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Getting out of the Drama Triangle

As a leader or an entrepreneur, you may face many challenges and conflicts in your work and life. Sometimes, you may feel stuck in a cycle of negativity and drama that drains your energy and prevents you from achieving your goals. You may find yourself playing one of these three roles: Victim, Persecutor, or Rescuer.


These roles are part of the drama triangle, a model of dysfunctional social interactions that was first described by Stephen Karpman in 1968. The drama triangle shows how people can get trapped in unproductive and unhealthy relationships that cause stress and frustration.


The good news is that you can escape from the drama triangle and create more positive and fulfilling relationships with yourself and others. You can do this by shifting from the drama triangle to the empowerment triangle, an alternative model proposed by David Emerald in 2005. The empowerment triangle shows how people can adopt more empowering and respectful roles: Creator, Challenger, and Coach.


In this blog post, I will explain what the drama triangle and the empowerment triangle are and how you can make the transition from one to the other.


What is the Drama Triangle?


The drama triangle is a model that shows the three roles of unproductive, intense, and potentially toxic relationships: Persecutor, Rescuer, and Victim.

  • The Persecutor is someone who blames, criticizes, attacks, or controls others. They act like a bully or a tyrant and often feel angry or superior.

  • The Rescuer is someone who tries to help, save, or fix others. They act like a hero or a martyr and often feel guilty or responsible.

  • The Victim is someone who feels helpless, hopeless, or powerless. They act like a sufferer or a loser and often feel sad or sorry.

The drama triangle is a power game that involves these three roles switching and interacting with each other in a way that maintains the conflict and prevents resolution. For example:

  • A Persecutor may provoke a Victim into feeling oppressed or persecuted, which may invite a Rescuer to intervene and protect the Victim. The Rescuer may then become a new Persecutor to the original Persecutor, who may then become a new Victim or Rescuer.

  • A Rescuer may enable a Victim into feeling dependent or needy, which may invite a Persecutor to criticize or attack the Rescuer for being too interfering or controlling. The Persecutor may then become a new Victim or Rescuer to the original Victim, who may then become a new Persecutor or Rescuer.

  • A Victim may manipulate a Rescuer into feeling obligated or compassionate, which may invite a Persecutor to resent or reject the Victim for being too weak or demanding. The Persecutor may then become a new Rescuer or Victim to the original Rescuer, who may then become a new Victim or Persecutor.



The drama triangle can occur in any type of relationship, such as romantic, family, friendship, or work. It can also occur within oneself, such as when one part of oneself persecutes another part for being inadequate or needing help.


What is the Empowerment Triangle?


The empowerment triangle is a model that shows the three roles of productive, positive, and healthy relationships: Creator, Challenger, and Coach.

  • The Creator is someone who focuses on their vision and goals instead of their problems. They act like an innovator or an achiever and often feel inspired or motivated.

  • The Challenger is someone who supports others in achieving their vision and goals instead of criticizing them for their problems. They act like an ally or an advocate and often feel respectful or supportive.


  • The Coach is someone who helps others discover their vision and goals instead of fixing them for their problems. They act like a mentor or a facilitator and often feel curious or compassionate.

The empowerment triangle is a collaboration game that involves these three roles working together in a way that resolves the conflict and creates positive outcomes. For example:

  • A Creator may share their vision and goals with others and invite feedback and suggestions from Challengers and Coaches. They may also challenge themselves to overcome obstacles and learn from mistakes.


  • A Challenger may provide constructive feedback and suggestions to others based on their vision and goals. They may also coach themselves to be more open-minded and flexible.


  • A Coach may ask open-ended questions and offer resources and tools to others based on their vision and goals. They may also create themselves to be more self-aware and proactive.

The empowerment triangle can occur in any type of relationship, such as romantic, family, friendship, or work. It can also occur within oneself, such as when one part of oneself supports another part for being capable and resourceful.


How to turn the Drama Triangle into the Empowerment Triangle?


The drama triangle is not healthy or sustainable for anyone involved. It creates a cycle of negativity and dependency that drains energy and prevents growth. To get out of the drama triangle into the empowerment triangle, one needs to break free from the roles and adopt new ways of relating that are based on empowerment and respect. Here are some steps to do that:






- Recognize when you are in the drama triangle. Pay attention to your thoughts, feelings, and behaviours when you are in conflict with someone. Notice which role you are playing and how it affects you and others.


- Take responsibility for your role. Acknowledge that you have a choice in how you respond to others and yourself. Stop blaming others for your problems or expecting them to solve them for you. Stop rescuing others from their problems or creating problems for them.


- Change your role. Instead of playing one of the roles in the drama triangle, choose one of the roles in the empowerment dynamic (TED), which is an alternative model proposed by David Emerald. The TED roles are Creator, Challenger, and Coach.

  • The Creator is someone who focuses on their vision and goals instead of their problems. They act like an innovator or an achiever and often feel inspired or motivated.

  • The Challenger is someone who supports others in achieving their vision and goals instead of criticizing them for their problems. They act like an ally or an advocate and often feel respectful or supportive.

  • The Coach is someone who helps others discover their vision and goals instead of fixing them for their problems. They act like a mentor or a facilitator and often feel curious or compassionate.

- Communicate with respect. Instead of using accusatory, defensive, or manipulative language that triggers conflict and drama, use assertive, honest, and empathic language that fosters collaboration and understanding. For example:

  • Instead of saying “You always make me feel bad” (Victim), say “I feel hurt when you say that” (Creator).

  • Instead of saying “You need to do this” (Persecutor), say “I suggest you try this” (Challenger).

  • Instead of saying “I’ll do it for you” (Rescuer), say “How can I support you?” (Coach).

- Seek help if needed. If you find it hard to get out of the drama triangle into the empowerment triangle on your own, consider seeking professional help from a therapist or coach who can guide you through the process of changing your beliefs and behaviours.The drama triangle is a model that shows how people can get stuck in unproductive and unhealthy relationships that cause stress and frustration. By recognizing when you are in the drama triangle, taking responsibility for your role, changing your role, communicating with respect, and seeking help if needed, you can escape from the drama triangle and create more positive and fulfilling relationships with yourself and others.


The drama triangle and the empowerment triangle are two models that show how we can relate to ourselves and others in different ways. The drama triangle is based on fear, blame, and dependency, while the empowerment triangle is based on confidence, respect, and collaboration. To get out of the drama triangle into the empowerment triangle, we need to recognize our roles, take responsibility for them, change them, communicate with respect, and seek help if needed. By doing so, we can create more positive and fulfilling relationships with ourselves and others.


Have you ever experienced the drama triangle or the empowerment triangle in your work or life? How did it affect you and others?


What are some actions you can take to get out of the drama triangle into the empowerment triangle in your current or future relationships?


I hope you enjoyed this post and learned something new. If you have any questions or comments, please share them below. I would love to hear from you.



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