Are You Responsible For Your Relationships Problems?

drama triangle

Do you feel like you’re always doing all the giving in your relationship and rarely getting anything in return?  Do you ever feel that know matter what you do it will never be good enough.  Are often irritated by people who don’t have much common sense?  Maybe you are living on the Drama Triangle!

One of my favorite tools I use on a daily basis to monitor my interactions with others is called “The Drama Triangle,” by Stephen Karpman.  While it is nearly impossible to give full credence to this wonderful perspective in a short blog, I will do my best to give a concise overview.

All unhealthy relationships take place on the Drama Triangle.  It describes specific ways one relates to others.  There are three positions on this triangle:  persecutor, rescuer and victim.  While only one position is called victim all positions are actually victim positions of sort.  We each have a primary position that tends to dominate our interactions.  The “starting gate position,” as named by Karpman is the one we learn from our history and shows up in most commonly in our relationships.

Imagine an upside down triangle.  On the upper part of each side of the triangle are the positions of persecutor and rescuer.  On the bottom is victim.  The persecutor and rescuer are on top because they are both one up positions.  Both of these positions require a victim to sustain their position on the triangle.  The victim is in a one down position.

The rescuer is the classic codependent.  This person is the savior, mediator, helper, fixer, etc.  The rescuer has to have someone who needs them to sustain their position.  Helping others is how this person defines who they are.  Rescuers often grew up not getting their emotional vulnerabilities met or validated.  Therefore they hide these emotional vulnerabilities by appearing needless.  They secretly keep hoping that if they keep giving and giving, one day someone will be there for them.  Their greatest fear is that no one will be there.

The persecutor sustains their one up position through domination.  They have to have someone to blame.  Hence a victim is necessary for the persecutor to project their unclaimed weaknesses on.  Persecutors do this in various ways; lecturing, teaching, blaming, yelling ect.  Persecutors believe they are always right.  Their greatest fear is being out of control.  Persecutors were often raised in abusive shaming households and sometimes take on the qualities of their abuser.  This position is often the hardest for one to take ownership of because the persecutor sees them self as a victim who is just trying to protect them self.

The victim position is one in which the person has given up or not claimed their God given ability to make decisions and trust their own competencies.   Instead they look to others to guide and lead them.  Often victims were raised by a strong rescuer.  Victims eat a daily venue of shame and believe they are intrinsically defective or bad.  The language of the victim often includes a lot of “yes, but…”

As you read this brief introduction to the three positions on the Karpman Drama Triangle which one do you relate too most?  Is it easy to pick your primary position?  The ultimate goal is to identify your pattern and learn to grow and change so you don’t fall into these dysfunctional ways of relating to others.

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Are You Proactive or Reactive?

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There seem to be many people these days that express a general dissatisfaction with their lives. Often they seem unclear about how to change or even wonder if change is possible. We all get into “ruts”, however, I am speaking more of a perpetual feeling of discontent. If you are struggling with this feeling you may be living in a reactive versus proactive manner.

What do I mean by the above statement? You are being reactive when life happens and you ebb and flow wherever and whichever way it takes you. Life and all of its circumstances control you. When you approach life more proactively you are alert and consciously aware of the direction you choose to move with the circumstances life brings. When you are proactive you take the initiative and responsibility for directing your life. Of course there are many aspects of life one cannot control (natural disasters, deaths, etc.), but I am talking about being proactive in attitude; a general stance towards life. A proactive person will not let life and its happenings win.

In what areas of your life do you need to take more responsibility and ownership? I have developed what is called “The Circle of Life” which describes various components of your life. These areas are: emotional, social, physical, spiritual, occupational and intellectual. Emotional entails your emotional and mental health. Social includes all aspects of your social lives, such as, close friends, acquaintances, lovers and family. Physical includes your physical health and also your need for physical touch and your sexual self. Spiritual is about seeking your highest level of spiritual truth and growth. Occupational involves all aspects of occupational well-being and balance including one’s financial security. Intellectual has to do with your mind’s need to be stimulated and enhanced.

The “Circle of Life” is best when seen as a whole. If you are lacking in any area and especially if you have a deficit in several areas, then you probably feel unsettled or discontent. I find it useful to review this “Circle of Life” at a minimum every six-months as a ‘self-check’ on how you are doing. It is meant to help you take responsibility for the areas that are out-of-balance so you can feel more fulfilled. Balancing your life so you can be more fulfilled is a constant challenge!

If you allow yourself to stay stagnant and do not take responsibility for the areas in which you are most lacking then you will usually feel like a victim. Victims generally feel powerless and unable to succeed. It’s unlikely that anyone would feel fulfilled with this kind of outlook or approach to life.

 

Four Sure Ways To Sabotage Your New Year’s Resolutions!

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Sabotaging method number one:  Aim High!    While aiming high can be advantageous in many endeavors I find that New Year’s resolutions stand a better chance of succeeding when they are more specific and realistic.  After all, the goal is to succeed at achieving these resolutions, correct?  The popular resolutions often involve losing weight and exercising more.  Aiming high might be saying “I am going to lose 60 pounds by summer.”  Or “I am going to work out six days a week.”  I would recommend you set smaller goals such as committing to losing five pounds at a time until you get to a weight you are comfortable with.  Or committing to working out a minimum of three times per week.  These are very attainable goals that you are likely to achieve.

Being Spontaneous in and of itself is a wonderful ability.  However, when it comes to succeeding with your New Year’s resolutions you will need a plan.  The idea of losing weight or working out more or spending less money, etc. are just that:  great ideas.  To make them more tangible you will need a thought out plan of action.  How will you lose weight?  Are you going to use a certain diet program?  Have you researched the program and made sure it is for you?  Also, I suggest you have back up plan in case you don’t like the initial program.  Quitting isn’t an option so having a second choice gives you some flexibility!

Devaluing yourself is sabotaging method number three!  While it is true there will usually be too much to do and too little time you have to make a conscious decision to prioritizing yourself if you want to be successful with your goals.  You have to decide you are worth it!  No guilt tripping yourself!  You will have to make your new goals a high priority.  For instance, if you decided to start a diet program to lose weight then it is critical that during the first six weeks you arrange your life so that outside of work and family duties you will be focusing on making you and your program a top priority.  For example, I started on a new diet December 27 last year.  A friend of mine was having a New Year’s Eve party.  I chose not to go because I knew there was no way I could follow my strict food program there.  It would have been a quick trip down the failure road.

Lastly, the command “Be Independent” is another path to failing at meeting your new goals.  While learning to be independent in general is a good thing, when you are seeking to learn new behaviors now is the time to ask for help.  Find a partner or two who also want to achieve similar goals.  Whether it be diet buddies or workout partners reach out and ask for support.  It is important to have emotional support with your goals.  A person you can call or text who can encourage you and help you stay motivated.   Or maybe you need to ask for additional professional help such as hiring a personal trainer, using hypnosis, a life coach or even therapy.

Are You A Giver Or A Taker?

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While it is true that giving to others often brings more to the giver than the receiver and that giving is a lovely virtue; it is also just as gracious to be able to receive what others may want to offer to you! This could mean receiving a tangible gift and allowing yourself to enjoy the experience without any qualifications such as “you shouldn’t have.” However, many of the gifts others want to offer are gifts of encouragement, loving affirmations and help. Just as you feel blessed when you offer these to others it is equally true that the one offering you this gift will also feel blessed when you allow yourself to receive from them.   Remember this when you are hesitant to receive from someone: that you will be depriving them of a blessing!!!

Maybe you are reluctant to reach out to others you do sincerely care about. Maybe you don’t know what to say or what to do. For many this is very uncomfortable. My suggestion is that you don’t over think it. Most people will be grateful you even remembered them. If this person is someone close to you then pay attention to what is important to them. What do they talk about often? What activities are they involved in? For example, all my close friends know I collect cherubs. Try to be observant and you will see.

If you are struggling to reach out to someone who needs support I encourage you to allow yourself to be uncomfortable and offer that encouragement within a scope that you can tolerate. Maybe it will be sending a text or an email. Maybe you will mail a card. You might be more comfortable with “doing” such as cooking or cleaning for them. The important thing is to reach out and let that person know you are thinking of them.

Being able to both give and receive is important all year long, not just during the holidays. Each of us has a need for both!

Look Me In The Eye!

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Have you ever been talking to someone and they seem to be looking everywhere but at you?  This is a surefire way to make someone feel like you don’t give a hoot about what they are saying.  This is more than frustrating, it is downright rude.  Have you been at dinner with your partner or friend, just the two of you, and while you’re trying to have a conversation he may be looking around or watching the TV? Do you have to get right into the line of sight of your partner or friend and ask “Are you listening to me?”  It is curious when the person actually becomes frustrated with you for asking this question. Needless to say, eye contact is very important to attentive listening.

I have talked to many people who find eye contact uncomfortable.  They have said it makes them very nervous.  They can acknowledge that the poor eye contact doesn’t go over well with people even though they tell me they are sincerely listening.  Are you one of these people?   Ask yourself what it is about looking at someone when they are speaking that makes you so nervous? Working on your insecurities in this area will greatly help your connections with others. Practice makes perfect and I am confident that as you practice maintaining good eye contact you will gradually become more relaxed with this skill.

Poor eye contact is one form of negative non-verbal communication.  Looking distracted physically is another form of poor non-verbal communication.  Things like having your body turned away from the person; legs and hands crossed in a closed position; head nodding or turning in a disapproving fashion; grunting etc.  Back when I was in my undergraduate studies I was taught that 90% of communication is non-verbal.  What is your non-verbal language telling the person?  Is it showing the person that you are paying attention and interested in what they are saying? Or is it suggesting that you are disinterested and bored?

How Green Is Your Grass?

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I assume you have heard the saying “The grass is always greener on the other side.” And this is a pit we can easily fall in when we assume from what we observe on the surface that the other situation is better than our own. Or that sort of envy that we wish we had this better relationship, better job, better…you name it.
Recently I saw a different quote which states “The grass is greener where you water it!” I loved it! This is so profound: “The grass is greener where you water it!” I just want to keep saying it over and over! And this is the real truth; no matter what something looks like on the outside the truth is it is always greener where we water it!
This can be applied to many situations. Today I am going to apply this truth to your significant love relationship. When you complain about your relationship with your partner, ask yourself this question “How well have I done nurturing this relationship? Instead of finding all the fault in your partner take a look in the mirror. For many it is easier to focus on what the other isn’t doing instead of looking at their own responsibility in the relationship.
This is something I see often with the couples who come to my office. I have a partner coming in to session in shock that their loved one wants out of the relationship. Usually this person reports he or she had no idea the other was so unhappy. When I listen to the story of this relationship I am thinking “How could you not know?” And these are very intelligent, smart individuals who right under their nose didn’t realize how dried up and under nurtured their own garden was.
Ask yourself, have you been more of the nurturer in your relationship or are you more of the taker? Another way to ask this question is: have you been more of the one over functioning or under functioning in your relationship? If believe you are the one who does more of the watering and watering and watering; nurturing, nurturing and nurturing with little return then maybe for you it is time to turn the spout off and sit back and start thinking about your own needs.
If you have been the one that has been taking and taking and taking, and when you’re honest with yourself have not been providing consistent nurturing to your relationship in the way your partner needs, you would do yourself and this relationship a great service if you would pause and genuinely take ownership of this truth. Not for a brief period of time but for the long-term.
There is almost no excuse today to not do this. The resources for men and women to learn how to be better people, better partners are overflowing. There are many books, CD’s, workshops and therapy available. There is really no excuse. So if you think the grass is greener in some other relationship ask yourself; look in the mirror and ask “Have I really done everything I can do to nurture my own garden?”
And if you know that you have been giving; that you have been over functioning, maybe this is a time of grief for you. I time to let go; a time for you to take a risk knowing that your partner may not step up to the plate.
And if you can own that you have not been actively nurturing your relationship are you willing to take a look in the mirror? Are you willing to get the help you need to learn how to nurture the relationship on a consistent basis? If you have allowed your garden to dry up too much it’s not reasonable to expect to give it a little taste of water and then just bloom and grow. The relationship has been imbalance. To mend this you will have to continually give and give before expecting too much in return. This is how it works. Most in the under functioning expect immediate returns on their giving. That just isn’t the case, nor should it be your expectation. You may not like this, but these are the facts.
I hope this message gives you hope. If this message rings true for you, I hope you will take responsibility for your role and make the needed changes. Everyone around you will be blessed from this action.

If You Would Just Stop Making Me So Angry!

blaming
There is a wonderful saying that I both love and hate which states, “No one can make me feel anything without my permission.” How often have you heard yourself saying, “He makes me so angry?” Or “She frustrates the crap out of me.” While this response is a naturally reactive one it leaves you in the one down position or the victim position. The above saying reminds me that only I am responsible for my feelings.

When someone does something that you then feel angry, it is better to reframe it correctly; such as “When he didn’t return my calls I felt very hurt.” Or, “I know what she is like and I let her get to me again.” Both of these statements put the ownership back on you! This gives you power to do something about it. It takes the power away from the other and leaves it with you. When you take responsibility for your reaction you then are in control of how you want to handle your response or feelings.

Putting the responsibility back on yourself is the primary way of feeling more in control of your life and the various situations life brings your way. I encourage you to pay attention to how you word your statements. Notice if they are more I statements or more blaming statements. Make the conscious choice to remove yourself from the one-down role to the role of empowerment and choice. It is only then that you can move forward in that situation or relationship in a productive fashion. You always have a choice! Choose responsible, mindful living! It is a much happier and productive existence.