I have previously written about The Drama Triangle, and suggested how to recognise you are in one and how to get out of it.
The other side of The Drama Triangle coin is the Winner’s Triangle. It also has three participants, but is a constructive system rather than a destructive one. The idea of it has been around since at least the 1980s, and may have been first described by Acey Choy.
The Drama Triangle roles are Victim, Persecutor and Rescuer. Each of the roles in the Drama Triangle has a corresponding role in the Winner’s Triangle:
Victim —> Vulnerable
Persecutor —> Assertive
Rescuer —> Caring
Note how the roles in the Winner’s Triangle are descriptions of behaviour, rather than labels of people. This in itself gives suggestions of ways to move from a Drama Triangle to a Winner’s Triangle.
In the Drama Triangle, the Victim can often feel powerless but can end up holding quite a bit of power by manipulating the other participants. By embracing and accepting their vulnerability they can, paradoxically, discover their own strength. By being supported but not having everything fixed for them, the Victim can develop resilience and problem-solving skills.
Persecutor can move to Assertive by using their energy to solve issues rather than blaming, shaming, punishing or putting down. At the same time as maintaining their own boundaries, they do not overstep someone else’s.
Rescuer can move to Caring by supporting and listening to Vulnerable and believing in their ability to solve the problem, but not doing everything for them. This is a service in the long run, because it enables Vulnerable to grow and develop their own resources. This position also helps Caring to develop their own ability to say no when necessary.
These Triangles can be played out between individuals, large groups of people and everything in between. Just about everyone has been involved in a Triangle at some point.
A final note: beware the Bystander role! This is the fourth role in the Drama Triangle that sits just to one side of it. The Bystander observes what is happening but chooses not to get involved. This might be because they think it is none of their business, or that they themselves might suffer for getting involved. This can, of course, be true – and personal safety is a valid and important consideration. However, the Bystander can also help maintain the Drama Triangle by appearing to give tacit approval to what is happening. Throughout history, Persecutors in particular have felt supported and validated by Bystanders. This can increase the feeling of powerlessness in the Victim – and even encourage other Persecutors to join in, spiralling the system into further destruction. If you find yourself in the Bystander role, try to see the situation from a compassionate viewpoint. Put yourself in the Victim’s place – what would be genuinely helpful, halt the destruction and assist everyone in moving into a Winner’s Triangle? These are big questions, and only you can answer them for yourself for any given situation. What do you want your role to be?