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?

Proactive

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.

 

Isn’t It All About Me?

listening skilss

 “Yesterday at the mall I heard someone call my name and to my surprise it was a girlfriend from high school that I hadn’t talked to in twenty years.  I was so stunned that for a moment…”; “Oh I know – the same thing happened to me when I was at the airport and…”  And on the person goes and before you know it, you are listening to them.  Has this happened to you?  Switching the conversation on to you and making it about you is another bad listening trait. Sometimes the other persons sharing is woven into the conversation so creatively that afterwards you forget what your original thought was!  My hope is that you don’t have too many friends doing this too often.  This would make for very one-sided friendships.

This can be so frustrating.  Being that I have training in how to be a good listener, I find it somewhat amusing when someone does this to me.  I am hyper-sensitive to it and find it amazing when a person seems so oblivious to what just occurred and seems content to go on.  I typically entertain their interjections for a time and that is it.  I simply shut-down.  I keep future conversations superficial and tend not to spend too much time with them.  But not everyone picks up on these conversation table turners.  I have heard many people in my office talk about their supposed close friend who they feel they listen to more than talk to.  The person knows it is one sided, but allows it to go on.

If you have someone in your life that you value but you feel they talk more than listen, you can try to address this. You can express it verbally or in writing.  You might say something like, “I really enjoy when we do things together, however, I don’t often feel like you listen to what am I saying when I try and share what’s going on with me.”  If the person is able to hear you then there is potential for positive change in the relationship.

If you know you are someone who tends to do this I encourage you to ask yourself why and what.  Why do you so often shift things to yourself and what might be going on with you?  Do you think you might do this because you are nervous and don’t know what to say so you just start talking?  Are you overwhelmed and can’t help yourself?  Maybe this is your way of showing you are listening?  If you want to have mutually satisfying relationships it is important to gain more clarity about this tendency.

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.

Relaxation Is Just As Important As Working! Agree?

relaxation
Many of you are busy with numerous responsibilities during the week; the various work demands that most of you experience. Many of you are working well over forty hours a week. Then there are the multiple demands of family, children, household responsibilities and the like. Does it seem like all you do is go, go, go? And sometimes it is easy to get so used to the adrenalin of doing that you can forget how to relax and slow down.
The need for taking time to relax cannot be emphasized enough. According to Random House Webster’s College Dictionary relax can mean “to release or bring relief from the effects of tension, anxiety, etc.” And, “to become less tense, rigid or firm.” Sound good? Some of you may understand the importance of incorporating a way of relaxing into your life. However I am sure many of you find it too difficult to fit into your busy schedule.
Taking time to relax is the antidote to stress which is known to contribute to disease and general dissatisfaction in life. Relaxing on purpose slows your breathing down which helps relax your body. Your muscles have the opportunity to rest and it is good for your heart. The mental health benefits are ample. Your ability to focus, make decision and even your sleep may improve.
I understand that what is relaxing to each of you may be different. Some enjoy going to the beach, laying out in the sun and reading a book. Others find gardening relaxing. Maybe relaxing for you would be simply taking an hour nap in the middle of the day, or sitting and meditating. Or maybe you would be willing to treat yourself to a massage, facial, pedicure or acupuncture.
Although the demands of all your responsibilities are still lingering, you will be more refreshed, and I believe better equipped to handle the multiple burdens that life has for you. When you allow yourself the gift of relaxation, when you prioritize taking time for even a small amount of relaxation during your day or days off you will greatly benefit.
On your next day off or this weekend, I encourage you to allow yourself to have some genuine down time. Time when your mind is not listing the ten things you need to get done today. Time when you’re not physically moving about doing the many chores that need to get done. Time when you slow down your heart rate, breathing and movement. Time to actually do what is called-relaxing!
I encourage you to remember that you are important, that you matter and to put yourself on your own priority list. If you allow yourself the gift of relaxation this will aid you physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally. You are in charge of making relaxation a part of your weekly ritual. Decide you are worth taking time to give your body, mind and spirit a well-deserved rest.

What’s Wrong With My Lover?

romantic love
Life is an interesting journey. It seems the older we get the more twists and turns come along. For many of us finding a partner, a mate, has been our main agenda. In our younger years we assumed we would grow up and meet a wonderful mate, get married and live happily ever after! What has happened?
As we all know from the divorce rate, marriages are not doing well. Couples, whether married or not, are having trouble staying together through the many challenges life brings into their relationships. The story we always imagined for ourselves is not reading the way we had hoped.
What is going on? I want to discuss one significant issue that I believe has a great impact on our relationship’s success or failure. I often say to clients that the two greatest things we do in life are being a partner and/or being parent, yet there is no training required for either. That is amazing! The only preparation we usually have is from our family of origin and our past love relationships. I strongly believe one of the best things we can do for our relationship is to become healthier ourselves prior to getting seriously involved with someone.
So what about those of us who are already in a committed relationship, divorced, or remarried? It is never too late. Often you need to start with yourself. It’s easy to become very discouraged and negative with our significant other. While many of your complaints may be valid, the only person you have control over is you. Check out your expectations. What are they? Where did they come from? Are they realistic? I remember growing up my favorite fairytale was Cinderella! (That really set me up for failure!) Think about the music you listen to and the message it is sending you about love and what it should be like!
Often we have many of our own unmet needs. Maybe you never felt loved as a child. Maybe you never felt you were good enough for one of your parents? Consciously or unconsciously we often expect our partner to fill our voids. Often they do initially, but fall short down the road. Address the parts that are about you. Become clear on what you need to heal within yourself, and what aspects of your relationship need improvement. I understand this is often a fine line but, it is one worth exploring before you make a decision about beginning or ending a relationship. The person you have the most influence over is you! Best to look there first.

What Kind of Karma Are You Creating?

Karma
Karma is a word that many of us have heard or even used ourselves. It is an interesting concept. While the meaning of Karma is more extensive than I am going to share, one simple definition by Merriam-Webster.com says that Karma is “the force created by a person’s actions that some people believe causes good or bad things to happen to people.” While some believe this Karma is transferred to future lives I will focus on our existence in this life time.

Are your actions and words creating good Karma for you? Do you feel good about how you’re leading your life? Ideally I prefer to behave in ways I feel good about. It is an honorable goal. I find it easier to do this when I am being conscious of my choices. I can more easily behave and speak in ways I want when the situation is calm and I am somewhat in control. The challenge seems to come during those other times that are unexpected, dramatic and sometimes hurtful.

I recently read a quote that said something to the effect of “How someone else behaviors with you is there Karma how you respond to them is yours.” Wow! I posted that for a while in my office as a reminder to myself. I recently had a hurtful and surprising experience happen with a medical professional in the community. It set me off balance mostly because it was hard to understand how someone could behave in such a manner. Can any of you relate? Did that then give me permission to behave in kind? I didn’t want that so I had to stay very aware of my choices in responses and also how I elected to view the situation.

What situations challenge your character? Is it the rude person in line at the store? Is it your cranky neighbor? Is it your son’s coach? The person who is driving too fast or too slow? How do you choose to react? How do you deal with frustrating situations? And are you willing to help someone when you see a need; to behave in kindness. I know this can be a challenge for many of us and I certainly haven’t been perfect. However, noticing your reactions to people is a worthy endeavor.

Creating good Karma seems like a wonderful idea. Weather you believe in Karma or not the concept of behaving in ways that display the best of you sounds like a good way to go!