. Very clear and neutral in emotion.
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« Reply #73 on: August 27, 2015, 08:36:43 AM »

Great information, extremely useful. I have often played the victim - but also managed to get out of it by taking responsibility for my decisions. The rescuer is also a well known role. I actually managed to get out of these roles concerning my relationship with my mother and my deceased husband. But after that I was too unstable myself to deal with my BPD person and willingly played rescuer/victim. Now I'm OK again a situation that is more unusual for me has raised its head... triangulation with his family. I don't seem to have the same kind of feeling for the roles here.

His family have a long history of conflict with him, and actually obviously often play persecutor/victim ... .they complain about his lifestyle, treat him a like a child, ignore him, etc. Yes, he does drink too much, yes, he smokes, no, he doesn't go to church and is not very capable of cleaning his flat etc. He then responds with aggression and by not answering the phone, etc. But then I came on the scene.

My first role was rescuer and mediator ... .I took his mother away from him when she arrived unexpectedly, gave her a coffee, let her talk and when she asked me if she should leave immediately, I told her she had to decide if she could accept him for what he was. She tried, he tried. 3 years of relative peace followed.  So actually that was a positive effect of triangulation... .and I was a kind of rescuer. I was seemingly accepted by his family (as some kind of a friend) and we even spent holidays together.

But things changed.

His parents and his brother began to put pressure on me to persuade him to take a detox course for his alcohol problem, saying I was the only person able to influence him. This is a load of codswabble - I have no direct influence, as I very well know, and as the daughter of an alcoholic mother and widow of an alcoholic, I know exactly how much codswabble that is, Done the rounds of all the advice centres, psychologists, etc. They have to want to do it themselves or you have to have an excellent leverage point (and there aren't many). I tried to explain this: tried to explain what kind of role I can play. They didn't understand.

Now they seem to think I am a cause of all this stuff; the reason why he has no friends (he does spend a lot of time with me, takes me everywhere). True, we used to have a partnership kind of relationship, but I'm much older than he is, and we stopped that quite a long time ago. Well, physically, anyway.

Now, they asked him to come visit them alone. They don't contact me any more. They criticise me to him and he defends me (that's what he says, anyway). So am I the victim? I just haven't reacted at all. But it makes me feel insecure about contacting them.

Now he is involved in a verbal fight with his mother again. He has shown me all the mails: I try to let him talk, let him reflect on his role, ask questions, try to treat him the adult he is. Am I a rescuer again? I'd need support myself in such a situation.

Whatever... I find it easier to deal with the direct triangle than to cope with the family and the roles they give me.
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« Reply #74 on: September 23, 2015, 01:08:36 AM »

Wow, the article itself made me cry. Thank you, thank you, thank you!  :'( I've got lots more reading material, including articles on her site and escaping conflict and the karpman triangle here. I'm so thankful for BPD family.com! You are a godsend!
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« Reply #75 on: November 10, 2015, 04:22:52 PM »

 Thought I found this article & the responses so interesting and relevant, thank you. It has taken me decades to learn the simple truth that rescuing doesn't change anything, when dealing with a BPD mother. I recognise that I was the wise child who was fortunate to survive childhood by having excellent role models in teachers, etc., I buried myself in books, academic achievements, raised a family,became a nurse,: yet always felt empty. At 60 still working I 'had a mid life/ late life!) crisis. Couldn't focus at work, lost all confidence, was 'burnt out'. When I finally went for counselling, the lightbulb finally switched on as soon as I confided I was caring for an elderly BPD mother. It has been a long road to recovery and discovery of my self identity. Two steps forward, one back! But wonderful to realise, like Dorothy, I have the power all along. I am not playing victim, rescuer, any longer. I am OK!
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« Reply #76 on: December 07, 2015, 06:21:26 PM »

Bumping this amazing thread. A lot of new insights for me here... .  Idea Idea Idea Idea

Stop being the rescuer and going into the center: Asserting values and keeping healthy boundaries! Wow.

Why on earth haven't I read this earlier? I think I believed Karpmans triangle was about a drama between three people, haha, and not the roles and dynamics at play.

Bookmarking this for a very close read later on.
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« Reply #77 on: February 22, 2016, 06:48:56 AM »

Bumping this amazing thread. A lot of new insights for me here... . Idea Idea Idea Idea

Stop being the rescuer and going into the center: Asserting values and keeping healthy boundaries! Wow.

Why on earth haven't I read this earlier? I think I believed Karpmans triangle was about a drama between three people, haha, and not the roles and dynamics at play.

Bookmarking this for a very close read later on.

I want to rebump this awesome thread, it really made me think about my role in the family dynamics.  I no longer want to play the victim role in my family (although am struggling to think about how I end up being the victim when my mother is usually the victim). 

I guess it is because when I asked for advice in the past, she starts to persecute and then I adopt the role of victim with respect to what she is saying & my other family members are saying (when I start getting told that I am this way and that way). I know it is super unhealthy, and hope to move to the centre (by asserting values and keeping healthy boundaries).  I am also going to reread this again later, as it gives a lot of very useful insights.  Smiling (click to insert in post)  The only thing that I would add is that I hope that I can actually apply this when I am in the situation with my family - am sure it takes some learning - will just have to keep experimenting until it sticks!
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« Reply #78 on: October 28, 2017, 10:11:29 AM »


That's a really important point. And sometimes the situation will have elements of both dysfunctional role-play and real actions. Because life is messy  Smiling (click to insert in post)  For instance, in my case, I was actually being mistreated BUT I was also accepting mistreatment and submitting to inordinate amounts of control by another person. I entered the situations willingly and gave my power away in hopes of finally having the parent/family I always dreamed of.

And I'm starting to see that it's not wrong to want to have a family, to not feel alone in the world, to know that if you are sick or in trouble, you have people to ask for help. But it IS wrong to enter into relationships where the price for having those things is accepting the unacceptable and compromising myself as a person by accepting abuse.


With regards to Persecutorship, when a BPD person is accusing you of being one, they are actually Persecuting. It seems to me that there is a very sneaky abuse tactic that BPD folks often use, and that is bringing up a grievance. In theory, all things being equal, a person has a right to complain about something you are doing that is upsetting them. BUT. This social contract is something that gets twisted and used maliciously - like, my mother would constantly pick at everything I said and did, and how I said and did it, and the idea wasn't really that I was doing something that upset her. She complained in order to make me defend myself and in order to assert authority. Meanwhile, she was playing the victim. And when she started escalating her complaints into raging and I would try to leave the room, she would scream, "I HAVE THE RIGHT TO SAY THIS TO YOU!"

At first, this confused me so much and tied my brain into sailor knots, because I was pretty sure that I was just verbally abused and harassed, but then it does seem like a person should be able to talk about something you are doing that bothers them. Then I came to this conclusion: no, you don't have a right to constantly complain about my behaviour if the intent behind your complaining is malicious and aimed at harassing me, rather than at resolving the situation that is bothering them. It's the interpersonal equivalent of a person who sues everyone in sight - they are using a system unfairly and not in the spirit in which it was intended.
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