The Dynamics of the Victim, Persecutor, and Rescuer

Role Dynamics

In this segment, we will dive more deeply into the Victim, Persecutor and Rescuer roles and the dynamics between them. This really gets into the 2nd Vital Question of “How am I relating?” This question is relevant for relating to others; relating to what’s going on in your work and life; and how you are relating to yourself.

Originally developed by Stephen Karpman, M.D. in the 1960’s, the Karpman Drama Triangle was focused primarily on the relationship dynamics between people. In what we call the Dreaded Drama Triangle (DDT), we will explore the toxic brew these roles create; how all of us play all three roles at times (though we usually have a “favorite” one); and how two of the roles do not necessarily have to be people.


The Dreaded Drama Triangle (DDT) is comprised of the roles of:


Victim — who feels powerless, hopeless, and has something they care about — a dream or desire — that seems denied or thwarted. Since Victims do not feel they will have what they want in life they may avoid engaging or taking responsibility for what they want.


Persecutor — is the “problem” to the Victim (be it a person, condition, or situation). When a person is the Persecutor, they seek to dominate so they do not become a Victim themselves.


Rescuer — which may be any behavior that helps the Victim “numb out” or distance from their sense of victimization. When the Rescuer is a person, in their attempt to help, accommodate, or fix the situation (and to be loved and acknowledged in return), they inadvertently reinforce the Victim’s role.

We all play all three roles and can switch between them in the blink of an eye.

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