How to step out of the drama triangle – Victim

Yesterday I introduced the drama triangle, and applied it to the inner dynamics of procrastination. Today is about how to step out of the drama triangle.

Step 1: Don’t identify with it

When I wrote my example I was tempted to add ‘me’ in brackets behind the different roles: the Victim (me), the Rescuer (me) the Persecutor (me). I realised that was wrong, and actually harmful. They are not me. They are just parts of me that play up sometimes. They are modes, trying to help me through but having the opposite effect. Realising that is the first step in disentangling myself from their dynamics. I try to watch the actors play instead of believing I AM the play.

If you notice one of the roles pop up in your thinking: label it, and take a step back. When you fight it or ignore it, the effect will probably be reverse. It can increase the drama instead of make it go away. Don’t treat the roles as a problem, treat them as information. By taking a step back and observing the ‘actors’ you can find out what’s going on inside yourself.

Step 2: Use the winner’s triangle

When you understand what’s actually going on, you can create a solution from there. Which is tends to be more lasting (and rewarding!) than just battling symptoms. Unless you’re a real fan of symptoms of course 😉

Luckily, someone created a way out from the drama triangle: the winner’s triangle. Here’s what the wikipedia page says about it:

The Winner’s Triangle was published by Acey Choy in 1990 as a therapeutic model for showing patients how to alter social transactions when entering a triangle at any of the three entry points. Choy recommends that anyone feeling like a victim think more in terms of being vulnerable and caring, that anyone cast as a persecutor adopt an assertive posture, and anyone recruited to be a rescuer should react by being “caring”.[15]

Let me apply that to my own example, that I described yesterday:

Vulnerable – a victim should be encouraged to accept their vulnerability, problem solve, and be more self-aware. This asks something of me:

A) I need to be aware that I’m in victim mode. Clues are:

  • thoughts (like ‘this is too hard’, ‘impossible’, ‘everything is important’, ‘there’s no good option’, ‘I have to make the right choice’)
  • physical experiences (for example clenched jaws, hunched shoulders, very shallow breathing, fast beating heart, tense stomach muscles)
  • emotions (for example feeling drained, powerless, jittery, stuck)

Please note that these are my clues, yours may be different. But mine can be a good place to start looking if you don’t know your own yet.

B) Accept that that stuff is going on: I do experience irrational thoughts right now. I”m human. I suffer from improductive feelings right now. I’m human. My body is providing signals right now that something is going on. I’m human. Okay, things are the way they are. What are my possibilities?

C) Problem solve. If I’m in full on victim mode, I don’t even believe that I’m able to problem solve. It’s easier to pick up early clues and start from there, than to wait until I fully identify with the victim role. So I’ve trained myself. When I notice I’m procrastinating (or feeling the urge to start doing it) I ask myself: What’s really going on here? Luckily, the things I mentioned under A will help me gather ideas about that. I also have a handy checklist in my head. Is it that I:

  • don’t WANT to?
  • don’t now HOW to?
  • dont like the WAY I’m supposed to?

When I’m clear on the problem, I can start thinking about the solution. When the problem is simple, I ask myself:

  • What can make me WANT it more?
  • What can help me get clear on HOW to do it?
  • HOW can I change the way I do this?

If the problem lies deeper, obviously the solution may be more challenging. I can use some productivity tools (frog, pomodoro) to get me started straight away, while the back of my mind searches for a way to deal with the bigger problem. Fear of failure for example needs a long term strategy, and preferably a lasting solution. But I don’t have to wait for it to be solved to get my work done. I just need strategies to get moving again and create manageable steps, instead of procrastinate.

Wow, this blog post turns out longer than I expected. Procrastination is murky business. There are hidden monsters in the swamp. And often they’ll keep biting – unless you learn how to deal with them. If you ever wondered why all those articles on ‘10 ways to get rid of your procrastination for good’ never work, maybe now you understand.

All this thinking and feeling I’ve just described may sound awfully time consuming. Personally, I’ve found that they’re a lot less time consuming that procrastinating itself. Or the endless seach for the article/video/image that WILL help.

Rescuer and persecuter deserve their own post. To be continued…

drama triangle winner triangle

By Wiki-psyc (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

2 thoughts on “How to step out of the drama triangle – Victim

  1. Pingback: Procrastination by overwhelm? | Stop procrastinating now!

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