In communication and relationships, particularly in the workplace or within a family, it is common for a particular pattern to be followed, with the people involved cast in given roles. This is called ‘triangling’ and is very destructive.

The roles are:

Persecutor ____________Rescuer
"Idiot!"   \          / "Poor baby"
            \        /
             \      /
              \    /
               \  /
                \/
              Victim
            "Help me mommy!"

Persecutor

  • Their opinion:“I know best”
  • Their position: "It's got to be your fault"
  • These people often get what they want in the short term but their long term relationships are usually out of balance.
  • Their role is to bully and push the victim into action.
  • The overly stern parent, the authoritarian boss or the out-out-of-control teenager are all examples of persecutors.
  • Typical comment:
  • "Can't you get anything right!"

Rescuer

  • Their opinion: "I know best"
  • Their position: "Other people are inadequate, they need my help
  • These people often offer unwelcome help and they often end up rejected or used.
  • Their role is to take the victim's part, sympathise with them, help them, and face the persecutor for them.
  • The indulgent parent, the protective supervisor and the interfering relative/friend are examples of rescuers.
  • Typical comments: "Don't be so mean to X, they are trying their best!" "Don't worry, I'll do it for you"

Victim

  • Their opinion: "Other people know best"
  • Their position: “I can’t fix things and I need someone to help me”.
  • These people are very dependent and unhappy and with low self-esteem.
  • Their role is to be martyred by the persecutor and run to the rescuer for help.
  • The helpless child, the timid employee and the put-upon parent are examples of victims
  • Typical comment: "Y is so mean to me, I try my best, but I'm just no good"

The three roles feed off each other and perpetuate the power games, because they are familiar and comfortable to the players, but it promotes a stressful and conflict-ridden relationship. The only way to avoid it is for one of the 'players' to step out of role.

The person cast as the persecutor could try not to blame people for a mistake, but discuss how it could be fixed, and demonstrate how to do the job properly, the rescuer could get the other two together and discuss the situation, or the victim could say to the persecutor "If you will show me how to do it, I'll get it right next time". If one person steps out of the game, the other two can't continue - so once any of the players recognises that a game is taking place they can shift to an adult position and break the triangle.

Of course, this only works where games are being played. If the victimisation is real and there is ongoing physical, mental or emotional abuse, the victim needs to get out -- and any rescuer worth their salt will help them do so.

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