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Breaking free from the Drama

Do you ever find yourself thinking things like the following:

-          What were they thinking?

-          Why does this always happen to me?

-          Why do I have to do everything myself?

-          It’s their fault…

-          This always happens to me…

These thoughts and beliefs can drive drama in relationships that cause communication to break down. They are like little arrows that pierce inside the other person and ourselves, keeping us tethered, locked in a battle for control where no-one wins. And some of us finding ourselves doing it time and time and time again!

triangle with each point demonstrating part of the drama triangle: persecutor, rescuer and victim

I remember learning about the Drama Triangle by Stephen Karpman a number of years ago when I was in counselling. Karpman described three roles that people often shift in and out from during conflicts. The three roles are: the persecutor, the rescuer and the victim. We tend to go to one or two of these more often than the third but in a conflict we may assume all three roles at different times depending on the nature of the conflict and the way other players shift tack. It’s a game where all the players are trying to get competing needs met by manipulating each other in a variety of ways. The primary rule is win at all costs but in the end everyone loses. Let’s be honest- a game like that doesn’t really sound fun at all… perhaps we need to change the rules!

If no-one wins in the drama triangle, why do we go there? It’s simply because many of us lack the awareness to step away from or out of the drama triangle when it starts happening. We are operating subconsciously, running old patterns (beliefs or scripts) and so it feels familiar. Conflict in the Drama Triangle isn’t comfortable but it is a familiar discomfort which seems easier to handle than the new discomfort that comes from awareness and taking on a different role to step away from the drama. 

triangle with each point demonstrating part of the winners triangle: assertive, caring and vulnerable

The good news is when we consciously choose new roles in the face of conflict we are empowered. It is healthier for us and can lead to more harmonious relationships.

Instead of judging and condemning like a persecutor, we can be assertive and set our own boundaries. We can hold those boundaries with love, allowing ourselves to choose what we invite into our world. Instead of rescuing by assuming they need the help we want to give them, we can empower others but asking if they need our help and accepting their response. Instead of being a victim who feels stuck and powerless, we can connect with our feelings and take action. Vulnerability is not weakness. It takes courage to show up.

“Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren't always comfortable, but they're never weakness.” Brene Brown

It is normal to slip into old patterns when we drop our awareness, and often conflict heightens our emotions which makes it harder to disengage from the drama. Just remember when you do become aware, you can choose to shift your role to a more empowering one, one where an outcome is more like to be win-win, and the focus is on the problem not the personalities. We get to choose! The more often we make powerful choices, the easier it becomes to break free from the Drama Triangle.  

Image of Megan Gallagher taken by Kerry Hodge, Megan is standing against the wall, smiling at the camera

Megan Gallagher, is a mum, teacher, coach, speaker, PLD facilitator and consultant. She weaves her teaching experience, intense interest and curiosity about the brain, and coaching skills together in all that she does.

One of her greatest pleasures in life is seeing others shining and this is the basis of the work she does. She specialises in coaching for children, families and educators, and shares her expertise in wellbeing, curriculum design, and impactful teaching and learning as a speaker and facilitator.

For more information please check out You can contact her at

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1 Comment

I love this Meg - new to me and makes sooo much sense! Aligns with the responsibility chart nicely.

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