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Moving from The Drama Triangle to the Winner’s Triangle.

The Drama Triangle

Designed by Steven Karpman in 1968 as a tool to map conflicted or drama-intense relationship transactions. It’s called a Drama triangle because of the roles that are played out. We are likely to have a tendency towards playing one of these roles.

The three roles in the Drama Triangle.

The Victim: 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 also a Rescuer who will save the day but also perpetuate the Victim’s negative feelings.

The Rescuer (very common in caring professions).

The rescuer’s line is “Let me help you.” A classic enabler, the Rescuer feels guilty if he/she doesn’t go to the rescue. Yet his/her rescuing has negative effects: It keeps the Victim dependent and gives the Victim permission to fail. The rewards derived from this rescue role are that the focus is taken off of the rescuer. When he/she focuses their energy on someone else, it enables them to ignore their own anxiety and issues. This rescue role is also very 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. Villian) The Persecutor insists, “It’s all your fault.” The Persecutor is controlling, blaming, critical, oppressive, angry, authoritative, rigid, and superior. (Source: Wikipedia).

Are there any winners?

If we’re in a drama tri­an­gle, what we’re getting is drama. The price we pay is not getting what we truly want or need.

Introducing… The Winner’s Triangle:

The Winner’s Triangle was developed by Acery Choy in 1990. It offers us a way out of our usual positions so we can develop more productive relationships with others.

The Winner’s Triangle was published by Acey Choy in 1990 as a therapeutic model for showing patients how to alter social transactions when entering a triangle at any of the three entry points.

Choy recommends that anyone feeling like a victim think more in terms of being vulnerable and caring, that anyone cast as a persecutor adopt an assertive posture, and anyone recruited to be a rescuer should react by being “caring”.


The three roles in The Winner’s Triangle.


Vulnerable – a victim should be encouraged to accept their vulnerability, problem solve, and be more self-aware.

Assertive – a persecutor should be encouraged to ask for what they want, be assertive, but not be punishing.

Caring – a rescuer should be encouraged to show concern and be caring, but not over-reach and problem solve for others.


NMC Tips: When considering the roles we play, it’s useful to take a step back and journal our thoughts and what we have said and how we feel after a conflict. Then, read again later (without being judgmental) to see what we notice and what patterns we may wish to draw attention to and bring our awareness to.

What do I notice?

How do I feel?

Which roles am I and the other people playing?

How can I change my role – which words and phrases can I add to my vocabulary in preparation for this?

Sources: Choy (1990), Napper & Newton (2000), Karpman (1968).