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The drama triangle

This concept comes from Transactional Analysis, whose author is Stephen Karpman.

The mechanism of the drama triangle is a smooth switching between three roles: the persecutor, the victim and the rescuer.

Before we present the usability of this concept in Coaching – here is a brief characteristic of each of these roles and the whole mechanism. Most often we observe the drama triangle in dysfunctional families (but not always), for example alcoholic.  We have one of the parents who abuses alcohol and is seen as the persecutor.  They hurt their family members by the way they behave, especially their spouse (their Behaviour causes pain and is hostile).  The other parent takes the role of the victim, that is someone who is being harmed, who does not have influence over their Environment and is rather submissive than active.  The role of the rescuer is a fulfillment to this triangle, that is somebody who provides the victim with support.  The rescuer sacrifices themselves for the benefit of the victim by providing support, solutions, protection.

The whole system is dynamic, and in a family of three we often observe fluent role change.  Depending on the part they are currently playing, participation in the drama triangle strongly influences emotions and a person’s self-esteem.

In some situations, one of the parties may attempt to pull a Coach into the drama triangle.  In most cases it is the Coachee , but sometimes it can be the sponsor.

For example, during a meeting with a coach, The client feels sorry for themselves, placing their superior, the company or an associate in the role of a persecutor.  If the coach responds according to the role of the rescuer and starts playing this part, then he takes The client’s side thus making it impossible for him to look at the situation from a distance.  It is important that the coach does not loose a cool and distant  overview and is able to look at the situation from a meta-position (neutral position). Only then does he not get emotionally involved, and the support he provides the client with, does not cause helplessness and a loss of faith in oneself on the client’s part.

For all those reasons it is important that the coach notices as early as possible any attempts of being drawn into the drama triangle by any of the parties, and that he reacts properly.

Through his actions, a coach should provide the client with a possibility to step out of the role of a victim, thanks to which the client can gain access to his own resources, make appropriate decisions and take necessary action.  However, the first step in this direction is for the coach not to get involved in the game, and provide the client with a possibility to look at the situation from another, more useful perspective.



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