How to Break Free

How to Break Free of the Drama Triangle & Victim Consciousness by Barry K. Weinhold, PhD & Janae B. Weinhold, PhD

Developmental traumas that cause the Drama Triangle and the life-limiting nature of victim consciousness…

Pg 8…the Drama Triangle and victim consciousness are at the core of a social and cultural matrix that blocks both our personal growth as individuals and our collective evolution as a species….breaking free of the Drama Triangle and victim consciousness is the fastest way for you to shift your consciousness and claim your personal power.

Drama Triangle Self-Inventory

#13: When faced with a problem, I can only think of two conflicting solutions to the problem.

#14: I need to make sure I meet other people’s needs so they will like me and want to be with me.

#18: I can’t let others get too close to me or my life will be consumed by their needs.

#28: I compare myself to others, because I feel either one-up or one-down in relation to them.

Pg 38  Parents who use Drama Triangle dynamics to get their own needs met will find it very difficult to help their children move beyond the splitting phase of development.  This situation also prevents children from developing a sense of Self between the ages of 6 months and three years, and from becoming emotionally and psychologically separate from their parents.

Drama Triangle dynamics in families are a primary cause of childhood trauma.  Children who are repeatedly victimized during family conflicts or who witness others being victimized, internalize these experiences.  Their brains fie situation-specific pictures, words, thoughts and feelings related to Drama Triangle experiences.  This is the core definition of “trauma.”

These early reality-shaping experiences create traumatic memory modules of images, smells, voice tone, facial expressions, body memories, relational dynamics and situation-specific emotions that are stored in children’s emotional brains.  Each memory module has specific triggers or cures in the central nervous system that correlate with these dramatic and traumatic experiences.

When a present-time event triggers these sensory memory modules from the past, it quickly catapults people into flashback memories.

Pg 39 If they feel powerless and want to feel more powerful, they try Rescuing others so they can be one-up on them.  This usually backfires and they get flipped back in the Victim role again.

Learned Helplessness

…people learn how to get their needs met by being a helpless Victim.  Humans with learned helplessness are unable to respond to opportunities or situations that contain positive rewards.  It’s like a reverse in opposites – pain and suffering are good, and getting good things is bad.

They see no possibility of changing things, and so they just give up ad become victims.

Pg 40  Those who see themselves as special, powerful, omnipotent and entitled to dominate others typically play the Persecutor role.  They may appear powerful on the outside, but inside they often feel weak and powerless.  They just use the Persecutor role to cover up their fears of failure and their desire to also be a Victim so they can get their needs met without expectations of giving anything in return.

While their unconscious desire is to become a Victim, Persecutors are usually ashamed to be seen as vulnerable and needy.  Persecutor types are also trapped in their role as Victim because they must manipulate others to get special treatment.

Pg 41  Some common power plays are:

  • Shaming
  • Blaming others
  • Pulling rank
  • Labeling and name-calling
  • Playing the martyr
  • Using money or sex to control others

Pg 43 A common place where you play out your inner theatre is in your addictions.  You can use your judging parental part to act out the Persecutor role and blast your inner child part for being stupid, lazy, incompetent or defective.

When your inner child/Victim part collapses, you become depressed and opt for your favorite addiction in an effort to soothe your emotional hurts.  Your inner Rescuer talks to you while you are using.  This part helps you justify, minimize and blame others for your failure.

Because most people internalize their parents as actors in their drama, it’s really easy to play this very same game inside your head.  It truly becomes an inner Mind Game!

Pg 41  Present-time situations containing just the right cues will trigger unprocessed emotions from the past, and when this happens, people have difficulty believing that the intensity of their emotions is NOT related to what’s happening in the here-and-now.

In fact, the dynamics of the Drama Triangle actually prevent you from connecting the dots of past traumas and emotions with present events and emotions.

Pg 46  The Doctrine of Original Sin

A Catholic monk, Augustine of Hippo, is said to have invented the concept of Original Sin in the 5th century A.D.  It was mostly forgotten after that until it was re-introduced by Anselm in the 11th century.  Eventually it found its way into medieval philosophy.  From there, it became an accepted belief in the Roman Catholic Church, and eventually was also adopted by the Protestants.

The concept of Original Sin is completely unknown in Judaism.  It is also unknown among the indigenous Christian churches of Greece, the Balkans, Africa, Eastern Europe, Russia, and the Muslim faith in the Middle East, Iraq, Iran, and India.

Pg 47  Islam also does not even believe in sin by “derivation.”  This means that sin is not transferable, and therefore is limited to only the person who committed it.  So, a child does not inherit the sins of the father or mother.  In Islam, the Quran says in the 2nd chapter (surat al Baqara), that after Adam and Eve sinned, God taught them how to repent, they did, and he forgave them.  This is where the issue of the original sin ended for Islam.

Without a spiritual connection to God, we follow the impulses of our bodies.  We do what feels good. There is nothing inherently sinful about our emotions or our bodily pleasures.  Unfortunately, sin became defined as, a commitment to what pleases and is pleasurable without regard to what others have decided is “God’s will.”

Since we begin at birth to do what comes naturally, fulfilling our physical needs, we learn to commit ourselves to our own pleasure.  As we grow and develop a conscience, we become aware of right and wrong, and we recognize that others have needs and rights as well.  This is how we become aware there is a higher purpose beyond seeking self-fulfillment.

Pg 51  The Twisted Golden Rule

Hillel’s rule stated, “Do not do unto others that which is hateful unto thee.”  Lash astutely points out that Hillel’s statement avoids the idea of reward and punishment.  The twist in the Christian version focuses on what we want from others, rather than what we don’t want.

Lash points out, however, that the Christian Golden Rule contains an expectation that if I do something for others, I will get something of equal value in return.  This causes people to focus on the behavior of others so that they can get something back from them, and that these people are now obligated to give something in return.  This kind of twist encourages people to manipulate each other to get what they each want, rather than asking for it directly.

The second twist in the Golden Rule that Lash identifies is the difference between doing onto others vs. not doing unto others.  The latter talks about how to avoid doing things and keeps the focus inward on your own needs.  The former, however, keeps you focused outward on the needs of others.  Focusing on the needs of others instead on your own needs describes classic codependent behaviors.

Pg 53  The Need/Obligate System…

  1. Someone does something for you without first asking you.
  2. Then they expect you to be grateful for what they’ve done for you, and
  3. You return their favor without them having to ask for it.

In this game, you must figure out what this other person needs and give it without he or she ever having to ask for it.

If you don’t repay the other person’s favor in just the right way, you run the risk of being persecuted.  Your failure permits them to get justifiably angry about your lack of thoughtfulness.  If you accept the person’s Rescue and don’t repay their favor, the Rescuer feels cheated and becomes a Victim.

…trains you to care for others without them having to ask.  This is also the defining quality of all co-dependent interactions, and the primary reason that people use Drama Triangle dynamics to get their needs met.

Pg 55 (Characteristics of the Disorganized Attachment Style) Logic is a foreign language, which makes planning and strategic thinking very difficult.

The most needed skill for those with the Disorganized Attachment Style is connecting childhood events and experiences with their adult conflicts, issues and problems.

Once the Supreme Court’s Citizen’s United decision legitimized corporations as people, it allowed corporations to secretly give large sums of money to support candidates for reelection.  Super-PACs are able to receive money without disclosing its source, which makes the need-obligate system a real game.

Pg 59  Here are five steps we’ve identified for breaking free of the Drama Triangle.

  1. Commit to getting your needs met by asking directly for what you want and need. This means giving up your victim behaviors and exiting victim consciousness.
  2. Refuse to rescue other people. Don’t do anything for anyone else unless they have asked you to do it, or you get their permission to do it.
  3. Learn to recognize and reclaim your projections. This involves looking at your judgments of others to see if they might represent things you don’t like about yourself.
  4. Recognize and heal your developmental traumas. Notice the things that “trigger” you and cause a reaction that is greater than the situation called for.  This is an indication of an unhealed trauma.
  5. Learn to authentically express your thoughts and feelings in the moment, rather than saving them up and then dumping them. When you don’t express your feelings at the time you first feel them, they tend to come out stronger and less authentically.

Pg 60  You will have less concern about what other people think of you and more concern about following your own guidance.

Pg 63  As long as you continue to hold on to anger and resentment toward those who’ve hurt you in the past, you’ll remain stuck in victim consciousness and be unable to evolve.

(Empty Chair Technique) First you ask this person questions.  Then you switch chairs and become the other person, answering the questions you have just been asked.  Use your imagination and intuition to help you respond in the way this person would if they were really truthful with you.

Pg 65  The counselor’s own unrecognized and unhealed post-traumatic cues can provoke a mutual or interlocking counselor-client drama.  Without training and awareness, it’s easy for counselors and clients to get caught up in this kind of painful dynamic. (countertransference)

People who were repeatedly rescued in their families, particularly by older, parentized siblings or grandparents, typically enter the Drama Triangle through the Victim role.  They use conflict and drama to manipulate others into taking care of them and meeting their needs without them having to ask directly for this care taking.

Those who were abused as children often enter the Drama Triangle through the Persecutor role, as it provides them with a way to express their pent up childhood emotions AND to pass on their abuse through the vicious cycle of cruelty.  They find someone who is a bigger Victim with whom they act out their desire for revenge.

Pg 66  Most people don’t recognize when they are projecting.  Of course not!  They are totally focused on what another person is saying or doing that is making them feel upset.  The first sign of an active projection is the appearance of the “pointy finger,” usually accompanied by a shaming and/or blaming comment that begins with the word “you.”

Projections also typically involve judgments about other people – how they look, how they behave, what they believe, what they are doing or saying.  Having judgments about others helps us avoid looking at parts of ourselves that either we or someone else dislikes.

Pg 67  In truth, people just do what they do and for their own reasons.  They don’t sit around thinking to themselves, “Hmmmm, wonder what I could do to bug John or make him upset?”  No, the other person is in their own world and trying to cope with their own inner demons.  You know you or someone else is projecting when:

  • You have a fifty-cent reaction to a ten-cent event.
  • You want someone to stop saying or doing something because it brings up unwanted feelings and you feel uncomfortable.
  • You blame your unwanted feelings on other people.
  • You say, “You made me feel _____!”
  • You personalize what other people do and say, believing they are doing it to deliberately hurt you or upset you.

Self Inventory: Recognizing Your Projections

#2 When I am in conflict, I have feelings that remind me of how I felt in the past conflict situations.

#3  In conflict situation, I find myself focusing totally on what he other person is saying or doing.

#10 I find myself making moral judgments about the character or behavior of people I don’t like.


Excerpts from Reclaiming Your Projections (5 Stages)

Pg 70  You may try to provoke or manipulate your partner back into the negative role that you want them to play out.

Children are always taking risks and trying to be themselves, so they make great targets for projections.

You may…recognize what you are doing.  This may cause you to take inventory of your problems and decide to change your life.  You also may get into therapy or join a support group and begin connecting the dots to take responsibility for your problems.

You must chew up, swallow and digest all the parts of yourself that you dislike.  B reintegrating these split-off parts, you can access deeper feelings, be more passionate about life, and become more spontaneous, health conscious, and spiritual.

According to Bly, people who have eaten their Shadow tend to be more than do and show more grief than anger.  They often find they have much more energy, need less sleep and are more wise and discerning in their decisions.

Once you’ve reclaimed your Shadow, central casting will no longer send people to annoy or provoke you.  Unclaimed projections and Shadow parts always attract difficult people into your life until they are integrated.

Pg 73  It’s important to recognize that your participation in Drama Triangle dynamics is a sign of unrecognized and unhealed developmental traumas.

Pg 77  Once you decide to get off the triangle, you will be perceived as the Bad Guy.  The other game layers will feel angry, hurt, and rejected because you are leaving them and the pseudo-intimacy you’ve had together.  So you must learn how to accept them making you bad.  This is critical, if you are to break free of the power of the Triangle.

Pg 78  Staying off the Drama Triangle requires that you become non-reactive and ungoverned by other people’s emotions.  You must learn how to model non-reactivity and a less anxious presence, particularly when you are being blamed for something (this is one of the buttons they will push).

One way to side step the angry and blaming button-pushing messages they direct at you is making one of the following two comments.  You can say to them, “Thank you, I am aware of that” or “Thank you, I wasn’t aware of that.”

An excellent blame-and-drama-stopper statement is” “Is there something that you want from me?”  This makes people shift their focus from blaming and complaining, and asks them to take responsibility for their emotions.

It also forces them to ask directly for what they want from you and gives you the opportunity to give them what they are asking for.  Or you can say no, giving them your reasons for refusing to give them what they are asking for.

Staying off the drama triangle also requires that you learn how to use your own emotions effectively and honestly.

Pg 79  Most people need help in identifying and naming their strong feelings because they are usually associated with unmet needs.  Anger, for example, means that there’s something I want and need that I’m not getting.  Sadness means that I’ve lost something that’s important to me and I need comfort.  Fear means that I don’t feel safe and I need some protection.  You must also make sure that you do not do something for, or give something to, another person unless they have asked you for it, or that you have asked their permission.  This prevents Rescuing and enabling.

…what keeps you playing on the Drama Triangle is competition for the Victim role and not asking for what you want.