Are you experiencing a lot of conflict in your relationship with very little resolution? Most likely you are stuck in what Steven Karpman M.D. calls a drama triangle (or Karpman Triangle).

Simply put, when someone finds themself in conflict with another person they will reach out to a third person. The resulting triangle (e.g., three-person exchange) is more comfortable as the tension is shifted around three people instead of just two.

Triangulation is widely recognized as a stabilizing factor in a family, at work, among social groups, etc. We all engage in triangulation because triangles help us cope when we are struggling with another person.

We all do this. Triangles often help us cope when we are struggling with another person. Triangulation can be a very stabilizing factor in a family. However, "bad triangulation" (i.e., pathological triangulation) can cause more turmoil in a relationship, polarizing communications and causing conflict to escalate.

Karpman observed that in conflict and drama, there is "good guy vs bad guy" thinking. He also observed that the participants become drawn in, even seduced, by the energy that the drama generates. The drama obscures the real issues. Confusion and upset escalates. Solutions are no longer the focus.

Understanding this dynamic can be very helpful to parents. Bowen's theories on family dynamics are really interesting.

The Karpman Drama Triangle

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