Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Karpman Drama Triangle Summary

The summarized interpersonal (and intrapersonal) dynamics of Steven Karpman's Drama Triangle appear below.

(This browser does not make it possible to do graphics very easily. I'm forced to use periods for spacing from the left margin, A's as arrows pointing up, V's as arrows pointing down, and exclamation points for vertical lines. In Google Chrome, at least, the lines are straight when the Zoom is set to 110%.)

Pathological (sick, but culturally “normal”) version:

Rescue - - - - - ! - - - - - Persecute . . A . . . . . . . . . . . . A . . . . . . . . . .A
(covert \ . . . . . . ! . . . . . . / (punish, . . ! . . . . . . . . . . . . . ! . . . . . . . . . . . !
control) .\ . . . . ! . . . . ./. abuse) . . . . . Increasingly…  ! . . . . . . . . . . . !
. . . . . . . . . .\ . . . ! . . . . / . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Aggressive . . . Sadistic . . . Dominant
- - - - - - - - - - - - ! - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
. . . . . . . . . . \ . . . ! . . . / . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Increasingly
. . . . . . . . . . . \ . . ! . . / . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Passive . . . . . . Masochistic . Submissive
. . . . . . . . . . . . \ . ! . /. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .! . . . . . . . . . . . . . ! . . . . . . . . . . . . !
. . . . . . . . . . . . . \ ! / . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . V . . . . . . . . . . . . V . . . . . . . . . . . V
. . . . . . . . .Be the Victim
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . !
Culturally . . . . ! . . . . . Culturally
“Acceptable” . ! . . “Unacceptable”


I will additionally suggest that the term "Manic" may often be added to the right of the word "Dominant" and the term "Depressive" may often be added to the right of the word "Submissive."

Functional (healthy, but culturally “abnormal”) version:

Support - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - Detach
(without . . \ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . / (set healthy
controlling) .\ . . . . . . . . . . . . / boundaries)
. . . . . . . . . . . . . .\ . . . . . . . . . . /
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .\ . . . . . . . . /. . . . . This version of the KDT requires the use
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .\ . . . . . . /. . . . . . of assertion skills and a sense of identity.*
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .\ . . . . /
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .\. . ./
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .\ /
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Adapt
. . . . . . . .(without dis-empowering
. . . . . . . .oneself or the other person)


The player on the pathological version of the Karpman Drama Triangle can only occupy one corner at a time. He must be a Victim to someone else's Rescuer or Persecutor, or a Rescuer or Persecutor to someone else's Victim. Most people do not like to be Victims of covertly controlling Rescuers (let alone abusive Persecutors), so they will normally attempt to Rescue another Victim or Persecute their Rescuer, forcing him to the Victim corner.

The player on the functional version of the KDT can occupy all three corners at once in relation to any other player, regardless of whether the other player perceives himself on a more pathological or more functional version of the KDT. In response to another who attempts to Rescue or Persecute, for example, a player on the functional KDT can chose to Adapt or Detach from a Rescuer or Persecutor. In response to another player who perceives himself as a Victim, the functional KDT player can Support or Detach.

The "pathological" and "functional" versions of the KDT describe ends of a spectrum of possibilities rather than "either/or" absolutes. That said, the cultural norm in our society is decidedly towards the pathological end of that spectrum under most circumstances, and moves closer to the pathological end under increasing environmental stress.

Added 20 August 2011:

It is my sense now after much additional application of the two KDT "versions" noted above that one could join them together in a single diagram that would look like this:

Rescuer < - - > Supporter -------- Detacher < - - > Persecutor
. . . . . . . \ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . \ . . . . . . . / . . . . . . . . . . . . . . /
. . . . . . . . \ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . \ . . . . . / . . . . . . . . . . . . . . /
. . . . . . . . . \ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . \ . . . / . . . . . . . . . . . . . . /
. . . . . . . . . . \ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . \ . / . . . . . . . . . . . . . . /
. . . . . . . . . . . \ . . . . . . . . . . Adaptor. . . . . . . . . . . ./
. . . . . . . . . . . . \ . . . . . . . . . . . . . A . . . . . . . . . . . . . ./
. . . . . . . . . . . . . \ . . . . . . . . . . . . .! . . . . . . . . . . . . ./
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . \ . . . . . . . . . . . .! . . . . . . . . . . . . /
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . \ . . . . . . . . . . .! . . . . . . . . . . . /
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . \ . . . . . . . . . .! . . . . . . . . . . /
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . \ . . . . . . . . .! . . . . . . . . . /
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . \ . . . . . . . .! . . . . . . . . /
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . \ . . . . . . .! . . . . . . . /
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . \ . . . . . .! . . . . . . /
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . \ . . . . .! . . . . . /
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . \ . . . .! . . . . /
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . \ . . .! . . . /
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . \ . .! . . /
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . \ .! . /

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . \V/
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Victim

The purpose of this new diagram is to demonstrate the ranges of possibilities between "complete" or "total" Rescuer and "complete" or "total" Supporter. The former actually does occur; the latter is a possibility in any given moment, but more of an "ideal" in a culture that has normalized and socialized Rescue as an "acceptable" and "appropriate" behavior in many circumstances where it is really not (e.g.: enabling a partner's substance abuse or continuing acting out in any fashion).

This diagram also illustrates the ranges of possibilities between "complete" or "total" Persecutor and "complete" or "total" Detacher. The former does occur; the latter is also a possibility at any given moment, but more of an "ideal" in a culture that has normalized and socialized Persecution as an "acceptable" and "appropriate," if "unfortunate" or even "socially unacceptable" behavior, depending upon one's core-belief-driven current appraisal of the circumstances (e.g.: divorcing a spousal abuser vs. shooting him).

Finally, this diagram shows the considerable range of possibilities running from appropriate and/or "ideal" Adaptation to abject Victimhood. One would have to be well-versed, highly trained and very experienced to be able to Adapt "perfectly" under all possible circumstances. The reality under most circumstances is that if one can Detach, which is an accomplishment in itself when the circumstances are emotionally loaded, the range of possibilities from "perfect" Adaptation to "dysfunctional" Victimhood is considerable.

Those possibilities run the gamut from deflecting the emotions by some means so that they can be processed "off the table," through leakage of at least some of the emotions into an imperfect Adaptation, on to increasingly greater degrees of contamination of the Adaptation, all the way to a complete sense of Victimhood and identification therewith.

Under the considerable pressures of daily life "in the world," it is most likely that one's attempts to Detach will be colored (or contaminated) with some degree of Persecution. It is likely that one's attempts to Support oneself or another in moving toward the truth will be contaminated with Rescue and covert control. And it is likely that, "under the gun," one's efforts to Adapt appropriately will be corrupted with the historical "reasonableness," "normality" and familiarity of Victimhood.

One may find themselves in those ambiguous ranges because life is rarely crystal clear, the time to consider the possibilities is just not available, and/or their autonomic nervous systems are in fight or flight. But those who are unwilling to try to work through the stuff will find that there are worse places than fight or flight.

If one remains unwilling long enough, they will learn all about freeze, freak and fry.

*Assertion skills are explained at...
http://www.google.com/search?sourceid=navclient&ie=UTF-8&rlz=1T4ADBF_enUS304US306&q=assertion+training

*Identity is explained at...
http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&rlz=1T4ADBF_enUS304US306&q=Erikson+identity&btnG=Search

My earlier articles on the Karpman Drama Triangle are available at:

http://sighkoblahgrr.blogspot.com/2008/08/drama-triangle-dynamics.html

http://sighkoblahgrr.blogspot.com/2007/08/karpmans-drama-triangle-revisted.html

http://sighkoblahgrr.blogspot.com/2007/12/effective-role-management-on-karpmans.html

http://sighkoblahgrr.blogspot.com/2008/01/gordons-pet-through-lens-of-karpmans.html

http://sighkoblahgrr.blogspot.com/2008/02/drama-triangle-dos-and-donts.html

http://sighkoblahgrr.blogspot.com/2008/02/codependents-perfectionistic-impulse-to.html

http://sighkoblahgrr.blogspot.com/2008/03/sadomasochism-on-drama-triangle.html

http://sighkoblahgrr.blogspot.com/2008/12/personality-disorders-on-karpman-drama.html

http://sighkoblahgrr.blogspot.com/2009/02/parallel-processing-iii.html

http://sighkoblahgrr.blogspot.com/2010/04/parent-alienation.html

http://sighkoblahgrr.blogspot.com/2010/04/codependents-favorite-romance-object.html


Further information on the Karpman Drama Triangle is available at:

http://www.karpmandramatriangle.com/

http://www.ta-tutor.com/

http://www.mentalhealthtoday.com/

(c) 2009 by Rodger Garrett; all rights reserved. Links to this article are welcomed. Please email not_moses@fastmail.fm with questions or comments. Thanks you.

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