The Drama Triangle is like my Bermuda Triangle. I always say I want peace, but the second I get it I am back to stirring the pot. I get sucked in never to return.
This is an ugly truth that bubbled up as I was prepping to record for the Drama episode of the Conscious Contact podcast, and I have been thinking about it a lot in the weeks since then.
Instead of just enjoying a nice dinner, I had to find that one thing that one person said and be crabby about it.
I can’t just sit still – I have to start a project.
The Drama Triangle
I think (and this has been validated after thousands of dollars of therapy) that this stems from some dysfunction as I was growing up. Research calls this the Drama Triangle. There is a victim, a persecutor and a rescuer in each corner making up this triangle.
I am a rescuer through and through. I grew up feeling like I needed to be the glue keeping shit together. Even today I make my living in my day job as a project manager. I am a fixer.
Wanna ask me how that’s working?
When you are a hammer everything is a nail. Someone has a problem, I can swoop in and rescue them. I insert myself into the drama and the Drama Triangle forms. Then wonder why I am damn tired.
As a card carrying member of the sandwich generation I find myself wanting to fix my kids’ problems and my dad’s problems. My husband’s problems and my dog’s problems. Which is only half of the problem. Because while I am worrying over everyone else’s stuff, I am not taking care of my own problems. Here are some ways this may present itself, maybe you can relate:
- I don’t have to address my unhealthy eating habits if I focus on what you are buying at the grocery store.
- While I nag you about quitting smoking, I can ignore my addiction to my phone and being busy.
- I feel less than when I only ride my bike an hour a day (vs. what Young Susan did) so I focus on how little you are exercising.
- When I am not doing the things I know I should do (whether it is writing every day, getting the report done at work, or returning my library books on time), I am going to avoid feeling badly by pointing out what you are not doing.
Yeah, it feels really gross. It makes me feel anxious. Whoever I am directing my worry at probably feels picked on or worse.
I am working on it, though. And when I am on the right track with the mental and emotional work the Universe drops bread crumbs in my path. These bread crumbs tell me I am on the path that I am supposed to be on. The episode on drama leading to my reading up on the Drama Triangle was one of those bread crumbs.
Then my Higher Power dropped another.
As I was working on some things to launch the Conscious Contact Book Club, I came across this quote by Thich Naht Hahn (the author of the book club pick):
Wow, what a bread crumb. Sort of like the whole ciabatta knocking me upside the head. This was particularly helpful for me because I have a hard time with the advice to just stop something. Stopping something creates a vacuum that needs to be filled. How do I stop my negative thinking that manifests into the Drama Triangle?
Mind calming exercise is something that I can fill the void with.
Here is how this has played out in recent weeks since coming across this message. I notice myself wanting to get all up in someone else’s business, offering advice and shoulds. Instead of saying the first thing that pops in my head, I pause before talking. I take a deep breath in that pause giving a second of silence.
Which makes for awkward moments at times – people are not used to a beat of silence. But an interesting thing happens in that silence. Sometimes my kid will come up a solution to the problem. At work others will volunteer to take something on.
Of course this is not a perfect solution. I also have been extending my mindfulness meditation in the morning as part of my routine. There have been days when I need to step away from the conversation and do it again in the afternoon when I want to step into the Drama Triangle again.
There are times when I am so agitated at not inserting myself into the drama I cannot sit still. This is where walking meditation comes in. A slow walk around the garden or taking Lucille to the marina with no headphones for distraction. Just nature and a super happy dog. The pause, the mindful meditation, and the time in nature create the openness to move away from the drama.
Sustainable You Questions
1 – When do you find yourself part of the Drama Triangle? Are you the victim, the persecutor or the rescuer?
2 – How does this play out in your daily life? Is this working for you and can you continue it lifelong (i.e., is this Sustainably Productive)?
3 – If this is not Sustainably Productive, what 3 activities could you try to put in the pause between the drama and your response?