Drama: Normal Craziness!

Being overloaded and unappreciated can feel inevitable and normal. Over time, it can feel like you are doing more and more, with no time to recharge let alone do more for others. Your ability to be your energized best can slowly slip away without you realizing what’s happening.

The good news is that you have more control than you realize.

More clearly see what's going on

The Drama Triangle is a tool you can use to see more clearly what’s going on and do something about it.

The first step is to get radically honest with yourself. For example, challenges may appear to be inevitable and to come from things outside you: the people, situations, and circumstances around you. It’s important to be truthful about what you’re seeing. These difficulties with other people might look like:

  • an ineffective or unhealthy pattern that repeats itself
  • working so hard that you are left feeling burned out
  • feeling like you have to walk on eggshells
  • experiencing people as unsupportive or demanding
  • focusing on what’s going wrong instead of what’s right
We think Drama is inevitable

I affectionately call experiences like this Drama. Sometimes you are so comfortable and familiar with Drama that it’s hard to see. Drama can become like the air you breathe, normal struggle that you expect as a “realistic” part of life. For example, you might say it’s just the way people are: selfish, cold-hearted, greedy, lazy, busy, depressed... They can’t help it. It’s just the way they are.

Yes Drama happens, and

So much more than 'normal' Drama is possible!

Once you can be radically honest about what's happening, you can see how Drama is eroding your ability to be your best. It can help to know that Drama is not the truth about who people are. More importantly it’s not the truth about who you are. We are not defined by Drama experiences or Drama aspects of who we are.

No matter what form Drama takes, you always have a choice in how you relate to and perceive it.

All Drama calls for compassion and understanding, for yourself and others.

When you experience Drama with others, you are participating in some aspect of the Drama Triangle. The Drama Triangle is caused by old beliefs or assumptions that limit what you can see as possible or that confine how you see yourself (your identity).

You get hooked into Drama by participating in one of three roles:

The Drama Triangle

All three roles are based on some aspect of being a victim. The core belief of a victim is “I can’t get what I want” which shows up as “I can’t take care of myself” or “I can’t handle this situation.”

Drama Triangle roles

All three Drama Triangle roles play out scarcity (either/or) dynamics:

  • Persecutor: Either I get what I want, or you do (I’ll make sure I do)
  • Rescuer: I’ll sacrifice what I want, for what you want (I’ll be OK when you are)
  • Victim: I can’t get what I want, so I’m either dependent on a persecutor or I need help from a rescuer.

Drama Triangle dynamics create lose/lose outcomes where no one really wins.

To get unstuck or to step out of the Drama Triangle, a shift is needed from a Drama perspective to a Best Self perspective, stepping into:

True Self Leadership

IAMX True Self Leadership
Shifts between Drama and Best Self

This shift from a Drama perspective to a Best Self perspective is accomplished by changing your thinking from either/or to both/and thinking.

Your thinking changes:

  • from scarcity where there’s not enough,
  • to abundance where there is more than enough.

You can create this shift by simply exploring your wants and how you can support other's wants - where both you and others win - within the current situation and often within opportunities beyond current circumstances.

You can deny, avoid, and struggle with Drama. Or, you can explore the wonder-full opportunity that Drama offers to a person who moves beyond the constraints of the role of victim.

I know, you don't want to see yourself as a victim

If you look at life and think that recurring, problematic drama is inevitable, you're being a victim!

Remember: struggle is optional!

Remember: there's always more possible!

First: SEE Drama

Behavior in the Drama Triangle can range from extremes such as addiction and abuse to subtle situations of disempowerment, or the need to control or fix others. These roles can become a strong part of your identity, which leads to a question: ‘who am I’ if I am not the person in the Drama Triangle?

Start by seeing the Drama and the role you play, spend little or no time and energy feeling bad about yourself, and shift into Best Self perspective.

Understanding details about Drama Triangle roles can help you see the many forms that Drama takes -- that we often think of as simply normal but in reality, these situations can become much healthier.

Drama Triangle roles in more detail look like:

  • I need to protect myself
  • The world is dangerous - get them before they get me
  • I’ll take charge so I’ll be OK
  • I’m being responsible - dealing with horrible realities
  • I have it all together (hiding self worth issues)
  • I need someone to blame
  • I deny my vulnerability
  • I fear powerlessness

What it looks like: shame, helpless, worthless, protection, control, always right, bullying, scorn, preaching, threatening, blaming, lecturing, interrogating, attacking, getting even.

  • My needs are not important
  • I’m only valued for what I can do
  • If I can fix you then I’ll be OK
  • I’m being helpful - I need someone else so I can feel vital and important
  • I have all of the answers
  • I don’t have any needs; I don’t want to be needy
  • I need someone to fix
  • I’m not being supported
  • I’m afraid of being alone

What it looks like: smother, control, manipulate, enable, overprotect, neglect self, martyr, betrayal, feel used, hopeless, lack of support, over doing to feel valued.

  • I can’t take care of myself
  • I can’t handle my life
  • I don’t know how to get what I want
  • I am damaged and incapable
  • I need someone to take care of me
  • I deny my problem solving abilities and self-generating power
  • I’m afraid I won’t make it

What it looks like: frail, powerless, defective, fragile, weak, not smart enough, can’t do it by myself, resentful.

100% responsibility is necessary for all Drama behavior to shift into a Best Self perspective.

You can experiment with taking 100% responsibility when you:

Responsible persecutor:
  • Acknowledge your behavior
  • Create your own sense of safety
  • Be willing to be perceived as ‘the bad guy’
Responsible Rescuer:
  • Acknowledge your own wants/needs and ask for help
  • Address issues of self-worth
  • Help in healthy ways with healthy boundaries (no co-dependence or enmeshment)
Responsible Victim:
  • Take care of your self
  • See yourself as whole and capable
  • Look inside yourself at where you’re strong
The Drama Triangle cycle

People usually cycle between roles within the Drama Triangle before they find their way into a Best Self perspective:

  • Rescuers who become Victims identify as martyrs (feel resentful)
  • Rescuers who become Persecutors abandon others (run or push away)
  • Persecutors who become Rescuers punish others (make others bad)
  • Persecutors who become Victims blame others (no responsibility)

These roles can play out within yourself, between people, and between people, situations, and conditions.

Slipping into victim is human

If you find this information about the Drama Triangle frustrating because you see yourself in the Drama roles, take heart! Again, no one likes to think of them self as a victim and yet we all go there because we're human. And yes, some people more than others.

The sooner you acknowledge that you’re in a pattern of Drama, the sooner you can learn, heal, and grow from the situation.

So what does it really take to flip between your Drama and Best Self aspects? Read on to find out more!

The Flip

I like to call the shift that happens when you move between being in Drama and your Best Self, the Flip. Instead of focusing on the people, situations, and circumstances around you as the cause of your current situation, you will learn to focus on yourself.

When you shift your focus to yourself, you take control of your ability to do something about what’s happening.

At its most simple, the Flip is a shift between being a victim and being a creator of your life.

By Flipping, you will transform from living in fear and scarcity to living in love and abundance. You will increase your ability to tap into your source of healthy personal power: your ability to create your life exactly as you want or even better.

What's your favorite Drama?!

You will discover what your favorite Drama patterns are (everyone has them!) and you will remember important details about your Best Self that you have forgotten.

Within the particularities that are unique to you are common themes that I’ve identified after years of working with people on the Flip.

Common qualities

Having a list of common qualities or characteristics of being in either Drama or your Best Self can help you see some compelling results you can look forward to, by flipping between Drama and Best Self aspects of yourself.

No, you won't be "flipping out" like going crazy!

IAMX flipping builds resilience, strength, agility, will power - human abilities needed to navigate uncertainty and change.

And yes, scarcity thinking negatively impacts your IQ! According to Sendhil Mullainathan, Ph.D. and Eldar Shafir, Ph.D., authors of Scarcity: The New Science of Having Less and How It Defines Our Lives, the effect of scarcity in their research corresponded to between 13 and 14 IQ points. “The same person has fewer IQ points when she is preoccupied by scarcity than when she is not” (Mullainathan and Eldar 2013, 52).

My observations confirm:

you will be more innovative, creative, resilient, and joyful the more time you spend in your Best Self.

The Flip can become as simple as shifting your awareness from Drama aspects of yourself to your Best Self. Over time and with practice, the Flip will be easier.

However, even those quite experienced with personal growth can find it difficult to Flip because of the many years most people live in patterns of Drama. These patterns become embedded in the neurological and biochemical biology of your body.

Drama can feel inevitable
remember it is not

After becoming aware of the Drama Triangle and working with the concepts, one client described Drama as “a train wreck she could see coming,” but she kept finding herself having the same problematic reactions.

It can help to have some examples of what it looks like to not be in a Drama pattern. David Emerald has developed alternatives to Drama Triangle roles in his book, The Power of TED* (*The Empowerment Dynamic):

Creator, Coach, and Challenger.

I highly encourage reading this book as it will help you understand empowered roles.

"The Empowerment Dynamic"
from the perspective of IAMX:

Using The Empowerment Dynamic:
  • a Persecutor becomes a Challenger,
  • a Rescuer becomes a Coach, and
  • a Victim becomes a Creator.

Being your Best Self is being empowered

I encourage you to come up with your own ideas about what it would look like for you to step into more empowered ways of being. For example, a client group at the ATW Companies came up with the following descriptions of the TED roles (thank you Learning Academy members!):

  • I am the master of my destiny.  
  • Here’s my chance. I can do this.  
  • I believe in myself.  
  • I can have whatever conversation I need to have.
  • I have a voice.
  • We can own this and make it what we want.
  • This is perfect. Leverage the Drama.
  • I believe in you. You are capable.
  • I want to help you get where you want to go.
  • What support do you need?
  • How can we figure this out?  
  • What is it that YOU want?  
  • What are you committing to?
  • What would you do if anything was possible?
  • I know we can do better than this.
  • Your Drama is not going to become my Drama.
  • Here’s how I want you to hear this.
  • You can have what you want.
  • I want to see the best in you show up.
  • When you are at your best, I can be too.
  • What can we build on that’s working?
  • How can we be more creative?

The examples included here are intended to show you that being in the Drama Triangle is not bad.

It doesn’t help to judge or shame what’s going on.

Drama can be beneficial. For example, it can help you be extremely focused in a crisis, learn about your Best Self, and provide opportunities to bring out the best in others.

Drama can provide opportunities to learn.

Having the courage to look at Drama will guide you to learn about how to be your Best Self. For example, you might tend to gloss over a frustration with a colleague and simply power through to being productive - at the risk of tolerating behavior that needs to stop for you and others to perform well.

A recent client realized through frustration that she needed to be asking for buy-in and support for a change effort before she makes official presentations.

Drama can be problematic

When you get stuck cycling within the Drama Triangle, it erodes your ability to be your authentic, empowered, creative, Best Self.

Drama is not helpful when it defines who you are and leads to you feeling overloaded and unappreciated.

Flipping is how you exit Drama

The key is to Flip between a Drama orientation (tolerating Drama as inevitable) and a Best Self orientation (choosing to take control of being your best).

As you practice the Flip between Drama and your Best Self you will become more and more identified with who you are at your best, building your capacity to lead and contribute to a better world.

Flipping is a continuum

One mistake I've made, and I've seen clients make - over and over - is to think that Flipping is a one time event. It's a mistake to think you'll arrive some day at a utopia free from Drama.

We are human, here in a physical reality, with very real physical limitations. Scarcity is a natural reality of living in this physical world.

Yet with ongoing Flipping, you will more and more be identified with and living from the energy of your Best Self. There are no limitations to your life-force energy.

Love and abundance are infinite.

With a continuum of Flipping, you orient from and lead your life from your Best Self, gradually building your capacity to lead with the power of Love.

True Self Leadership

True Self Leadership is knowing the Drama and Best Self aspects of who you are and shifting to a Best Self orientation - where you lead from your Best Self and learn from Drama - wielding healthy power based in Love.

Through Flipping, Love is the new normal

As you Flip more and more, it will become easier and easier to show up fully engaged, at your Best Self every day.  

You will lead with the power of Love.

You will develop the skills to cultivate the culture of your organization to support everyone being their Best Selves and everyone winning.

Learn More About The Flip