“no dramas, pass me my pyjamas…”
I can’t use the word ‘dramas’ without smiling as I remember the famous song, by the fabulously talented Victoria Wood. In some shape or form we’re all in some form of ‘drama’ every minute of every day at work or at home.
There’s a brilliant bit of theory borrowed from TA (Transactional Analysis) that can help us deal with those ‘dramas’ differently.
Aptly titled, the Karpman drama triangle is an idea that I’ve found useful in my own life and is a cornerstone of the work that I do as a coach and trainee therapist. In essence the idea, is that when we get into heated, or difficult situations with others we occupy one or other of the three positions on the drama triangle.
We can feel, think and act from a more superior, one up position; in which case we will tend to assume either the critical, persecuting role or one where we attempt to rescue the other person. Alternatively, we feel, think and act from a more inferior, one down position and assume the victim role.
When we get into heated or emotional situations with others, there’s every chance we are assuming one or more roles on the drama triangle. As you can imagine; the outcome is not usually positive. Emotions run high, we get increasingly agitated and even if we start trying to ‘rescue’ and help the other initially, we can end up feeling critical and judgmental of them.
It’s not easy to do, but we can choose whether we want to be a ‘player in the drama’, provided we have an awareness that we’re on it in the first place.
Here’s some suggestions on how I would start to process what is going on for myself, and which you could use with your own coaching clients;
- What is my role in this drama?
How am I feeling towards the other?
Do feel one up? In which case I’m either trying to rescue or criticise them, because subconsciously I know better.
Do I feel one down? In which case I’m not speaking up for myself or asking for what I want, because I subconsciously feel they know better than me.
- Do I want to be in this drama?
Is this something that I feel so strongly about, that I need to find a way forward, or could I choose to “exit stage left”? This is a tough one, because even stepping out of the drama might take a whole heap of guts and assertion. I’m going to share some ideas on how to do this later this week.
- Changing the dynamic
What can I do to break the cycle here and change the dynamic?
How can I assume a less judgmental position, whilst also ensuring that I get my needs met?
Transactional analysts would say we need to feel, act and behave from a more “Adult” position.
That Adult perspective removes us from the drama, as we start to look at the situation more rationally, logically and with an underlying belief that the other persons views are equally important and valid.
What works for me, is to try and distract the drama roles and ask myself a few questions, that encourage me to see things from another perspective. This enables us to choose our responses to rather than merely react in the heat of the moment;
- What is it about this that I am finding difficult?
- What is driving their reactions and responses here?
- What areas of common ground do we have? Could I build on that?
What I’ve included here is an overview of the theory, so that you can use it as a way of looking at what might be happening for you in some of your own tricky situations.
If you’d like the process flow that I use with my clients, please get in touch.