• Beatrice Zornek

Open Heart Surgery Into The Victim Mentality (Part 2)

Author's note:

I was inspired to write about the Victim Mentality because I have caught myself and others falling into this mindset more often than we'd like. This can have a profound impact on many aspects of our lives, from work and relationships, to how we feel within ourselves.

This is Part 2 of 3, where we will be grounding our understanding and knowledge through some theoretical models that have been developed. Particularly, I will be referring to a model developed by Steven Karpman in Transactional Analysis called The Drama Triangle, and David Emerald's The Empowerment Triangle.

If you'd like to understand more about the Victim Mentality, you can read the other two parts that delve deeper into how the Victim loop unfolds, and how to break out of the Victim mentality:

Part 1 - Deep-dive into understanding the patterns and feelings in the Victim mentality

Part 3 - How to break out of the Victim mentality

What are the dynamics between people when you get stuck in "Victim mode"?

Why, I'm glad you asked!

When we feel helpless, we often attract people who will try to "save" us from the situation. People who are well-intended, perhaps our friends or family, who offer advice and support.

But when we're caught in the Victim mentality, our answers to the guidance or advice we receive might start with...

"Yes, but....", or

"I've tried that and it doesn't work"

In reality, what happens in those interactions is that they ultimately reinforce our position as a Victim and confirms to us "yet again" that there is no way out.

Let's take these social dynamics one step further. What happens if those well-intended people who try to "save" us happen to be someone close to us (let's call them Rescuers).

Imagine the "Try this" - "Yes but" dynamic keeps happening over and over: what do you think might happen?

Chances are that the Rescuer might change their stance from trying to "save" us to putting us down. This is the Persecutor. The Persecutor might end up saying to us "It's your own fault you got yourself into this mess!"

The Drama Triangle

I'd like us to take a look at the theoretical concept. The Victim - Rescuer - Persecutor dynamics described in Part 1 represent a social model developed by Steven Karpman, and called "The Drama Triangle".

Here are some interesting facts about The Drama Triangle:

Being in one of the three stances invites other people to enter one of the other stances - for example, when in Victim we might invite the Rescuer in others.

We all have a natural predisposition to enter one stance by default. Think about it: are you the person who constantly offers to help (Rescuer)? Or perhaps you often feel that life is unfair or that it has something against you (Victim)? Or perhaps you have no patience with people or mistakes and when you speak your mind, you're often told you hurt people's feelings (Persecutor)?

But just because we have an instinctual "default" stance, doesn't mean we will always be in that stance (phew, you say!). We can be in a different stance at different points in our lives. In fact, we can swap between all three stances in just one conversation - have a look at the dialogue below and notice how person X goes from one stance to another:

X: I just can't communicate with my boss! (Victim)

Y: Well let me tell you about my boss! [story starts] (Victim)

X: Poor you! Maybe you should try... (Rescuer)

Y: Yes, but ... (Victim)

X: Or how about trying this ... (Rescuer)

Y: That's not going to work! (Victim)

X: Fine. I'm done trying to help you! (Persecutor)

You see how person X went through all three stances in a short dialogue?

Understanding The Drama Triangle helps us understand not just the types of interactions we attract when we're in the grip of the Victim, but also enables us to see when others invite us to take one of the three stances.

From The Drama Triangle to The Empowerment Dynamic (TED)

We know about The Drama Triangle and the Victim, Rescuer and Persecutor. It's important to be aware of the different stances we might fall into, because being aware of them enables us to decide how we want to interact with others. However, The Drama Triangle only gives us a limited view of what happens, but it doesn't help us break out of this unhealthy dynamic.

For that, I have chosen David Emerald's theory as presented in his book: The Power of TED (The Empowerment Dynamic).

So what are the opposites (or the antidotes, as Emerald calls them) to the Victim-Rescuer-Persecutor triangle?

"The opposite of Victim is Creator. Whatever I hold in my mind tends to manifest itself in my life". (David Emerald)

So if the Victim focuses on problems, what does the Creator focus on?


Not the problems we want to run away from, but the envisioned outcomes we want to focus on.

The opposite of Persecutor is Challenger. Whereas the Persecutor might blame, accuse and put others down, the Challenger will encourage, empower and provoke others to take action. The Challenger helps spark development and growth, challenging and pushing others.

The opposite of Rescuer is Coach. "A Coach doesn't need a Victim to rescue. A Coach doesn't enable us to feel weak and unable to solve our own problems. A Coach knows that he or she is a Creator, and sees other people as Creators as well" says Emerald.

He further says that if a Rescuer takes our power away, a Coach "seeks only to help facilitate personal progress" thus helping you to find your own power. The Coach does this by asking questions to help you explore your situation and support you in creating and achieving your outcomes.

A Coach doesn't tell the Creator what to do. Instead, they ask questions, probe and explore, staying alert to possibilities.

As I was writing about the concept of the Coach as described by Emerald, the metaphor that came to mind was:

Give a man a fish (Rescuer) and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish (Coach) and you feed him for a lifetime.

I would love to know about your own experience being (and breaking out of) the Victim mentality. And if you'd like to “learn how to fish” together with me, do get in touch.

If you'd like to understand more about the Victim mentality, go to:

Part 1 - Deep-dive into understanding the patterns and feelings in the Victim mentality

Part 3 - How to break out of the Victim mentality

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