The origins of drama

By David Emerald

Have you ever wondered why your conflict has so much drama?

We learn and develop strategies to get what we want as children. As infants and toddlers we are little beings looking up at giant and powerful adults.  We all used our innate survival instincts to secure food, sleep, warmth, love and safety.

No one can escape the small-child experience of figuring out how to survive and deal with what the child sees as scary experiences. The creative genius of the young, underdeveloped mind adapts in amazing ways. 

Psychologist Karen Horney studied human nature and identified 3 different strategies that children can use to respond to fears. They are:origin of drama

  1. Moving toward people to please, accommodate and be helpful. From a child’s perspective, if I please others, they will love and care for me.
  2. Moving away from others to avoid, withdraw, observe and wait. This is based upon the child’s belief that if they isolate and “stay above the fray” they will be safe.
  3. Moving against others by being aggressive. Here the child develops the idea that, if they use control and domination, they will manage their environment to get what they want.

In the late 1960’s, Dr. Stephen Karpman developed the Karpman Drama Triangle, with its three roles of Victim, Rescuer, and Persecutor. In the TED* work, we call the interplay of these three roles the  Dreaded Drama Triangle (DDT)™ because these roles can become very toxic, like a poison.

Our observation is that all three of Horney’s strategies are a result of victim thinking that says life happens to me and I am powerless to choose my response to life’s challenges.   The resulting behavior from this thinking for the Victim role is to avoid responsibility for their actions, the Persecutor uses control and domination, while the Rescuer moves toward others to please and accommodate.

As we grow older, our “go to” role can become a more exaggerated way of relating to our self and others. We then go on “autopilot” bouncing between all three roles – but relying primarily on our “go too” or default role.

This is how the drama begins!

The discovery of reoccurring DDT roles has meaning only if there is a possibility of liberating ourselves from the repeating drama – and that is where TED* makes its contribution. In order to develop more resourceful and resilient relationships, we need a “place to go” beyond saying “just stop the drama!”

To learn more about TED* and how you can escape the dreaded drama triangle, check out a library of videos and articlesread an excerpt of the book, or buy a copy and read the whole thing.

Article contributed by David Emerald, author of The Power of TED*

2 thoughts on “The origins of drama

  1. Hi Doug—- I have appreciated your work in creating the ‘Posts’ over the past couple of months. They are insightful and contain practical and useful information. Thanks for your efforts—-

    Lloyd Robinson

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