1. The Victim
The victim in Karpman’s triangle believes themselves to be utterly helpless and powerless to bring about any meaningful change in their lives. They think that they are hopelessly lost and nothing ever happens according to them. Not only they feel ashamed and enjoy wallowing in self-pity, the victims are hesitant to accept any help to make the situation better. As they are convinced that they do not have the ability or resources to solve their problems, these types of individuals run away from their issues instead of facing them. When they are not being oppressed or victimized, the victim will deliberately look for a persecutor & a rescuer to validate their victim mentality.
Author Christine Carter writes “This is not an actual victim, mind you; it’s just someone who feels like they are being victimized, or someone who is acting like they are being persecuted. Victims often feel oppressed and helpless…. They act as though they are powerless, and as such are often our neediest (and most toxic and draining) friends and relatives.”
One of the reasons Karpman called his model the “drama triangle” instead of the “conflict triangle”, is because the victim is pretending to be a victim. It’s all an act. Remy Blumenfeld explains “Victims place blame on a persecutor who can be a person or a situation. Being powerless, the victim ostensibly seeks a rescuer to solve the problem for them. Victims also have a sneaky interest in validating their problem as being unsolvable.”
2. The Persecutor
According to Karpman’s triangle, the persecutor is considered to be the bad guy and the oppressor. They are perceived to be rigid, pessimistic, controlling, manipulative, critical and angry. The persecutor is also believed to blame and rebuke the victim for everything. These types of individuals tend to feel that they are superior and better than the victim. They tell themselves that they are important and actively take steps to make the victim feel inferior. The model does not define any clear motivations for the thoughts, behaviors and actions of the persecutor. However, these authoritative and self righteous individuals may simply want to control another person or there may be more complicated and deeper issues.
“Victims typically identify a persecutor, someone whom they believe is victimizing them. Persecutors are made out to be controlling and critical. When we take on the role of persecutor ourselves, often we act angry, rigid, and superior,” adds Christine Carter.
3. The Rescuer
Just like the victim, the rescuer simply acts like a noble or a good person. They are not the hero, they only pretend to be one. Being an enabler, they create the illusion that they are helpful and want to save the victim from their problems and helplessness. The act of being a rescuer allows these individuals to ignore their own problems and poor decisions. It is, in fact, a self-defense mechanism which allows the rescuer to believe that they are doing something meaningful in life by rescuing the victim from the persecutor.
Christine writes “Every victim has a rescuer who works diligently to save them from mistreatment. Although it can feel good to play a rescuing role – because attempting to help others can make us feel good – rescuers don’t really help. Although their intentions may be good, they are the ultimate enablers, keeping victims stuck in their roles as victims.”
In case they are unable to save the victim, the rescuer may feel guilt and shame. However, when they do help the victim, they will seek credit and social recognition for being the rescuer. But their actions can often have negative consequences for the victim. They validate the self-pity mindset of the victim and make them dependent on the rescuer. Moreover, it also relieves the victim from taking charge of their lives and allows them to fail further. By focusing on rescuing another person, the rescuer avoids their own problems in life.