Whenever I pick Richard up from work in our car, I arrive and then walk round to the passenger seat so that he can drive back. And whenever we go on holiday (or anywhere) together, I let him drive.
From time to time when then Richard says he is tired from all the driving, I rear up on him and say ' I didnt drive because you are always picking faults with my driving' or 'you never let me drive long distances'!
This is classic drama triangle.
In the Karpmann drama triangle the victim (me!) is looking for a rescuer (Richard)
The victim puts out little signals to hook the rescuer. 'I am too tired to drive', I don't feel comfortable driving on the motorway', I have never driven that far', 'I am a nervous driver'. And, as Richard takes to the wheel he rescues.
This works only as long as it works, and both parties are happy in role. But often in the triangle, there is a switch and a feeling of discomfort - a 'what just happened there' moment!
In the example above the victim turns into the persecutor and the rescuer is now victim. Nice.
So how do you know when you are victim? Or rescuer?
You are probably victim if you have an unspoken agreement or are allowing someone else to do things for you. Some examples could be
Doing the household bill paying
Putting the bins out
Doing the garden
Cleaning the house
Doing the driving for you etc
You are probably rescuer if you are helping somebody and they haven't specifically asked you to or you haven't specifically agreed to help
Doing the household bill paying
putting the bins out
doing the garden
cleaning the house
doing the driving
Solving a problem for them etc
Another example is of somebody asking you for help with something at work - 'Can you help me fix the photocopier, its broken and I don't undertand how it works'? This is the victim putting out pleas for help to hook a passing rescuer.
'Here, let me sort that out for you' (rescuer).
And if you cant sort it out, a response of this kind, 'well I suppose I will have to report it as broken then, and I've got loads of work to do' in a huffy tone that can leave you feeling as though its your fault and you've failed (The switch to persecutor).
Another game is the 'yes but' game, and again its out of conscious awareness.
A friend tells you about how she feels mistreated by her boss (looking to hook a rescuer). You say, 'why don't you look for something else'. 'Yes but the money is good and its only round the corner from home'.
'Why don't you complain to HR'...'Yes but I don't want to create any trouble for myself'. 'Why don't you have a word with the boss and tell her how you are feeling'...and then the switch, 'its no good talking to you about this, you just don't understand....' (now victim is persecutor and you are victim).
So what can you do to stop yourself being in victim?
Notice it. Notice you are passing over responsibility and take it back. Say 'I will drive today'. And if there is a criticism of your nervous driving say, 'thank you, I know you care about me and you want me to be safe, and that's why you are pointing these things out. I would prefer it if you didn't criticise my driving as it doesn't help my confidence'.
Or 'I have tried following these instructions on the photocopier to fix this fault and before I report it as broken, I am wondering if you can see anything that I may have missed'?
And if you are persecutor, take back responsibility. Ask yourself 'what is my part In all of this (and you always have a part), where has this come from? ,what do I really want here...and ask for it in an adult way.
In summary then, a simple rule of thumb is that if you are doing more than 50% of the work you are probably rescuing. So you have the choice to offer help when help is asked for, or to offer advice when advice is asked for but beware of wading in and offering help that is unasked for unless you want to be in drama.
About the author
I love learning new stuff, I get a real thrill from making new connections with and between things.