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How To Avoid The Drama Triangle This Holiday Season

I don't know about you, but as well as joy and celebration I find the holiday season often brings stress, anxiety and drama, both at home and at work.

Family drama at chrismas

Planning festive gatherings and meeting end-of-year deadlines, not to mention navigating complex work and family dynamics, can inadvertently turn what should be a time of peace and goodwill into one almighty 'drama triangle'.

Want to know how to avoid any dramas this year? Then read on...

What is the Drama Triangle?

Diagram of The Drama Triangle

Coined by psychologist Dr. Stephen Karpman, the Drama Triangle is a model that describes the dynamic between three roles which, when played out, create tension and negativity in any situation. Karpman's Drama Triangle is a psychological model that provides a framework for understanding the dynamics of toxic interactions.

There are three roles in this triangle: the Persecutor, the Rescuer and the Victim.

The Persecutor

The Persecutor often appears as an oppressive force, using their power and position to control or dominate. They may not necessarily be malicious or malevolent, but their behaviour often results in discomfort or harm to others. The Persecutor firmly believes that their wants and needs are paramount, and they will not hesitate to push others aside to achieve their goals. They often have a 'win-lose' mentality, viewing situations as zero-sum games where their gain must come at someone else's loss. This lack of empathy and pursuit of self-interest can create a hostile environment that nourishes Drama Triangles.

The Rescuer

The Rescuer shows genuine concern for the Victim, but instead of empowering them to take responsibility for themselves, the Rescuer unintentionally assumes control, makes decisions on the Victim's behalf, and presumes to know what the Victim needs and wants. Rescuing behaviour frequently stems from the Rescuer's own feelings of insecurity and desire for validation and control. Although well-intentioned, it fosters the Victim's dependence on others to solve their problems on their behalf.

The Victim

The Victim, as the name suggests, feels trapped and unable to navigate life's challenges alone. They may actively seek or passively wait for a Rescuer, hoping someone else will solve their problems. This dynamic creates dependency and disempowerment, hindering resilience and self-control.

The Victim may play the 'poor me' role, manipulating others for sympathy and attention. This addiction absolves them of responsibility for their actions and emotions.


How it manifests in the holiday season

During the holiday season, when stress levels and emotions are running high, the Drama Triangle can easily seem to pop up everywhere.

For example, at work:

1. A manager (the Persecutor) sets an unattainable year-end deadline, creating immense pressure on team members (the Victims). They frantically strive to meet the manager's expectations, while a senior colleague (the Rescuer) intervenes to mediate and diffuse the tension. However, instead of alleviating the situation, the senior colleague inadvertently exacerbates it.

2. An employee (the Rescuer) steps in to complete end-of-year tasks for a consistently underperforming colleague (the Victim), perpetuating a cycle of dependency, and causing other team members to become uncooperative (Persecutors) because they feel the distribution of work is unfair.

3. At the office party, an overbearing colleague (the Persecutor) makes a disparaging comment about an introverted team member (the Victim), leading another coworker (the Rescuer) to divert the conversation, depriving the Victim of the opportunity to respond.

At home:

1. At the dinner table, one person (the Persecutor) dominates the conversation, leaving others feeling unheard and frustrated. Meanwhile, another family member (the Victim) remains silent, feeling powerless. A third family member (the Rescuer) attempts to mediate but inadvertently takes over the conversation, silencing others.

2. A family member (the Rescuer) takes on all the holiday cooking to alleviate the rest of the family's stress (the Victims), only to be criticised by other relatives (the Persecutors) for controlling the menu and when and what everybody eats.

3. Grandparents (the Persecutors) insist on perfect holiday decorations and criticise the efforts of other family members (the Victims), prompting a well-meaning relative (the Rescuer) to constantly re-do the decorations to keep the peace.


Breaking free from the Drama Triangle

Drama Triangles can be unproductive and detrimental, but let's face it, we are all capable of engaging in persecutory, rescuing, and victim-like behaviours.

Luckily, when we recognise our participation in the Drama Triangle and figure out our role in it, we can free ourselves from its harmful cycle.


To avoid acting like a Persecutor, learn to recognize and manage your desire for control, power and validation. By shifting your perspective from 'win-lose' to 'win-win', you can foster collaboration and find solutions that benefit everyone.

To minimise Rescuer tendencies, remember that true support comes from empowering others to take responsibility for their own actions and emotions. By setting boundaries and communicating openly, you can avoid falling into the trap of trying to fix everyone else's problems.

And next time you feel like a Victim, remind yourself that you have the power to take control of your own life and make positive changes for yourself. By recognising your patterns and seeking help only when really needed, you can stop feeling dependent on others and rely on yourself much more.

Top tips for avoiding dramas this holiday season

  • Know your role in the drama triangle - are you the victim, persecutor or rescuer in the situation?

  • Understand your triggers that lead to drama in family and professional relationships.

  • Adopt a 'win-win' not a 'win-lose' mindset.

  • Offer support when others are in need, but don’t try to fix or solve their issue.

  • Balance between avoiding conflict and expressing your needs with confidence.

What tips would you add to this list? Feel free to share in the comments below.

Wishing you all a drama-free holiday season!

Susan Room signature

The Business Voice Coach.

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