Breaking the Victim Triangle — No More Miss Nice Girl

This is a guest post written by my dear friend, Lee Reyes-Fournier, a professional psychotherapist with over 20 years of experience working with marriages, families and addiction. You can find her, and her lovely husband, Paul, sharing real relationship advice from real relationship experts over at CoupleDumb.  Lee lovingly calls me on my crap and makes me look deeper at who I am and as to why I don’t deserve the “Nice Girl” title anymore. 
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One of the recurring stories we hear in therapy is being “too nice”. We are here to tell you that, yes; you can be “too nice”. It is perplexing. You give – you get kicked in the teeth. You take care of people – you get disrespected or your contribution ignored. You take a bullet – you get blamed for the violence. You support, instruct, guide and go above and beyond friend duties- you get skewered for not giving more. This story is happening right now in every nook and cranny of the earth and we are here to explain why.
In the field of Psychotherapy, there are many theories that explain those perplexing behaviors that create drama, sadness, jealousy and anger. In Transactional Analysis (TA), there is a theory called the Karpman Drama Triangle. Therapists have made it more user-friendly and just refer to it as the Victim Triangle. The Victim Triangle is a common scene where a victim feels persecuted (whether by society, circumstances or another person) and a “Nice” person rescues them. The victim will then ultimately turns on the rescuer. The Rescuer is then left with that feeling of “why me?” and does not realize that they have been victimized. The Rescuer then turns and persecutes the victim for being mean.

Let’s meet the players:

VICTIM – He/She says “Poor Me”

Feels victimized, oppressed, helpless, hopeless, powerless, ashamed.

Looks for a Rescuer that will perpetuate their negative feelings about themselves and the world.

If they stay in the Victim position, they will block self from making decisions, solving problems, pleasure and self- understanding.

PERSECUTOR – He/She says “It’s All Your Fault”

Feels victimized and lashes out- Blames, Criticizes, Keeps Victim oppressed, is mobilized by anger, Rigid, authoritative stance, “Critical” Parent

RESCUER – He/She says “Let Me Help You”, “Here I come to save the day!”

“Too nice” – Rescues when really doesn’t want to but Feels guilty if doesn’t rescue.

Keeps victim dependent by believing “Let me take care of it, because you can’t.”

The Victim Triangle is one of the most popular games people play and the foundation of co-dependency. In TA, they have been referring to people playing games long before calling someone a “player” was a common practice. This behavior is a game without winners and yet we constantly engage in it. You can see it happening in a microcosm of one person all the way to nations. An individual game would look like this: [P] “Gosh, I’m so stupid”, [V] “I can’t do anything”, [R] “I’ll eat/drink/take this to feel better”. It is the hero story with the villain and the witless victim.

Karpman Drama Triangle
The good news is that TA has certain foundational beliefs that give us hope. 1. People are O.K.- each person is important, deserves respect and validity. 2. Everyone, with few exceptions, can think and has the ability to create insight. 3. People have a choice and can decide their destiny and story.
Here is the harsh stuff-
So, why are we so nice? Some of us do it to be liked. Some of us do it as a duty. Whatever the reason is that we, as rescuers, believe we can do something others can’t. We help because we feel sorry for someone because they are not able to do for themselves. Yes, you may be reacting to these accusations but they are said with love and understanding. A person doesn’t choose to be a therapist because it’s cool. We are professional Rescuers!
The good news is that we can leave this game behind and hang up our capes by simply holding everyone responsible for their own lives. This does not mean we do not give and help. This means we can assist someone with something but must let them choose to do for themselves. They get to choose their destiny. This is the difference between giving the fish or teaching someone to fish. You must hold a person, every person, capable of fishing for themselves.
This behavior is insidious and is every area of your life from the media to your job. It will take more than a simple post to fix and is a lifelong commitment to living a happy and drama free life. We know we work on this daily. Our prescription for this season is take care of yourself and write yourself a happy ending to this year. It is your choice.
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