Are You Responsible For Your Relationships Problems?

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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.

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!

Are You There?

 

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Listening in body only is when you are talking and the person seems physically attentive, yet it is as if they are looking through you, sort of like they are in a conscious coma.  The person is physically present but is mentally elsewhere.  Have you had this experience before?   Usually after you have talked a little with no response you might wonder or even ask, “Did you hear what I said?”  Often the person will say “No, I am sorry.  Can you repeat that?”  The person truly was not mentally present for the conversation.  While I imagine this has happened to all of us at one time or another, it is an issue if it keeps happening with the same person.

Often the person who is zoning out while you are talking is preoccupied with something.  Life is overwhelming at times.  If you know you are overwhelmed and not able to give someone your attention who is asking for it, just let them know.  You might say, “I know you are really stressed right now and I do want to hear about it, however, I am too upset right now to focus.  Can we meet for lunch?”  This type of response is respectful to both self and others.  Or it could be that you have trouble with keeping up with what the other person is saying so it is easier to zone out and just do the best you can to give the appearance of understanding what they are saying.

Reflective listening is a wonderful skill to help you stay with the person mentally.  Reflective listening is simply repeating back what you think you heard the person say.  This is a very caring act.  It shows you are intentionally trying to hear what the person wants to tell you.  It is important when you reflect back what you think you heard that you do so without adding your own twist to it.

Think of this as if you were looking in the mirror.  What you see is your reflection.  No additions or subtractions; just you. With this type of listening that is all you do.  Reflect what you think you heard.  For example, you might say, “So you received exceeds expectations in every area but one and for the third year in a row you didn’t get a promotion?”  If you are correct the person will usually say, “Yes, and…” on they will go with more detail.  If you didn’t get it quite right the person can correct you so you understand what they meant.   “So you got exceeds in almost every area and they still did nothing to honor that?”  The person might say, “Well they did give me a good bonus, but I have been waiting for this promotion.  I am so frustrated.”   It is a wonderful gift to interact with someone who is sincerely trying to hear you.

 

 

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?

Isn’t It All About Me?

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 “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.