While most of us are aware of occasionally playing mind-games, we may not be conscious of just how prevalent these games can be in everyday life. One of the most well-known of such games is the Karpman, or drama triangle. The drama triangle was first Dramacool defined by Stephen Karpman, who derived the idea from Transactional Analysis (TA), a psychological method that attempts to analyse human interactions (or transactions). Whenever we speak or interact with someone, TA calls that a “transaction” and our everyday life is made up of many of them.
The drama triangle has three parties or roles that interact with each other. There is the victim (the person who feels they can never do anything right), the saviour (who is trying to help the victim) and the persecutor (who criticises the victim for being weak and the saviour for encouraging the weakness). None of the roles are positive, not even the saviour, for they all feed a negative psychological need the players have: the victim wants to feel helpless (not responsible for failure), the saviour wants to feel needed by the victim, and the persecutor wants to feel superior to the others. The roles feed off of each other and often switch around between the players (so the saviour may get riled up by the persecutor and then start attacking one of the others, etc). In fact, the situation perpetuates precisely because people switch quickly between the roles, thus not allowing problems to be properly examined or resolved.
Essentially, the triangle is a cycle of blame and guilt and it marks our interactions through the way we’ve come to view ourselves or others. For example: Imagine that Mary grew up with a sickly mother and always had to take care of her. As an adult, she may subconsciously view herself as only having value when she is ignoring her own needs for the sake of others; or taking care of them. She views herself as a saviour.
She may seek out people to help, but even as she helps them, she complains about being tired and used by those around her. While that is an extreme example, most of us experience some form of it on a regular basis: A mother may nag that her children never help her (victim of children), the father may interrupt and tell her to not be so hard on them (saviour of children), the mother lashes back that he himself is lazy and needs to be quiet (aggressing her husband).