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Triangular Roles




There is a dynamic that occurs in some codependent relationships that wreak havoc for all those involved. It is called "The Karpman Drama Triangle." The three roles played out in this triangle are the victim, the rescuer, and the persecutor.

Those within the triangular trap move from one role to the next, attempting to find safety in life and gain control of pain and tension. It manifests as a “crazy cycle”, moving from one role to the next, attempting to get “needs met” by unhealthy means. The person utilizes parasitic means of survival created within these toxic relationships. The players have no compass to point them to functional relationship ideology, such as boundaries, interdependence, accepting others where they are at, or allowing natural consequences to mature others. All involved lose in one way or another.


The Victim: Finds opportunities in relationships to transfer their responsibilities onto the other person so they can avoid the need of facing the tension and pain these responsibilities may cause. Therefore, they lose the opportunity to gain the necessary skills and confidence to mature.

The Rescuer: Offers "help," which in reality is quite damaging, as it’s a convoluted attempt to gain control of the other. They create space for dependency on them, thereby stripping the victim of maturing through the pressures presented in life situations.

The Persecutor: Also known as the controller, overlooks boundaries using dogmatic terms such as “you should", bringing forth accusations and guilt. Coercion, and perhaps gaslighting are the tools they use to achieve their controlling position over others.

It can be a very subtle dynamic.


Recently, I recognized being lured into this trap. A person who made very poor choices in life ended up homeless. My husband and I assisted him with some of the basic needs. Not long after we "rescued" him, he began making "suggestions" of how we SHOULD conduct our lives (persecution). Now we could become the victim of his accusations and find ourselves in need of rescue; that is if we had taken the bait. It's sheer madness! Without the insight and healing we have gained over the years; getting into that triangle could have had terrible consequences for our family...


We often need help to sort through all the smoke and mirrors of this dynamic. Codependency groups can give insight into recognizing the need for change and sustaining the changes. They emphasize the need for a power greater then yourself, good counsel and a community for growth. The key is turning your life over to the “Higher Power”. God has a birds-eye view of our situations and desires what is best for us. He can lead us into the healing path so that our relationships and opportunities can blossom. We will find we no longer need fall prey to being the rescuer, victim, or persecutor. Rather we can find relationships that are healthy and free us from this dysfunctional triangle.


Image: Canva Pro/ Content: Kenneth A Schmidt, “Finding Your Way Home”.

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