Every great story needs a Victim – Oliver Twist, the Princess in the tower, little Red Riding Hood. If you’ve ever connected with the wounded child in you who feels powerless and blames others, you’re familiar with this role.
A gripping tale also needs a Villain or Persecutor – the Evil Stepsisters, the Joker, Bill Sykes. If you recognize the judgmental parent within you who shames and blames others, chances are you’ve played this role.
And, of course, a compelling narrative always requires a Hero or Rescuer – Wonder woman, Nancy in Oliver Twist, the handsome Prince. If you’ve ever stepped in, unasked, to help someone who you believed could not sort things out themselves, you know what I’m talking about.
As with our dreams, every character within us is the author. The Victim, The Persecutor and the Rescuer all represent different parts of you. And we need all three of these archetypes in order to tell interesting, meaningful, dramatic stories.
The real drama comes about when a Victim becomes a Hero, or a Persecutor becomes a Rescuer. In Cinderella and Oliver Twist, we meet the Hero as the Victim. And Little Red Riding Hood was originally the Rescuer to her grandmother and later became the Persecutor.
In the Pied Piper, the Hero begins as the Rescuer of the city and Persecutor of the rats, then becomes Victim of the Persecutor-mayor’s double-cross, and in revenge switches to the Persecutor of the city’s children.
So too, in real life, there will be different situations where you may cast yourself (or are seen by others) variously as all three – Victim, Rescuer, and Persecutor. When no one appreciates or reciprocates their attempts to fix everything, the exhausted Rescuer often sees themself as the Victim. Often the Victim will seek retribution by becoming a persecutor, blaming and victimizing others, or coming to the side of others as a Rescuer.
But, most of us find ourselves drawn, time and again, to just one of these roles.
It’s called The Drama Triangle – the destructive cycle of human interaction named in the 1960s by a psychologist, Dr. Stephen Karpman, who just happened to also be a member of the Screen Actors Guild. Karpman specifically distinguished the playing of roles. The Victim is someone who is “playing” the Victim, not someone who has literally been wounded or oppressed by another; The Rescuer is not someone such as a firefighter, who is dealing with a real emergency in an honest way.
Although all three are ‘roles’ and none may be true to who we really are, we can all get caught in this cycle that is hard to escape
The Victim: “You always blame me. It’s so unfair.”
In the Drama Triangle, the Victim sees life as happening to them and feels powerless to change their circumstances. Hopeless, downtrodden, and stuck, Victims place blame on a Persecutor who can be a person or a situation. Being powerless, the victim ostensibly seeks a rescuer to solve the problem for them. Victims also have a sneaky interest in invalidating their problem as being unsolvable.
The Victim discounts their own ability to solve a problem or initiate change.
The Persecutor: You are to blame for this going wrong”
Judgmental and critical, a Persecutor’s role is to keep the Victim being a victim, usually through domineering words and behavior which seeks to control.
Remember, if the victim no longer feels oppressed they can rise up and leave the triangle – and then the persecutor (and the Rescuer) has no role.
The Persecutor Discounts the value and integrity, and feelings of others.
The Rescuer: “Poor you. I’ll make everything OK.’
Over-helpful, self-sacrificing, and needing to be needed, the Rescuer in turn seems to want to help the victim but in fact acts in a way that is geared to the rescuer’s own need to be validated for rescuing. Very often Rescuers are unwittingly trying to help the abandoned child within themselves – “saving” others in the hope that others will come to their rescue.
The definition of a Rescuer in the Drama Triangle is someone who seems to be striving to solve a victim’s problems but in fact does so in ways that result in the victim having less power, with the rescuer benefiting more than the victim.
The Rescuer discounts the ability of others to act on their own initiative and solve problems for themselves.
There is a way out of the Drama Triangle
Do you recognize this form of mind game that is anxiety-based and focused on problems? It’s self-perpetuating and designed to keep the victim powerless in a dynamic that creates a roller coaster of tension and relief.
For years, it was generally accepted that the only way to deal with the ‘Dreaded Drama Triangle’ was simply to be aware of it and to exert a huge amount of willpower over the roles one played. Then, in 2005, a fellow Coach, David Emerald Womeldorff -don’t you love that name- published a new model which is now starting to become widely used to facilitate teamwork and productivity in organizations around the world.
Unlike The Dreaded Drama Triangle, which is problem-focused, TED (The Empowerment Dynamic) is oriented towards your passions. It’s very focused on goals and outcomes. TED is a teaching story about self-leadership whose principles and frameworks are based on Wolmerdorff’s own studies on collaboration with a wide range of individuals and organizations. In short, it offers up a much-needed antidote to the drama triangle.
Womeldorff creates a new triangle in which:
- The Victim transmogrifies into Creator
- The Persecutor takes on the role of Challenger
- The Rescuer assumes the dynamic new role of Coach
Of course, each of these shifts requires a huge amount of imagination and courage. For someone who has always seen themselves as the victim, it can be an enormous stretch to get creative and consider, perhaps for the first time, what their long-term goal or vision is.
Creators are focused on outcomes, rather than on problems. Yes, of course, problems will always occur, but TED encourages us to see these obstacles as challenges that force us to clarify our goals.By taking what Womeldorff calls “baby steps,” as creators, we get clearer about the outcomes we are trying to create in our lives.
The final role of the triangle is that of coach. Instead of seeing their duty as being to rescue someone, a coach asks questions intended to help the individual make informed choices. The key difference between a rescuer and a coach is that the coach sees the individual as capable of making choices and solving their own problems. For the rescuer, the victim is broken. For the coach the client is creative, resourceful, and whole.
The key, days Wolmdorff, is to recognize the roles we play are not real – it’s a choice.
If you’re slipping into a Victim role: Ask yourself, what’s one thing that you say or can do, right now, that will help.
If you’re slipping into a Persecutor role, ask yourself: “What are you doing, that may be contributing to this problem?”
If you’re slipping into a Rescuer role: Ask, “How can you empower this individual, and coach them to find the answers for themselves?
Whether you currently find yourself most often playing the role of victim, rescuer or oppressor, I’d love to invite you to pivot into the more empowering, passion-based roles of challenger, coach or creator.
As a reformed rescuer who is now a professional coach, I see all Victims, Persecutors and Rescuers as creators waiting to emerge.
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The Points of Light Civic Circle Offers Real Ways You Can Change the World
Sixty-six percent of Americans don’t believe they can make a big impact in the world.
That figure is according to Points of Light’s research on civic engagement. But what if I told you there are actually many ways to drive change?
Today’s political climate can feel divided or even stagnant, but the truth is, you really can make things better, starting with your own community, one act of kindness at a time. And those aren’t just words. I’m here to share real, practical ways for you to make a difference.
The Points of Light Civic Circle helps people connect to opportunities and understand that doing good comes in many forms. It is a framework that represents your power to lead, lend support and take action for causes you care about and live your best civic life.
The Civic Circle provides actionable examples of all the ways you can change your community to reflect the world you want to see around you. In fact, you’re probably doing some of these things already. Are you helping a neighbor by picking up groceries or chaperoning on your child’s class field trip? You’re volunteering. Did you vote in the last election or help others get to the polls so they could vote? Those acts of civic duty illustrate the “vote” element. When you buy a product, do you choose to support companies that reflect your values or advance a social cause? That’s called “purchase power.” There are nine elements of the Civic Circle, and countless ways to bring each one to life.
This blog is the first in a five-part series that will help you find real and manageable ways to activate the Civic Circle through apps, documentaries, podcasts and books.
We also offer other resources to help you connect with all the ways you can become empowered to be the change you want to see in the world. Check out our videos that provide an in-depth look at each element of the Civic Circle. And don’t miss Civic Life Today, our digital magazine series. Each issue takes a deep dive and provides materials, ideas and inspiration so that you can become civically engaged. Get started today, and launch your own civic engagement journey with these tools.
Are you an Amateur or a Pro? 30 Differences to Help You Decide…
My client, Sebastian, thinks he’s behind on “life”.
He thinks he missed the memo the rest of us received on how to live a happy life.
I know better.
Sebastian hasn’t fallen behind and there is no such memo.
We’re all just trying to figure it out.
Unless we’re not. And there are a lot of people who simply are not trying to figure it out.
My friend and Professional Coach, Elaine Taylor-Klaus, calls them Status quo-ers — as opposed to Growers.
Anyone who makes a serious commitment to working with a Professional Coach is by definition a “Grower” and Sebastian is no exception.
Growers want to know, feel and live more. They push every boundary and sometimes fall off cliffs. They say “yes” to way too many things and often feel overwhelmed and over committed. They have a congenital distaste of the status quo and will sabotage any situation if it feels like “settling” to them. They’re insatiable and often don’t know what exactly will assuage their hunger.
Growers often appear to the world as troubled, frustrated and critical.
Inside they feel unfulfilled and misunderstood.
The truth is that they can’t help but be driven by Oscar Wilde’s belief that,
Growers will break every piece in the china shop when they find themselves just existing and not living as they see fit. And they suffer for it.
That is… until they turn pro and transform their life!
Steven Pressfield famously states in his book, Turning Pro,
Sebastian thinks he’s falling behind because he’s still living life as an amateur at 34.
To put the above into context, I didn’t turn pro till well into my 40’s!
Best move I ever made!
So what’s the difference between living life as an amateur vs. a pro?
Although there is no one size fits all manifesto on “how to turn pro”, here are thirty distinctions I’ve learned which apply to ANY Grower who is truly committed to living a life of purpose, fulfillment and ease.
- Amateurs look for hacks and shortcuts — Pros do the work.
- Amateurs speed up — Pros slow down.
- Amateurs are busy — Pros are focused.
- Amateurs sell first — Pros serve first.
- Amateurs think it’s about them — Pros know it’s never personal.
- Amateurs think life is short — Pros know life is actually really freakin’ long.
- Amateurs are reactive — Pros are responsive.
- Amateurs live with constant misunderstandings — Pros take the time to get clear.
- Amateurs don’t know what success looks like (to them) — Pros know their definition of success and aren’t afraid to change it.
- Amateurs don’t know their core life values — Pros do.
- Amateurs want to feel happy — Pros want to feel alive!
- Amateurs play to “not lose” — Pros play to win.
- Amateurs are harsh — Pros are fierce.
- Amateurs secretly enjoy being in the “Victim Mindset” — Pros are a “Hell No” to that!
- Amateurs wonder what people say about them when they leave the room — Pros know.
- Amateurs have false and limiting beliefs around money — Pros don’t.
- Amateurs are constantly searching for life balance — Pros are living an integrated life.
- Amateurs think everything matters — Pros know what few things actually do matter (for them).
- Amateurs set boundaries defensively — Pros simply honor their “operating system”.
- Amateurs think help is a four letter word — Pros actively seek opportunities to help and be helped.
- Amateurs don’t have a relationship with their “Future Self” — Pros are best friends with their “Future Self”.
- Amateurs confuse knowing with doing — Pros receive knowledge and apply it (EVERY moment of EVERY day).
- Amateurs love information — Pros love insights.
- Amateurs have intentions — Pros have commitments.
- Amateurs have expectations — Pros have agreements.
- Amateurs compare — Pros create.
- Amateurs live from probability — Pros live from possibility.
- Amateurs are focused only on the “Goal Line” — Pros are focused on both the “Goal Line” and the “Soul Line”.
- Amateurs set goals with contingencies — Pros know contingencies are just excuses and NOW is the time!
- Amateurs create from the past — Pros create from the future.
Now that you are aware of the 30 differences between an amateur and a pro, where do you see yourself?
And I’d love to know why. Get in touch with your answer.
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