Transactional Analysis: Getting Off The Drama Triangle Part 2

Posted at 18:33pm on 4th February 2010

The Drama Triangle is a model of dysfunctional relationships, in which I might see myself as occupying one of three roles: Victim; Rescuer; or Persecutor. As Victim I require you to become my Rescuer. If you don’t comply, I may become a Persecutor, accusing you of neglecting my needs. If you choose not to be my Rescuer you may, instead, become a Persecutor, accusing me of failing to take responsibility for myself, and thus putting me back in the role of Victim. You may then feel guilty and become my Rescuer after all.

  • This description of the games people play may be unrecognisable to either of us.
  • We may conduct one, some, or all, of our relationships in this way.
  • We may move rapidly from one role to the next and back again within the space of a few moments without realising that we’re doing so.
  • Even if we reach a point of understanding where we are, once locked into this messy and unhealthy way of dealing with relationships, we may be at a loss to know how we might adopt a better method of conflict resolution.


In Part 1 of Transactional Analysis: Getting Off The Drama Triangle, we looked, again, at the games people play; the roles of those who persistently involve us in their unhealthy interpersonal relationships; and we touched on the process of putting a stop to it all. I wrote, anecdotally, about my personal experience on the Drama Triangle, and admitted that it had taken me years to recognise my role, and even longer to understand how I might do something about it.

Today, in the hope that you may avoid the cycle that I went through, I’m going to use an acronym to describe the process: something that you can easily call to mind; something that you can act upon whenever necessary. This memory aid is 2B FREE (Two, Believe, Forgive, Exchange, Encourage) and this is how it works:

  • Two people are involved! Think of a game of tennis. Remember that the other person on the Drama Triangle – whether it is your partner, colleague, offspring or friend – can only play the game if you take part too. Take responsibility for your part in this debilitating practice.
  • Believe in yourself; believe that things can change. It will be a long process – especially if the other person in the conflict resolution process doesn’t recognise the pattern, or refuses to acknowledge the need for change.
  • Forgive yourself and others in these dysfunctional relationships – read my articles on The Art Of Forgiveness: Is It Achievable? and Healing & Forgiveness.
  • Recognise the damaging roles of Victim, Rescuer and Persecutor – I’ve described them again below.
  • Exchange them for healthy roles – as described below.
  • Encourage your partner on the Drama Triangle to do likewise. But be patient! As I said earlier, they may not recognise the need for change.


  • Name your malaise: The Victim role appears to be helpless but is one of manipulative power.
  • Recognise your symptoms: self-pity, hopelessness and helplessness. Alternatively, you may find yourself basking in the admiration of those who tell you how well you do - given your circumstances; the neglect you suffer from those who should ‘rescue’ you; the bullying you receive from those who ‘persecute’ you.
  • Change your name: from Victim to Vulnerable.
  • Disable harmful influences: You are not helpless as those who want to play Rescuer would have you believe. Nor are you hopeless, as those who want to play Persecutor want you to think. You can’t stop negative thoughts in a vacuum; but you can change your thought process from helpless to hopeful by reminding yourself of what you have achieved. And by setting yourself small tasks to accomplish in the day ahead.
  • Be Pro-active – treat your malaise: Being Vulnerable means being honest in naming and assessing your situation. Being Vulnerable means admitting your symptoms. Being Vulnerable means asking for help where it’s needed. Being Vulnerable means being open to suggestion from those trying to help you. Being Vulnerable means acting upon those suggestions rather than expecting others to Rescue you.


  • Name your malaise: The Rescuer role appears to be helpful but is one of manipulative power.
  • Recognise your symptoms: a people-pleaser, sticking-plaster, knight-in-shining-armour mentality may make you feel good about yourself but it robs those to whom you’re ‘doing good’ of their right to self-sufficiency.
  • Change your name: from Rescuer to Resourceful.
  • Disable harmful influences: Do not allow yourself to be drawn into guilt trips – either self-imposed or forced on you by Victims or Persecutors. You are not neglecting someone by encouraging them to think and act for themselves: this is ‘tough love’ in practice. Remind yourself, over and over, until you believe it, that practising ‘tough love’ is a kindness. You are being kind.
  • Be Pro-active – treat your malaise: Being Resourceful means ‘being there’ for your loved ones, but recognising that this means allowing them to be themselves. Being Resourceful means accepting that not everyone is your responsibility: use your practical and creative skills to empower those in need to help themselves. Being Resourceful means acknowledging other people’s abilities and encouraging them to believe in themselves. Being Resourceful means giving power to Victims and Persecutors to help themselves – even if the way they use their resources is different to your way of doing things!


  • Name your malaise: The Persecutor role appears to be self-sufficient but is one of manipulative power.
  • Recognise your symptoms: blaming and accusing those in the Victim and Rescuer roles is simply a means of making yourself feel better. What you’re doing, in effect, is ripping up a ten dollar bill (the person you’re accusing) in a sorry attempt to give yourself (a one dollar bill) greater value.
  • Change your name: from Persecutor to Potent.
  • Disable harmful influences: Do not allow yourself to be drawn into ‘You’ arguments and accusations (i.e. You are lazy; self-pitying; controlling etc.)
  • Be Pro-active – treat your malaise: Instead, adopt a Marriage Enrichment technique: ‘I have a problem when you appear to want me to rescue you. Can you help me to / can we, together, arrive at a satisfactory conflict resolution process?’ Make ‘I’ statements such as: ‘I am going to make enquiries about . . . so that I/you can get the help I/you need.’ Being Potent means having the power of self-discipline. Being Potent means showing strength and influence for good in any situation. Being Potent means using your energy effectively, for the good of all concerned. Use your Potency for problem-solving.

Whichever role you normally adopt in your relationships, make a decision to change; resolve not to be drawn back into the Drama Triangle; make up your mind to stick to it! It will be hard – but not as hard or as draining as this constant war of attrition. Find other methods of conflict resolution; methods that suit you. Learn to be yourself 2B FREE. Because 2B FREE you need to learn to be you.

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Related Posts:

Conflict Resolution, Relationship Psychology, And Creating Fictional Characters

The Drama Triangle & The Games People Play

Part 1 of Transactional Analysis: Getting Off The Drama Triangle

Remember, if you’re a writer of fiction, this model of interpersonal relationship, is invaluable for creating fictional characters in need of conflict resolution.

This article may be reproduced on any non-commercial website or blog on condition that it appears unaltered, in its entirety, and that the following copyright line and bio are prominently displayed beneath it.


Author of a number of books, one a No 4 Bestseller, Mel Menzies is also an experienced Speaker at live events, as well as on Radio and TV. This article, in its original format, may be found at:

Your Comments:

2nd August 2010
at 11:36pm

I work in mediation and the challenge to recognise the
'Rescuer' in my practice is continuous. I work for a
mediation service and when we train people in mediation skills many
of our exercises are designed to challenge trainees to recognise
its tendency to emerge in the face of hearing about others'
difficulties and destructive conflicts. While we don't directly
use TA, it has formed a part of the overall practice and underlying
thinking of mediation in the form that we practice it. Thanks for
an interesting post.


Mel Menzies
3rd August 2010
at 5:55pm

Thank you, Alan, for your encouraging comment. I'm not in
the least bit surprised to read that the challenge to bring people
to a point of recognising the Rescuer, in the mediation work you
do, is continuous. As I said in Part One of this mini-series, I
spent many years being a Rescuer without realising how destructive
it was - to me, and to my marriage! The tendency is to see the role
in a positive light.

21st September 2016
at 12:25pm
Linda Hope
15th May 2017
at 4:03pm
So glad to see this work going on. I learned about TA and Games about 30 years ago. Have worn out and given away many Games books. What really cinched TA for me was learning about the Drama Triangle switcheroo. Until then I had been a semi-pro Rescuer who never understood why I so quickly became the Bad Guy. I tell people "It's just like the law of gravity - it always works that way." No ifs, ands or maybes, so learn it now. Was just talking about it today.

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