There is an adventure I love so much when it comes to children’s books… the Chronicle of Narnia is one of my favorites! I think that is how we work – during our childhood we create a wardrobe of good and evil in our subconscious, which then keeps running our emotions – and our life – for the rest of our lives. Unless we DO anything to change the characters in that wardrobe…
We bump into someone at the supermarket and they lash out at us, because they think that everyone is out to get them and we take on the blame, because we have a character in our wardrobe that is so accustomed to being blamed for anything that happens to other people. Our inner belief is that “everything is my fault”, and that keeps messing up our life again and again and again… We grow up and forget about the first incident when we took the blame for something we didn’t do, and this character gets more and more busy to create scenarios where he can play full out, being the Victim.
For the Victim to be able to keep his character, there needs to be a Rescuer and a Persecutor. The Rescuer supports the Victim’s belief that he is to be pitied, and the Persecutor supports the Victim’s self-blame and victimhood even further.
Furthermore, the Rescuer cannot exist without the Victim. And neither can the Persecutor. They are all in a co-dependent relationship with each other, and the triangle only exists as long as everyone stays in it. As soon as you try to step outside of it, the other two will do their best to pull you back – and if you resist they will push you harder and harder and eventually make you feel excluded from the community… If they can’t pull you back in they will do whatever they can to find a replacement, so they can keep their behavior.
This is the comfort zone for many people. And this is why it’s so hard to leave. Being inside of this triangle is familiar, regardless of how painful it is. And you might even trick yourself to think that you have stepped out of it, only to find yourself taking on one of the other two characters. The Victim often ends up being the Rescuer – and even the Persecutor from time to time – but they are all part of the same tringle, so as long as you tend to be a victim or see people as victims or threats you are still part of this dance.
Most of us are brought up with this to some extent. A lot of the fairytales that we grow up with have this cast: Little Red Riding Hood is first the Rescuer and then the Victim, Grandmother is the Victim, the hunter is the Helper and the Persecutor and the wolf is the Persecutor and in the end the Victim. Snow White is the Victim, the queen is the Persecutor, and the dwarfs and the prince are Rescuers.
So even if we are not stuck in these roles in our original families, we are taught to look at the world in this way: we either perceive people – and ourselves – as Victims, Rescuers or Persecutors. This way we distance ourselves from other people, and we think of other people as separate from us, instead of seeing the whole of humanity as one. This is very much the situation within politics and in the news – there always has to be at least one Victim, one Rescuer and one Persecutor… This all leads us to a very black-and-white perceived reality.
But what if we are fed up with living within the boundaries of this tringle? How can we step out of our chosen character without ending up in one of the other two? How can we be more of ourselves and less of a character?
The first step is to acknowledge that we have a character that we use when we get stressed or pushed in some way. To open up the wardrobe and look what’s inside… What is your favorite character, that you are conditioned to use on default? Do you usually feel mistreated? Or do you usually see other people as victims? Do you have an autopilot that drives your life when you are not looking?
Once you have identified your character of choice, make a drawing of him/her! Even if you are a woman your character might be a man, and vice versa. When you are done with your drawing, start communicating with the character. Ask questions! What is his/her name? Age? Personality? Other features? And, most importantly, what is his/her agenda? What does he/she want to protect you from? Write down the answers so you can keep them and read them again later if you want.
Now draw the kind of character you would like to replace him/her with! Go through the same kind of questions again, and answer them with qualities that you would love to have! And when you are done, practise using this character consciously instead of falling into your usual automatic behavior. You will have to stay on your toes for a while until this character becomes your new default personality…
Did you like this article? I would love to read your comments below! And if you want to go even deeper, apply for a discovery session with me on Skype and find out how we could work together to set you free from the whole childhood wardrobe. You find the application here:
This article was inspired by Stephen B. Karpman’s fascinating work about The Drama Triangle, which you can find here: