I don’t know about you, but one of the things I value a great deal in my life is peace. I like it when life is peaceful and I’m enjoying healthy relations with all my family and friends.
I find it quite stressful when that peace is disturbed, and I recognized, quite a while ago, an area of life that I need to be aware of to maintain that peace, which is not engaging in drama.
Eastenders, Coronation Street and pretty much all other soaps contain drama galore, in fact I stopped watching soaps nearly 20 years ago because I got frustrated that the characters weren’t learning from their mistakes and finding a way to live amicably with their family, friends and neighbours! (But I suppose the scriptwriters wouldn’t be able to make much of an exciting watch, if the characters are all people going about their business as calmly as they can).
You may currently be experiencing some drama in your own life, or are trying to help someone else who is, so you may find it useful to look out for some classic roles and manoeuvres which occur within drama. Drama almost always includes 3 different roles: the persecutor (the one being hurtful), the victim (the one who feels powerless and responds with passivity), and the rescuer (the one who wants to step in, to try and change the situation and defend the victim). To clarify, I don’t mean a firefighter or ambulance worker who is going about their work, rather a rescuer is someone who is stepping in to do the work that the victim could be doing, often with good motives to help and support someone.
The rescuer is the one offering their time/advice/money in an attempt to relieve the suffering of the victim. Whilst they believe they have innocent, charitable motives to help, the victim may not be showing much appreciation of the rescuers attempts to help, so sometimes the victim can end up ‘switching’ and getting angry/upset with the rescuer, saying things like ‘I’m not a charity case’, ‘You don’t understand, you have no idea what it’s like to be in this situation’, ‘it’s alright for you, you’re fine, how come you get to have a nice life while I’m over here struggling’ ‘how dare you tell me what to do’. The persecutor can also easily turn on the rescuer and accuse them of interfering, that it’s none of their business, that the victim is a ‘drama queen/king’ and that the persecutor is in fact, innocent.
So, what is happening here? The rescuer (who may have simply wanted to be kind and helpful) has now become the persecutor, being accused of meddling and interfering in someone else’s business, making things worse etc. The person who sets out to help becomes the bad person in the eyes of the other two people.
Can you recognize any situations in your own life, either currently or in the past where this situation has played itself out? Have you tried to help someone, but got your fingers burned in the process? Or have you been the one to hurt another in some way, and turned on those who’ve tried to intervene, or blamed the person you’ve hurt for your behaviour? Or perhaps you’ve been the victim, feeling helpless to do anything to change the situation causing you distress, and getting angry with someone offering their advice?
The truth is that these interactions go on in people’s relationships more often than you’d think, and that’s why people can relate to the storylines in the soaps, because they have seen or are seeing themes that are playing out in their own personal lives.
So, if you’re tired of the drama, what can you do? Well, if you’re tempted to rescue someone, offering your advice etc. Take a moment to sit and think, what is actually happening here? Why do I think that the victim doesn’t have the personal resources to face and deal with the problem themselves? Try asking the person you view as the victim questions such as: ‘what do they want to do about the situation? What steps do they think are needed to change the situation? What is the victim going to do to get out of the situation they’re in? In this way you’re offering your care by being a listening ear, whilst encouraging the victim to tap into their own resources, take some ownership of the situation and find some assertiveness to make some helpful changes for themselves.
If you’re the victim, then ask yourself the above questions, and then take steps to change what you believe needs to change. The more you develop assertiveness to speak up for yourself, put healthy boundaries in place (see my blog on establishing healthy boundaries here: www.bethanythorntoncounselling.co.uk/learning-how-to-establish-healthy-boundaries/) and expect others to treat you with dignity and respect, the sooner you will feel empowered to take control of your life. If you think that you might need to learn some assertiveness skills, then consider accessing professional counselling support.
If you’re the persecutor, what do you think is happening? What are the dynamics being played out in the situation? Why are you angry with the ‘victim’ or the ‘rescuer’? Perhaps there are some issues beneath the surface that haven’t been addressed and you’re behaving in a way in which you believe you’ll get the right outcome for yourself. If this is the case, then counselling can help. It’s also possible that you would benefit from some help with assertiveness too: learning to communicate and get your thoughts and feelings heard, without resorting to aggressive or manipulative behaviours that hurt others.
If you’d like to do some more research into this subject, I’d recommend doing an online search for ‘Karpman’s Drama Triangle’ and the ‘Winner’s Triangle’.
There is a lot more I could talk about in relation to this subject, and I appreciate that the dynamics of relationships are a lot more complex than the descriptions I’ve outlined here, but I’ve written this blog to give an outline of some of the dynamics in play in toxic relationships and some ideas to help you think about how to start changing those dynamics. However, I appreciate that it can be a lot harder to make those changes in practice than in theory, so if you’ve identified some drama that you would like to get out of, and are craving some peace in your life, then please feel free to get in touch.
An initial session would give us the opportunity to meet, discuss the issues and support you in identifying underlying issues that are at play in the drama, and ways in which you can tackle them.