Respect and Disrespect Drama Triangles

When I was in therapy with Dr. Kat (not her real name) she taught me her own expanded version of the Karpman Drama Triangle. Her example contained both  Respect and Disrespect Drama Triangles. If you don’t know what the tools of Respect and Disrespect Dramas are, bear with me while I explain. I’ve been using it for a number of years now, in helping me problem solve. If you like psychological dilemmas, you may wish to stick with me. While I was writing about an experience some years ago, there were websites with some great information. Wikipedia carries the basics of Dr. Kat’s diagram of the Respect Triangle. She was teaching me to recognize and work through the Persecutor, Victim, or Rescuer roles found in the Karpman model. I found her counsel very helpful. Wikipedia calls a model such as Dr. Kat’s the Respect and Disrespect Drama Triangles.

Therapist’s Disrespect Triangle

The Victim

The Victim’s stance is “Poor me!” The Victim feels victimized, oppressed, helpless, hopeless, powerless, ashamed, and seems unable to make decisions, solve problems, take pleasure in life, or achieve insight. The Victim, if not being persecuted, will seek out a Persecutor and also a Rescuer who will save the day but also perpetuate the Victim’s negative feelings.

The Rescuer

The rescuer’s line is “Aw, poor you. Here, let me take over!” A classic enabler, the Rescuer feels guilty if they don’t go to the rescue. Yet their rescuing has negative effects: It keeps the Victim dependent. The rewards derived from this rescue role are that the focus is taken off of the rescuer. When they focus their energy on someone else, it enables them to ignore their own anxiety and issues. This rescue role is also pivotal because [— GET THIS! —] their actual primary interest is really an avoidance of their own problems disguised as concern for the victim’s needs. It’s not a good example of self-care.

The Persecutor

Also known as the Villain, the Persecutor insists, “It’s all your fault.” The Persecutor is controlling, blaming, critical, oppressive, angry, authoritative, rigid, and superior.—Wikipedia [bracketed text mine]

Not a lot of fun there!

Therapist’s Respect Drama Triangle

This one is called the Winner’s Triangle and is the tool Dr. Kat explained to me.

It was published by Acey Choy in 1990 as a therapeutic model for showing patients how to alter social transactions when entering a triangle at any of the three entry points. Choy recommends that anyone feeling like a victim think more in terms of being vulnerable and caring, that anyone cast as a persecutor adopt an assertive posture, and anyone recruited to be a rescuer might react by being “caring”.—Wikipedia

This would aptly fit the Respect Triangles that Dr. Kat used:


A victim might be encouraged to accept their vulnerability, problem solve, and be more self-aware.


A persecutor might be encouraged to ask for what they want, be assertive, but not be punishing, but instead be more self-reliant.


A rescuer would be encouraged to show concern and be caring, but not over-reach and problem solve for others.—Wikipedia

Applications of Drama Triangles

I watched one video example of the Creator/Challenger/Coach model where the woman only explained the Disrespect Triangle, without mentioning a second triangle representing respectful interaction. She proposed it as the standard dysfunctional manner in which folks interact with each other on a daily basis. I don’t agree that we are such simplistic and backward beings as she suggested.

Her example  flashed me back to a separate experience of a YouTube creator who I greatly respect named TheraminTrees. He described how some therapists like to keep their clients “co-dependent” with the therapist for the rest of their lives, assuring continuous income, perhaps. In order to accomplish that, it means the counselor would attempt to “keep” them in the Disrespect Triangle.

Imagine a personal life coach who never encouraged personal growth to her clients. Instead, she withheld even the knowledge of  the Respect Drama Triangle. Working with the client’s true sovereign nature or her self-reliance was never mentioned. Tragically, that may be how she plans to model her coaching business. Too bad for any clients she may have, because they could never progress, with the coach deliberately holding them back. It’s buyer beware!

Those two incidents also reminded me of something similar that happened to me one time. I was attending coaching classes for depression and the “coach” was harping over and over again about “I’m the King of the Castle” and “You’re the Dirty Rascal” — and there was no way out of that loop. I got a sense that this goof was deliberately running the class in circles. I dropped those classes once I studied his patterns. I’m not a defeatist. It was time to move on to greener pastures, for me personally. It was high time to trust my own senses.

Disrespect and Respect Very Different Dynamics

Karpman Drama Triangle in relationships in blog post Respect and Disrespect Drama Triangles
Karpman Drama Triangle, as expanded by Dr. Kat (not her real name, for privacy purposes).

This next section is how I’ve been using the two triangles, with respect to emotional health and wellness. The diagram is my digitized version of the hand-drawn one from Dr. Kat. The biggest lesson I got out of this teaching is that I didn’t have to depend on rescuers or persecutors. True, I may have been a victim at times in my life. Fortunately, I discovered I don’t need to stay a victim. I don’t require myself to stay persecuted, and as a result, I didn’t need a rescue. When I’m challenged, I can take healthy steps to take care of myself.

For example, if I see someone calling for a rescue, I would likely feel compassion, but I don’t believe it would be appropriate to do their emotional work. I could make suggestions if that seemed appropriate, but I wouldn’t step in, take charge, and rescue them. That’s their own emotional work.

If I find myself in a vulnerable situation, I can identify my experience without becoming the “Poor Me” victim who expects a rescue. I can help myself out of a vulnerable situation if I allow my intuition or other senses to be present and guide me in a healthy direction.

I compared the two triangles with each other. As a result, I definitely prefer to live my best life in the Respect Triangle. I don’t need people to rescue me. I don’t feel persecuted. Instead, I feel self-empowered to see all the possibilities and make healthy choices for myself.

Differentiating Between Respect and Disrespect

When I began utilizing the Triangles, I’d test different events in my life up against my choices in the apparatus to see where I — or an event — would fit. Then, I’d decide where I want the event, or myself to fit. Finally, I’d work my way to that spot. The tool helped me sort out my thinking and my reasoning, so that I could make healthy choices. These useful devices helped me to make better choices in my life. For example, I could see the disrespect in the family religion when I began using the diagram. It was a very handy model for me during my unplanned exit from the family religion.

Drama Triangles in Action

running on a treadmill of religion? published in blog Respect and Disrespect Drama TrianglesI’ve used the model to explain to Christians why I don’t feel I need Jesus to rescue me from sin, as it would fit into the Disrespect Triangle. It is not my intention to offend. It’s just that when we know better — we do better. If we accept a rescue, we lose our sovereignty. We (mistakenly) believe we owe allegiance to Jesus or God forever more. I’ll not step on that religious salvation treadmill again. I mean no disrespect, but religion isn’t for me any more.

Respect and Disrespect Drama Triangles from Dr. Katt helped me to see relationships in an entirely new and healthy way. I am truly grateful.

Now I choose to make healthy decisions because I’ve learned healthier ways to live my life. Now I am free to make my own decisions apart from all the “shoulds” and “should nots” of religious rules, laws, orders, and commands to ruin my life. I’m done with that. I enjoy my simple life now. If I want to sleep in on Sunday, I can now. I sleep till I wake up, without disturbance, without the alarm clock — that rude device!

More Research

TheraminTrees Imaginary defects | when dogmas label us flawed [cc]

My YouTube Video Version: Respect and Disrespect Drama Triangles

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