First, thank you all health care workers for everything you have done and continue to do. Thank you for staying in touch with your patients during this crazy time. I appreciate every one of you and everything you do for us!
In the 1950s, Eric Berne developed the psychological model of transactional analysis, using “transaction” to describe the fundamental unit of social intercourse, with “transactional analysis” being the study of social interactions between individuals. Dr. Stephen Karpman, MD, took it one-step further and published a book in 1967, and detailed the Karpman Drama Triangle as a social model of human interaction. The triangle maps a type of destructive interaction that can occur among people in conflict. The drama triangle model is a tool used in psychotherapy, specifically transactional analysis. The triangle of actors in the drama is persecutors, victims, and rescuers. He published his book about it at that time, updated it in 2008, and recently gave a TED talk about it. He updated his book and re-published it in 2020. The Karpman Drama Triangle models the connection between personal responsibility and power in conflicts, and the destructive and shifting roles people play (emphasis mine). His theory defined three roles in the conflict: Persecutor, Rescuer (the one up position) and Victim (one down position).
Karpman placed these three roles on an inverted triangle and referred to them as being the three aspects, or faces of drama.
The Victim: The Victim in this model is not intended to represent an actual victim, but rather someone feeling or acting like one. The Victim’s stance is “Poor me!” The Victim feels victimized, oppressed, helpless, hopeless, powerless, ashamed, and seems unable to make decisions, solve problems, take pleasure in life, or achieve insight. The Victim, if not being persecuted, will seek out a Persecutor and a Rescuer who will save the day but also perpetuate the Victim’s negative feelings.
The Rescuer: The rescuer’s line is “Let me help you.” A classic enabler, the Rescuer feels guilty if they don’t go to the rescue. Yet their rescuing has negative effects: It keeps the Victim dependent and doesn’t allow the Victim permission to fail and experience the consequences of their choices. The rewards derived from this rescue role are that the focus is taken off of the rescuer. When they focus their energy on someone else, it enables them to ignore their own anxiety and issues. This rescue role is also pivotal because their actual primary interest is really an avoidance of their own problems disguised as concern for the victim’s needs.
The Persecutor: (a.k.a. Villain) The Persecutor insists, “It’s all your fault.” The Persecutor is controlling, blaming, critical, oppressive, angry, authoritarian, rigid, and superior (Former President and his supporters).
“Initially, a drama triangle arises when a person takes on the role of a victim or persecutor. This person then feels the need to enlist other players into the conflict. As often happens, a rescuer is encouraged to enter the situation. These enlisted players take on roles of their own that are not static, and therefore various scenarios can occur. The victim might turn on the rescuer, for example, while the rescuer then switches to persecution.”
“The reason that the situation persists is that each participant has their (frequently unconscious) psychological wishes/needs met without having to acknowledge the broader dysfunction or harm done in the situation as a whole. Each participant is acting upon their own selfish needs, rather than acting in a genuinely responsible or altruistic manner (Emphasis Mine).”
The relationship between the victim and the rescuer may be one of codependency. The rescuer keeps the victim dependent by encouraging their victimhood. The victim gets their needs met by having the rescuer take care of them. (Again, does this sound familiar to you regarding the former president supporters?)
Participants generally tend to have a primary or habitual role (victim, rescuer, persecutor) when they enter into drama triangles. Participants first learn their habitual role in their family of origin. Even though participants each have a role, with which they most identify, once on the triangle, participants rotate through all the three positions.
Each triangle has a “payoff” for those playing it. The “antithesis” of a drama triangle lies in discovering how to deprive the actors of their payoff.
So what does this all mean regarding where we are today? Why do some of us take the hit, shake it off and go on with trying something new, moving on, while others get further depressed, wallow in self-pity and blame everyone else? Why do we focus on the persecutor/victim struggle and look for a rescuer (superhero) instead of looking into what we are doing to make our lives miserable?
While I acknowledge the pandemic has taken its toll on everyone, including me, and the crazies during and after the election didn’t help, now is the time to make change in your lives and move forward. It’s time to step up, take control of our own lives and look to the future for things and work to make the change. It’s time for the crazies (both persecutors and victims) to acknowledge their misdeeds and move on and become part of society’s rescue. They only fan hate and violence and it is not something that we need right now. We are going in the direction we need to go and it will take time, but they need to get on board.
We, as a society, have to learn patience, which is terribly hard for Americans to do. We are used to the attitude of selfishness – getting what we want when we want it, RIGHT NOW! Things are changing, slowly, but it will be a very long process before we get back to normal. We have to be safe first, stay home and wait a little bit longer to reap the rewards in the future. Part of that patience is to take control of your children (Spring Break craziness – people, why would you let them do that?) and understand that it will take our new leaders some time to dig out of the disaster of the last four years. We have to learn to trust the new administration to do the right thing. I understand that trust is hard to come by, but if we could just give it a little more time, I believe we will get through it. I am going with optimistic and keeping positive, even if only in my bubble of a world.
I also realize that the first part of that patience is being able to get people back to work. Part of getting back to work is to ask your new senators and representatives (and especially your Republican representatives!) to come together with the Democrats and create new jobs within new markets in the U.S. Again, I know long-term is not what we DO as Americans, but if we can just be a little patient, and keep the idea of new opportunities alive we can make it happen. How does this happen? We can start by communicating RATIONALLY, to the people that represent us. People could start a grassroots campaign in their towns to have jobs that are safe to come back to. We can ask local entrepreneurs and local representatives to come up with a way to create jobs that are challenging and purposeful for us and for future generations. We can write our Governors and respectfully request them to take some of the stimulus money and put into development of these new jobs. It is not a pie in the sky idea. It can be done.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has been working the late night circuit and he recently talked to Jimmy Kimmel about the future of our infrastructure. He is a breath of fresh air, funny, and takes a positive spin on what we can do now. He talked about change in how we travel and how we could think about ways to not only re-build the crumbling roads and bridges, but how we could improve how we get to and from places every day. He was asked about the status of Autonomous Vehicles (AVs) and he stated that companies like Tesla are working on a self-driving car. Although this isn’t the flying car of my childhood dreams, it is still a great idea. I ask you to think about this. We already have cars that pick us up when we don’t want to drive, so why can’t it be possible for us to embrace the idea of calling an AV company, get in and let it do the work? He did say it would take time to get the roadways ready, but just think of the jobs this alone would create. Maybe this would encourage people to shop in downtown areas that are hard to get to right now because of reduced bus routes and limited (and expensive) parking. Perhaps it would even reduce roadway traffic and we could finally get rid of those massive parking garages.
Secretary Buttigieg also spoke of the Public Transfer relief that is coming from the COVID relief package and that is to get the transit sector, e.g., Amtrak and buses running again to full capacity. Money was also included for Aerospace manufacturing that will provide new job opportunities for people as well as helping others in the industry get back to work.
All I know is that life as we know it is will continue to change and we have to embrace it. It’s hard, I know, but if we can brainstorm and envision new ways to accomplish our jobs after the pandemic, we will survive. Our lives are changing and new careers will open up if we open ourselves up to it. Think about it. Creating new fields of study and then putting it all to work in new careers will give all of us a fighting chance. Industry has to change, and embrace forward-thinking training and we have to allow that change. I am hopeful for the first time in years. So let us get through the past sadness together and move onto the future.
As Maya Angelou once said:
“Hate, it has caused a lot of problems in the world, but has not solved one yet.”
“As long as you’re breathing, it’s never too late to do some good.”