The Drama Triangle

What people play? The Drama Triangle

The Drama Triangle is a psychological model developed by Dr. Stephen Karpman in the 1960s. It describes dysfunctional social interactions and the roles people often unconsciously adopt in such situations. The three primary roles in the Drama Triangle are the Victim, the Persecutor, and the Rescuer. Each role comes with its own set of behaviours and attitudes. It’s important to note that these roles are not fixed, and individuals can shift between them depending on the situation.

1. The Victim


Victims often feel powerless and helpless, seeing themselves as the target of circumstances or other people’s actions.


They may appear passive, seeking sympathy and rescue from others. Victims may not take responsibility for their actions or try to change their situation.

Coping Strategy:

To cope with the Victim role, individuals need to recognize their agency and take responsibility for their choices and actions. Developing problem-solving skills and self-empowerment can help them move out of this role.

2. The Persecutor


Persecutors take on a critical, controlling, or aggressive stance towards others. They often blame and criticize the Victim.


They may feel justified in their actions and believe that they are enforcing rules or protecting themselves.

Coping Strategy:

To cope with the Persecutor role, individuals should learn to manage their anger and criticism, develop empathy for others, and engage in open communication to resolve conflicts without resorting to blame or aggression.

3. The Rescuer


Rescuers attempt to fix the problems of the Victim and may come across as overprotective or enabling. They often offer unsolicited help and advice.


Rescuers may believe they are the only ones who can solve the Victim’s problems and feel a sense of superiority.

Coping Strategy:

To cope with the Rescuer role, individuals should learn to set healthy boundaries, offer help when asked but not impose their solutions on others. Encouraging self-sufficiency in others and practicing self-care are important strategies for breaking out of this role.

The Karpman Drama Triangle

An example of the Drama Triangle

Imagine a work scenario where an employee (A) is constantly late on deadlines, causing frustration among their colleagues.

Phase 1 (Victim). The late employee (A) takes on the role of the Victim, feeling overwhelmed and helpless due to their workload. They seek sympathy from coworkers and their supervisor.

Phase 2 (Persecutor). Frustrated colleagues (B) become the Persecutors, criticizing and blaming the late employee (A) for their poor time management and lack of commitment.

Phase 3 (Rescuer). The supervisor (C) decides to take the Rescuer role. They offer to help the late employee (A) by taking on some of their tasks and providing constant guidance.

In this example, roles can change over time. The late employee (A) may eventually take responsibility for their actions (move out of the Victim role), and coworkers (B) may recognize their contribution to the problem and choose a more empathetic and collaborative approach (move out of the Persecutor role). The supervisor (C) can also adapt by setting clear expectations and boundaries without necessarily rescuing the employee. This shift can lead to a more functional and less dramatic work environment.



A: The employee who is consistently late on deadlines (Victim).

B: A frustrated coworker who often criticizes A for being late (Persecutor).

C: The supervisor who decides to offer help and guidance to A (Rescuer).

Scene: A small meeting room at the workplace. A, B, and C are present.

A: (with a defeated tone) I’m really struggling to keep up with all these deadlines. It’s just too much for me.

B: (frustrated) A, you’ve been saying this for weeks now. It’s not fair to the rest of us. You need to manage your time better and stop making excuses.

C: (interjecting with a supportive tone) Alright, let’s not argue. A, it’s clear you’re having a tough time. How about we sit down and discuss your workload? I can help you come up with a plan to get back on track.

A: (feeling relieved) Thank you, C. I really appreciate your help. I’m willing to try anything at this point.

B: (softening their approach) A, I get that it’s challenging, but we’re all in this together. Maybe I can share some tips that have helped me with time management too.

C: (encouraging teamwork) That sounds like a good idea, B. Let’s work together as a team to improve the situation. A, we’ll support you in making the necessary changes.

In this role-play, we can see the shift from the initial roles of Victim (A), Persecutor (B), and Rescuer (C) towards a more collaborative and supportive dynamic. This represents a positive change in their interactions, moving away from the Drama Triangle.

TED* roles are passion-based and outcome focused

Benefits of Drama Triangle Awareness

Awareness of the existence of the Drama Triangle offers several benefits in personal and interpersonal development:

  • Improved Relationships. Recognizing when you or others are trapped in the Drama Triangle can lead to healthier and more harmonious relationships. This awareness allows you to break out of negative patterns and communicate more effectively.
  • Enhanced Communication. By understanding the roles of Victim, Persecutor, and Rescuer, individuals can improve their communication skills. They become better at expressing their needs and boundaries, and they can engage in more constructive, solution-focused conversations.
  • Reduced Conflict. Awareness of the Drama Triangle helps in identifying and mitigating potential conflicts. When individuals avoid slipping into the roles, they can approach disagreements with a more balanced and empathetic mindset.
  • Personal Growth. Self-awareness is a key component of personal growth. Recognizing your own tendencies to fall into certain roles can help you break free from these patterns and take more responsibility for your life and choices.
  • Empowerment. Knowing about the Drama Triangle empowers individuals to take charge of their own lives. Instead of waiting for rescue or blaming others, they can proactively seek solutions and take responsibility for their actions.
  • Reduced Stress and Frustration. The Drama Triangle often leads to stress and frustration, as people feel stuck in negative roles or cycles. Awareness of this dynamic enables individuals to adopt a more positive and solution-oriented approach, reducing stress levels.
  • Conflict Resolution Skills. Learning how to navigate out of the Drama Triangle helps individuals develop conflict resolution skills. This includes active listening, empathetic communication, and a focus on collaborative problem-solving.
  • Healthy Boundaries. People who are aware of the Drama Triangle tend to establish healthier boundaries, knowing when to help and when to step back. This creates a more balanced approach to relationships and interactions.
  • Resilience. When individuals are aware of the Drama Triangle, they can adapt more effectively to challenging situations. They become less reactive and more resilient, handling adversity with grace and composure.
  • Leadership Skills. Leaders who understand the Drama Triangle can create more positive work environments by promoting cooperation, communication, and personal responsibility among team members.

In summary, awareness of the Drama Triangle is a valuable tool for personal development and for improving interpersonal relationships. It allows individuals to break free from negative roles, promote healthier communication and collaboration, and ultimately lead more fulfilling and less stressful lives.

Sign up for our newsletter. Each week you will receive a letter from us with articles worth reading, tools for working with teams, tips and interesting facts about project management.