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The Drama Triangle


Explanations > Behaviors > Games >  The Drama Triangle

Purpose | Game play | Discussion | So what?



Primary: Escape, Displacement, Social capital

Secondary: Sympathy

Game play

A is the Persecutor who attacks B in some way. A sees B as being wrong, wicked or simply someone who will not fight back and hence can be used as a whipping-boy. This is typically a Parent role and the action may actually be a displacement of other inner problems.

B is the Victim who is attacked by A. They play the Child and seek to be rescued from A. When they anticipate rescue they feel good about the impending comfort of being rescued. They can also later play. 'Poor me'.

C is the Rescuer who rescues B from A. They take the moral high ground, arriving as a white knight to do good. In doing so, they can enjoy the gratitude of B, and gain social capital from this. They can also play 'Clever me'.


The Drama Triangle (also called the Rescue Triangle) is a common pattern of behavior that appears time and again, such as one parent scolding a child and the other parent telling their spouse to calm down.  The dynamics of this game can rapidly change. For example, the Rescuer, in attacking A become a Persecutor and A becomes Victim. This frees B up to either join in as a co-Persecutor or attempt to Rescue A.

A and C are both demonstrating power, and any bystanders may be deliberate targets of this message.

This pattern can continue with the same people, perhaps with a 'Stop me if you can' game going on between A and C.

The Drama Triangle is sometimes also called the 'Rescue Triangle'.

So What?

First, be aware. Know when this is happening. Do not let yourself be a victim unless you are trying to achieve something specific. Beware of playing the rescuer--you may just get hurt for your troubles. You can deliberately be a rescuer in order to create obligation in the victim or demonstrate your power to a persecutor (or even a bystander). 

Good-guy, bad-guy

A common persuasion technique beloved of the police (at least on TV and in movies) is where one cop gets rough with a suspect, then another cop holds him back and then gently sympathizes with their prisoner. The suspect, of course then confides in the good guy. This is a classic variation of the rescue triangle.

See also

'Save me' Game, 'Poor me' Game, Stop me if you can


Karpman, S.E. (1968). Funny tales and script drama analysis. Transactional Analysis Bulletin. 7 (26): 38.

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