Thursday, April 7, 2011

Defusing the Drama: Final Curtain

You've watched the "Triangle" unfold in the legal system, throughout the media and how it embeds itself in your own family or on the job.

And now you know their names.


Three convenient roles from which to detonate an endless cycle of blame, criticism, defending, rescuing and guilt, allowing all three “characters” to avoid taking responsibility for their own thoughts, emotions, words, beliefs or behaviour.

As you are slowly realizing, the "Triangle" has a way of silently sucking you in, but once aware, you can begin to train yourself to notice what really happens in a conversation; especially those difficult, “sticky” situations with potential conflict that leave you walking on eggshells. Chase yourself and others around the “Triangle” and you are relegated to living in reaction, settling into a dull and painful existence ruled by the agendas of others and your own subconscious beliefs.

"So, how do I defuse the "Triangle"?

That's easier said than done, but there are some practical steps you can take.

#1. Recognition is Key.

Recognizing the patterns is more than half the battle when it comes to defusing and diminishing the impact. An understanding of Karpman’s "Drama Triangle" provides a roadmap to see where you are in your relational life and where you’re headed. Think of it as a process, not a final destination. No one intentionally enters the "Triangle" - but it's easy to get pulled in when you don’t see it for what it is. It is also good to know what sort of people you are more likely to get into games with. Be especially cautious about surrounding yourself with too many of those types.

#2. Recenter Yourself.


And observe from above.

See yourself as being elevated, as though hovering above the middle of the "Triangle". Watching from an imaginary 200 feet above the drama, observe the thoughts, feelings and behaviors of the VILLAIN, VICTIM and SAVIOUR roles - not to judge but to understand. The emotional co-dependence exhibited by the three roles can be neutralized by practicing this mental form of martial arts. By recentering and taking a more elevated position, you refuse to fight, struggle or yield, thereby marginalizing your adversary and eliminating their power base. If you successfully regain the center and avoid the "sharp edges", your adversary will halt their attacks, rather than risk unmasking themselves and exposing the game.

In his best-selling book, “The Four Agreements”, Don Miguel Ruiz offers two ideas to help recenter and refocus. Firstly, DON’T take anything personally, since what others say and do is a projection of their own reality. When you become immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won't play the victim. Secondly, DON’T make assumptions. Find the courage to ask questions as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. Assumptions are those those less-than-accurate stories you tell yourself as to why you can’t have it. Assumptions are often the only thing keeping you from what you want.

#3. Reclaim 100% Responsibility.

Accountability is power. You cannot change other people, only yourself. When you reclaim 100% responsibility for what's happening, you take back the power of choice and the power to change any situation.

When you make a conscious choice to disengage, recenter and move to higher ground, you also avoid any blaming, attacking, self-pity or enabling. You allow others to make their own decisions and be responsible for their own behavior. You avoid getting sucked into other people's battles and steer clear of indirect communications that involve accusing, condemning or guilt. If you have a problem with someone, discuss it directly with them. If they refuse to disengage, you may have to limit contact in order not to be villainized, guilted, blamed or drawn back in. It is impossible to maintain honest, open, direct communications about any drama that is happening with another person heavily invested in denying it. Instead, try to surround yourself with people who do not play this game so you can learn new ways of interacting with others.


Whether drama is portrayed in movies, "People" Magazine, the workplace, church, home or school, it thrives and depends on the existence of this "Triangle" to perpetuate the human condition to create variety and escape from boredom. But, if watching television, surfing Facebook, reading newspapers and dwelling on bad news has become habitual, you may be avoiding living a life of honesty, and unwilling to deal with your own emotions and take 100% responsibility for your actions.

Karpman’s “Triangle” is based on lies. Whether you tell lies to yourself or someone else, about data, your emotions or your experience, you slip immediately into the “Triangle” and the addictive process. All positions cause pain. There is no power since the “Triangle” dictates you operate from powerlessness and irresponsibility no matter what position you are playing. Being in the “Triangle” is not being alive; It is a living death; filled with guilt, hurt, regret, inauthenticity and a lack of love and acceptance.

Our lives were never meant to be a performance in which we are only actors, reading a script written by someone else. You can start taking 100% Responsibility by listing everything you know you should be in control of.

- No one made you take the job you own. That is a choice you made.
- No one can make you stay in the house you live in. That is your choice.
- No one forced you to marry or live with that person. That was your choice.
- No one can make you feel miserable. That's a choice.
- No one can motivate you. That is another choice.

Defusing the "Triangle" is rarely done once and for all. We jump on and off all the time. Dismantling this invisible drama bomb is challenging, but well worth the effort. Don’t worry about slipping or getting sucked back in - again.

Be gentle and forgive yourself.

Reestablish boundaries.

And try, try again.

“Conflict cannot survive without your participation”

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