The Drama Triangle – The Victim
The Victim is a life role most often taken on by someone who was raised by a dedicated Rescuer. It is the shadow of the precious child within; that part in each of us that is innocent, vulnerable and needy. This child-self does need support and “care taken” on occasion but when an individual becomes convinced that they can never take care of themselves they can easily take on a primary Victim stance. Buying into the idea that they are intrinsically defective, Victims adopt an attitude of “I can’t make it”. This becomes their greatest fear, forcing them to be ever on the lookout for someone “more capable” to carry them.
Victims deny both their problem solving abilities and their potential for self-generated power. Instead they tend to see themselves as too fragile to handle life. Feeling done in by, at the mercy of, mistreated, intrinsically bad and wrong, they see themselves as the”un-fixable problem”.
This doesn’t stop them, however from feeling highly resentful for their dependency. Victims eventually get fed up with being in the one-down position and find ways to get even. A move to persecutor usually means sabotaging the efforts made to rescue them, as well as other passive-aggressive behaviors. They are very apt players of the game called, “Yes, but”. Any time a helpful suggestion is offered, a Victim response might be, “Yes, but that won’t work because …”. They may also resort to the persecutor role as a way to blame or manipulate others into taking care of them.
The Victim eats a daily venue of shame. Convinced of their intrinsic incompetence, they live in a perpetual shame spiral, often leading to self abuse. Perpetual Victims walk around much like the Charlie Brown character, Pig-pen in his whirlwind of dust, except Victims are surrounded in a shame vortex of their own making. This cloud of shame becomes their total identity.
Linda was the second-born in her family. Almost from birth, she had problems. Linda was a child who was forever in trouble of one sort or another. She struggled academically, was perpetually disruptive and often sick. It came as no surprise to anyone when she got into drugs as a
teenager. Her mother, Stella, was a die-hard Rescuer. Thinking she was being helpful, Stella bailed Linda out every time she got in trouble. By alleviating the natural consequences, Stella’s earnest enabling deprived Linda of the opportunity to learn from her poor choices. As a result, Linda came to see herself as incapable, becoming dependent on someone besides herself to fix things for her. Her mother’s well-intentioned rescuing sent a crippling message which promoted a life long Victim stance, keeping Linda needy and ever vigilant for a potential rescuer
Projection and Shadow of Victim-hood
As individuals grow in awareness and change, they often change their starting-gate positions. Becoming aware of a primary position, they may commit to change but often merely switch roles instead. Although they may be operating from a different place, they are nonetheless still on the triangle. This happens frequently and may even be an essential part of learning the full impact of living on the triangle.
Placing the three positions on a straight line with Victim in the middle is a way of demonstrating that Persecutor and Rescuer are simply the two extremes of victim-hood.
Persecutor ——- VICTIM ——- Rescuer
All three roles are merely the perverted expression of positive powers we each hold in potential, but deny. The primary face we take on determines which of these powers is being denied.
The Rescuer part of us contains the gift for mediation and problem solving. It might be deemed a feminine aspect. The Persecutor, on the other hand, is the part of us that knows about the use of power and assertiveness. It might be considered a masculine attribute. When these essential qualities are not fully acknowledged and claimed, they get repressed into the unconscious, where they then come out in the perverted expression we see on the Drama Triangle. In other words, because these aspects are denied, they get acted out in unconscious and irresponsible ways.
When we suppress both our problem solving ability and our power for assertive action, we take on a posture of Victim. When we see ourselves as primary mediators and caretakers, but deny our need to stand ground for ourselves by setting appropriate boundaries, we occupy the Rescuer position. Persecutors on the other hand, have hidden their caring, nurturing qualities, and therefore tend to problem solve through anger, abuse and control. In essence, the victim’s dance is a constant, unconscious surfacing of unclaimed aspects of personality that produces perpetual drama in our lives.
We live in a Victim based society. In the United States, we like to think of ourselves as Rescuers. For many years we identified Russia as the Persecutor with third world countries being the identified under-dog, or Victim. Several years ago, USSR’s President Gorbachev was said to tell President Bush, “I’m about to do the worst thing imaginable, I’m going to take away your enemy!” Here was a man who innately understood our country’s need to have a scapegoat, providing us the chance to say, “It’s those bad communists again”. Otherwise, we, as Americans might be forced to take responsibility for our own perpetrator tendencies. Of course, Russia does perpetrate, as witnessed by the doings of their KGB, but haven’t our own CIA shown similar tendencies? Our very history is built on persecution. Within a few years of arriving in America, our forefathers began to systematically oppress and subjugate the Native Americans who had lived here for centuries! It seems a wearisome task for this country to get willing to be accountable for the ways we have persecuted. Instead, we seem bound and determined to hold onto the idea of being the world’s “good guy”. It is always difficult for Persecutors to perceive themselves as such, however. It is much easier to justify persecutor behavior than it is to own the oppressor role.
The cycle goes like this; “I was just trying to help (rescuer), and they turned on me (victim), so I had to defend myself” (persecutor). Persecution is almost always justified as a necessary defense. It is the role most often denied. After all, who wants to admit that they ill-use people?
The Rescuer, on the other hand, has no trouble identifying with the helper role. They are generally proud of their position as caretakers and fixers. They are socially acclaimed and rewarded for “selfless acts” of rescuing. They believe in the goodness of being caretakers, seeing themselves as ever helpful. What they deny is the ill-begotten consequences of their enabling/disabling acts. But what these “do-gooders” have most difficulty seeing is how they, themselves end up as victims. It’s very hard for a Rescuer to hear themselves referred to as victims even when they get caught red-handed complaining about how mistreated they are!