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Karpman Drama Triangle

Conflict Needs Players

Perpetrator . Victim  Rescuer 

Dr Stephen Karpman’s 1968 idea, was that conflict needs players and players need roles. The consequential objective of each role is just to have its own needs met – even if temporarily – in order to feel justified in its rationale/behaviour/feeling.

Karpman suggests that in each conflict there are three main roles:
  1. The Persecutor: happy to allocate blame and to ensure that other players know they are in the wrong. They are probably angry, accusative, inflexible and feeling very righteous. In order to have their needs met, they require The Victim; someone onto whom they can project their irritation.
  2. The Victim: The Victim takes the brunt of The Persecutor’s wrath. The Victim feels hard-done-by, got-at, powerless, ashamed, unable to do anything. This is obviously a position of anxiety for most, but psychologically it can actually often bring some comfort. You know where you are when you are The Victim, and it’s easy to seek the pity of others. If The Victim role feels natural to you, then you need to seek out The Persecutor (if you haven’t already got one) but also The Rescuer.
  3. The Rescuer: a big ball of guilt, who needs someone to help, because when you’re the hero to others then you don’t have to deal with your own feelings of anxiety or displacement. The Rescuer appears to be The Victim’s saviour from The Persecutor, but actually cements the others in their negative behaviours – almost giving them permission to stay as the bully or the bullied as it makes everyone feel that they have a purpose.

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