If you are reading this now and say you have NEVER played any of these roles in your relationships, you might need to do some self-reflection. To varying degrees, we have all played these roles at some point. This triangle or paradigm is a SUBCONSCIOUS process so it makes sense that you don’t recognize when and how it plays out in your life. Let’s take a closer look.
If you have ever blamed someone for how you are feeling, if you have ever shamed or have been harsh to someone for their beliefs, choices or mistakes, if you have ever wanted to “rescue” or help “fix” someone’s problems, you might be perpetuating this paradigm without even knowing it.
It’s OK if you didn’t know this; that’s why we are here…to learn. I will be the first to admit I have been caught up in this triangle many times.
When we look superficially, we might not see how these roles are manifesting in our life. We have to dig deep and really reflect on whether there is a general sense of feeling like we have been “wronged” by others, how often we feel this way and what triggered this sense of powerlessness.
This post is NOT to discuss real events and experiences where one person has in fact been the victim of another person’s abuses and/or coercive control. It has to do with passive anger, blame and justification of our problems and suffering, that feels very real, but may be the result of our own lack of awareness coupled with a need to protect oneself in light of a perceived attack.
In couples work, I see this paradigm more often than not. What does that look like? We are promised a “perfect soul-mate” a.k.a our RESCUER. When we marry or commit to a partner, we believe that they will lovingly, and selflessly play into that role. Sooner than later we find that we are being “wronged” by that person when we realize they are not playing that part to our expectations. They don’t know how to meet our needs, they are poor listeners, they can often say the wrong things.
We become disempowered, justified in our anger believing we have been “wronged” by the one person who was supposed to love us “perfectly”; alas we are the “victim” and our partner, well, they are sentenced to become the “persecutor” aka “bad guy/gal” in our story.
This reflection requires a lot of sensitivity because often victim mentality is a result of being victimized earlier in life, possibly by an attachment figure. This is why I must clarify that this is not to justify hurtful, violent or toxic behavior as a consequence of “faulty perceptions.” I hope to help highlight that often many relationships, when we get caught in this paradigm, we unconsciously victimize ourselves, pinning our partner or other loved ones in the role of “bad guy” or “rescuer,” creating a cycle of powerlessness, resentment, and hopelessness for all involved.
The way out of this paradigm is to first recognize that we are even caught up in it; additionally:
Learn to communicate your needs without shaming or blaming the other.
Work on shifting our mindset from victim to empowered by seeing yourself s as a capable individual, able to make choices and understanding that your partner’s, or loved one’s choices and behaviors are not always an attack on you.
Learn to take accountability for your role in perpetuating the cycle.
Advocate for yourself assertively, respecting both your viewpoint AND the others.
Embrace the idea that others will hold varying beliefs and perspectives that differ from yours. People will make mistakes and fall short of our expectations. Humans are flawed and can unintentionally hurt our feelings.
Seek professional help from a licensed mental health professional who is experienced in trauma, attachment theories, and/or relational conflict.
Please note that when we feel hurt, or wronged by our partners we can and SHOULD voice that. We can and SHOULD assert our needs in all our relationships as clearly as we can.
We are all a little wounded; or a lot. If we haven’t worked on these past hurts, it will show up in our relationships. It’s inevitable. We do not need to despair but rather take a step back and remind ourselves that we have a choice about how we show up in our relationships. We can take ourselves out of the role of the victim. It’s true we don’t have control over how partners will show up for us, but we can request what we need, collectively work on solutions and try to see others' behaviors for what they are, rather than what we THINK they are.