The drama triangle

When you think back to your younger years, what were they like? Was there a role you fell into in your family of origin without even realising it?

Were you the quiet shy one, the lost child who kept in the background, the trophy child always winning awards, the clown making everyone laugh, the peacemaker resolving conflicts, the responsible one forced to care for your siblings or a parent, or the black sheep always seen as a disappointment?

As adults we can unconsciously fall into our childhood roles—not because they were helpful at the time but simply because they are familiar to us. If you always had to care for others growing up, you might find yourself prone to rescuing others as an adult or drawn to a caring career such as nursing. If you were the peacemaker, perhaps as an adult you find yourself behaving this way with your children or in your work with colleagues.

Three roles that have become well known in psychology and popular culture are those of Persecutor, Rescuer and Victim. These roles make up a pattern of interaction known as the drama triangle, which is incredibly pervasive in our culture.

In fact, in their book , developmental psychologists Barry Weinhold and Janae

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