Many families struggle with setting healthy boundaries with each other. Often, parents have different styles of parenting, which can sometimes balance each other out, but often feels inconsistent for the child. As children reach adolescence, they are more likely to push boundaries with their parents and try to create their own rules to live by. This can lead to parents trying to set stricter rules and expectations. However, teens are more likely to react by claiming that the rules are unfair to make their parents feel guilty. Without healthy boundaries and respecting other people’s autonomy, this can become a destructive family dynamic that turns into a cycle.
What is the Drama Triangle?
The drama triangle is a common model of human interaction based on getting needs met within relationships. Dr. Stephen Karpman came up with multiple drama triangle variations to describe how people relate to each other in different situations. Within the compassion drama triangle, patterns for getting those needs met include poor boundaries and unhealthy interactions. People are typically trying to gain a sense of control in their lives by pulling others into the drama. In this model, roles are considered interchangeable rather than a part of someone’s personality, which allows room for change. It is not uncommon for the drama triangle to become a pattern within families where one or more members of the family have experienced, depression, anxiety, trauma, or addiction problems.
Who is the Victim?
- Denies responsibility for their negative circumstances
- Feels powerless to change circumstances
- Sensitive to criticism
- Often will look for a rescuer, a savior, to save them (and if someone refuses or fails to do that, can quickly perceive them now as a persecutor.)
- Experiences difficulties making decisions, solving problems, finding much pleasure in life, or understanding their self-perpetuating behaviors.
Who is the Persecutor?
- Blame the victim for not taking responsibility and criticize the enabling behavior of rescuers, without providing guidance, assistance or a solution to the underlying problem
- Can be controlling and rigid in expectations
- Fear of being seen as a victim themselves
- Struggle with flexible thinking and taking other people’s perspectives
Who is the Rescuer?
- Tries to fix other people’s problems, while neglecting their own needs
- Often need to help other people to feel good about themselves
- Co-dependent on other people’s problems, which enables their unhealthy behavior to continue
- Frequently overworked and tired and may resent others for “making them feel this way”
The Importance of Improving Boundaries
It is important to recognize that there is not one specific role in the “Drama Triangle” that disrupts a healthy family dynamic. Instead, these roles work together to reinforce each other. As a result, if one person begins to work on improving their boundaries, other people will shift their behavior in response.
- Consider what you can tolerate and accept and name your limits. Tune into your feelings to gauge whether you are feeling comfortable in a situation.
- Don’t expect other people to intuitively pick up on your boundaries. Be direct about what you need from others.
- Give yourself permission to set boundaries with others without feeling guilty. Say no to things that are beyond your capacity in that moment.
- Prioritize self-care. As a parent, it is easy to believe that your child’s needs should always come first. However, neglecting your personal needs makes it harder to effectively help others when you need to.
- If you’re having trouble setting boundaries, seek outside support. Often, people become fixed in roles without realizing it and have a hard time breaking patterns they’ve maintained for a long time. Family therapy can help all family members look at how their patterns have developed and what they want to change.
Solstice East Can Help
Solstice East is a residential treatment center for young women ages 14-18 struggling with behavior and emotional issues such as those that can stem from peer-relationship struggles. This program focuses on helping young women heal, recover, and integrate healthy habits into their lives. Students will learn to build healthy relationships, cope with emotions, and effectively communicate. Solstice East gives young women the skills and confidence they need to lead happy and healthy lives. We can help your family today!
Contact us at 828-484-9946 to learn more about our family therapy programming.