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Drama Triangle Alternative

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The drama triangle is a problem-focused mindset that we get triggered into whenever we’re in survival mode. It forms the foundation at the very core of every dysfunctional psychological and relationship mind game that we can play.

Drama Triangle and an Alternative

Learn more about this and the Empowerment Triangle by David Emerald as a member of Serenity Cafe Recovery Center or at our Serenity Cafe Academy.

The Problem-Focused Drama Triangle

In order to play the Drama Triangle game, we need a persecutor, a rescuer, and the victim. Let’s say the persecutor is the dad who comes home from work angry and irritable because he had a very bad day. He finds his son’s bike in the driveway. When he comes in, he notices the 12-year-old boy has not taken out the garbage, which is his new chore. So he jumps all over Johnny for not taking out the garbage. Mom seeing Johnny as a victim of Dad’s bad day begins to rescue him by jumping all over Dad for persecuting Johnny. Dad then moves into the victim role, yelling at mom, saying he was just trying to teach John a good work ethic and get him to follow through on his chores.

This starts a big fight, so Johnny then moves out of the victim role into the persecutor as he yells at mom for jumping on dad. So you can see where the term drama comes in in the drama triangle. It’s not having these three roles. It’s the ability for family members to shift from one role to another that creates the drama and chaos in the family. So we learn the drama triangle early on in our lives, but we become much more sophisticated in how we play the game later in our adult relationships. The sample below is available in PDF and Printed 5×7 Cards at Serenity Creations Estore. Give them to your family, clients, or other students of personal growth for quick reference.

Emerald’s Empowerment Dynamic ~ Alternative to Karpman’s Drama Triangle


If you watch the news or get on Facebook, very often you’ll see the drama triangle played out by groups of people as well as individuals, one feeling like the rescuer helping save victims from the mean persecutors. This is because it’s become our way of life. There is another option, however. An alternative to the drama triangle is the Empowerment Dynamic created by David Emerald. As already mentioned, the drama triangle is a problem-focused mindset that we get into when we’re triggered into survival mode, in growth mode, we can choose the Empowerment Dynamic.

The Opportunity-Focused Empowerment Dynamic

The Empowerment Dynamic is an opportunity-focused mindset that we can choose when we’re in growth mode. It flips the triangle upside right. In this model, the victim becomes a creator, refusing to play the victim and taking accountability for creating the life that he or she wants, the rescuer becomes a coach. The difference between a rescuer and a coach is if I’m on the football field playing a game and I don’t know what to do next, I can call a timeout, go to the sideline, and consult with my coach. After consulting with the coach, I can return to the game and implement the strategies we discussed. A rescuer, on the other hand, would put me on the bench and go in and try to play the game for me. In this model, there are no such things as persecutors, and a persecutor could be anything like a person, or a medical condition, or a complex financial situation that is problematic.

There are no problems, there are only opportunities in the Empowerment Dynamic. We look at everything as a challenger offering an opportunity for growth. I just need to be able to make the right choices, consult the right coaches, and find a way to overcome the challenge that I face. I must also keep in mind that if I’m already good at something and offers me no opportunity for growth, it’s those challenges in life that help me grow.

It would be nice if it were so simple, we could just simply choose this opportunity focused mindset. However, when we’re triggered, we go into survival mode. That’s when we’re caught up in our life scripts and it becomes difficult to make such choices, if not impossible. However, with recovery-oriented therapies and 12 step work, we can overcome those wounds that keep us stuck in those life scripts and enter into growth mode when we realize the degree of complexity and making the shift from the problem-focused model to the opportunity-focused model we may select to retain a coach such as a therapist or a 12 step sponsor to help us heal enough to be able to be more choiceful in which mindset governs our life.

The Drama Triangle ~ Since the Dawn of Time? Really??

There is a story of a beautiful garden. It is the story of two people who lived there in Paradise until one day a serpent came into the garden, slithered up to the woman, and began a conversation. During the conversation, the woman told the serpent she could not eat of the fruit of a certain tree in the garden of she would die. The serpent, pretending to be a Rescuer, told the woman, surely, she would NOT die! He said the Gardener who grew the tree just wanted to keep the secret of the fruit to himself implying the woman was a victim of the Gardener who was just a mean old Persecutor who has been taking advantage of her and her victim husband! When the husband was confronted by the Gardener, he took the position of victim and put his wife in the persecutorrole, saying It was the woman the Gardener gave to him so he wouldn’t be alone (Rescuer).

Whether you believe this story is true or not, the story was recorded in one of the oldest and most accurate historical documents of all time ~ The Bible. This is the story of how sin and death entered the world and it was written thousands of years ago! So whether it actually happened is not my argument here… that is a personal matter of faith. My point is that people who lived THOUSANDS of years ago actually knew of the Drama Triangle and they pointed to it as the model that brought corruption, death, and destruction into the world. And this Serpent’s Model is alive and well today. It has continued to kill, destroy, corrupt, and cause chaos over and over again – from the level of family demise, all the way up to massively destructive world wars.

Genuine Rescuers, Persecutors, and Victims

Now, we all know there are such things as genuine rescuers, persecutors, and victims. A child who is abused is an example of a genuine victim, the abuser is a genuine persecutor, and child protection services are genuine rescuer’s. People who grow up in households where these genuine roles exist tend to develop a mindset that becomes a lens through which they experience the world, mostly when triggered into survival mode. (See my Ceramic Baseball analogy of the Self).

People who find themselves in toxic relationships at home, or work, or anywhere they have connections to other people come to see me for counseling and they say to me, “But, you don’t understand… I REALLY AM a victim and so-and-so REALLY IS persecuting me!” And I immediately agree with them, because they are correct! They can see things through the lens of the Drama Triangle and IT FITS PERFECTLY! However, when I ask them, “Does this model of looking at the issue actually help anything??? they invariably drop their gaze and say “no”, which opens the door to learning a new way of looking at things, one that actually helps change things…

Empowerment Dynamic ~ aka, The Creator Mentality

Going back to our story of the Garden, the “Gardener” could have come to the rescue and fixed all of this. But He did not… In fact, He could not for this was NOT His model! His model fits the Empowerment Dynamic, aka the Creator Mentality as I like to call it. In the Gardener’s model, we are the creators of our domain. He created the Garden and we create our experience and conditions of our space in the garden by the choices we make.

A Personal Example…

In February 2020 I was diagnosed with Diabetes. I had crossed the line with an A1C of 6.7. Now, I knew my family history and my risk factors, but I ignored them. I live in a sugar-rich environment with all kinds of goodies and I ate whatever I wanted ~ until I was diagnosed. At that point, I remembered the Creator Mentality. I had hit bottom and said to myself, “I am 64 years old and I do NOT want to go through the next years in this condition.” I accepted that I created my conditions with the choices I made and that I could, by the Grace of God, rise to the challenge by changing those conditions with the Empowerment Dynamic (the Gardener’s Model).

I hired two coaches — two wonderful nutritionists who specialize in how to create a lifestyle that allows my pancreas to heal, and I accepted the challenge presented by the diagnosis. Three months later and 30 lbs lighter my A1C had dropped 13 points to 5.3… well below the diagnosable level! Thank You, Caleb and Melody!

SIDE NOTE: In my opinion, The two people in our story WERE genuine Victims in that they did not know about deceit and the Serpent WAS a genuine Persecutor who masterfully took advantage of that. While God did not play the Drama Triangle game, he did make a genuine Rescuer for all of us who are sitting ducks for sin and corruption – His name is Jesus Christ. With His help, we can do all things!