Are you in a codependency triangle? Codependency is a hot topic in the world of pop-psychology. As a recovering codependent, relationship expert & marriage and family therapist I want to help others recover from codependency as well.
One of my favorite articles by Lynne Forrest; “The Three Faces of Victim – An Overview of the Drama Triangle” she teaches us about how the triangle works. This crazy triangle has many names (victim, drama and codependency triangle), but they all refer to the same pattern.
I want to teach you what to do when you realize you are on the triangle.
“Victim-hood can be defined by the three positions beautifully outlined in a diagram developed by a well-respected psychiatrist, and teacher of Transactional Analysis, named Stephen Karpman. He calls it the “drama triangle,” I refer to it as the victim triangle.” Says Forrest. Whether we know it, or not, most of us react to life as victims. Whenever we refuse to take responsibility for ourselves, we are unconsciously choosing to react as victim. This inevitably creates feelings of anger, fear, guilt or inadequacy and leaves us feeling betrayed, or taken advantage of by others.
Forrest sometimes calls the triangle the "shame" generator.
“Because through it we unconsciously re-enact painful life themes that create shame. This has the effect of reinforcing old, painful beliefs that keep us stuck in a limited version of reality. No matter where we may start out on the triangle, victim is where we end up, therefore no matter what role we’re in on the triangle, we’re in victim hood. If we’re on the triangle we’re living as victims, plain and simple!”
Watch the video below to learn more about how to leave the codependency triangle or scroll down to read the highlights.
Forrest explains the three roles on the triangle.
Codependency Triangle: Rescuers - Persecutors - Victims
- “Rescuers see themselves as “helpers” and “caretakers.”
- They need someone to rescue (victim) in order to feel vital and important.
- It’s difficult for rescuers to recognize themselves as ever being in a victim position – they’re the ones with the answers after all.
- Persecutors, on the other hand, identify themselves primarily as victims.
- They are usually in complete denial about their blaming tactics.
- When it is pointed out to them, they argue that attack is warranted and necessary for self-protection.
These two – the Rescuer and the Persecutor – are the two opposite extremes of Victim. But again, regardless of where we start out on the triangle, all roles eventually end up in victim. It’s inevitable.
- Victims have accepted a definition of themselves that says they are intrinsically damaged and incapable.
- SGV’s project an attitude of being weak, fragile or not smart enough; basically, “I can’t do it by myself.”
- Their greatest fear is that they won’t make it. That anxiety forces them to be always on the lookout for someone stronger or more capable to take care of them.
- Victims deny both their problem solving abilities and their potential for self-generated power. Instead they tend to see themselves as inept at handling life. Feeling done in by, at the mercy of, mistreated, intrinsically defective or “wrong,” they see themselves as broken and unfixable.
This doesn’t prevent them from feeling highly resentful towards those on who they depend. As much as they insist on being taken care of by their primary rescuers … they nonetheless do not appreciate being reminded of their inadequacy.”
Now, what to do about it…
4 Steps You Need To Leave The Codependency Triangle
Step #1: Learn to accept and recognize when you are on the codependency triangle
The labels aren’t pretty. Most people I talk to hate the possibility they are in the role of victim. Some key signals for you to spot: you are emotionally triggered, you give a lot of advice, you are ‘sensitive’ or your feelings are easily hurt, life feels unmanageable, other people seem incompetent, you feel misunderstood. Each of these examples are rooted in victim, rescuer or persecutor. Once you accept and realize you have jumped on the triangle, you can make a conscious choice to change your pattern.
Learn to accept and recognize when you are on the codependency triangle.
Stop giving advice, stop blaming others, stop trying to fix others problems, stop gossiping, stop complaining, stop with the self-pity, stop saying “I can’t”, stop doubting yourself, stop doubting others, stop thinking you know it all. This is a list of specific behaviors that need to stop so that you can feel at peace and your relationships can heal. You may be asking “how do I just stop?” The short answer is make a choice and follow through. Every time you catch yourself doing one of these things, consciously choose to do or think something positive. These behaviors become unhealthy habits that need to be broken just like any other habit.
Step #3: START
Start taking responsibility for your choices, your feelings and the circumstances of your life, start working with a therapist a coach or a spiritual leader that can support your growth and change, start letting go of the underlying beliefs that are holding you back, start changing the negative voice in your mind, start taking time for yourself by resting, meditating, exercising, eating well and educating yourself about self-acceptance, start making friends and surrounding yourself with people who support these goals. If this feels like a lot to do at once, it is. Take one thing at a time and just start.
Start taking responsibility for your choices, your feelings, our life's circumstances.
Step #4: Just Keep Swimming
Change, growth and healing are all a process. Most people get frustrated and quit when they don’t immediately get the results they are looking for. DON’T GIVE UP. The more you practice, the more you will recognize when the codependency triangle is in action and you will become better and better at jumping off. Trust yourself and the process. Acknowledge your willingness and notice that the pattern is already shifting as you read these words.
Just keep swimming.