Have you ever fired a client?


Experienced that sickening feeling, practically wretching into the bin before you get on the call?


Have you run a programme that feels heavy, even though you’re in your zone of genius and usually love what you do?


Have you run a group where the energy of one person clouds the entire experience?


This year I’ve been working one-on-one with clients again, and I’ve also gone back to ‘school’ to study counselling.


I keep seeing how patterns of behaviour and human interaction show up in our entrepreneurial lives, and I’m excited to incorporate this into my work, and to share the biggest lightbulb moments with you.


So if you’ve experienced any of the above, I think you’ll be interested in The Drama Triangle (a model of human interaction developed by Stephen Karpman and published in 1968).


As a coach or healer, you might find that you ‘just want to help people’. 


By nature you’re a problem-solver, you can see solutions and you just want people to be happier, especially as an empath who can really sense their pain – you want them to feel better.


This in many ways makes you brilliant at what you do.


It can also mean that you’re a ‘Rescuer’.


And that puts you at high risk of falling prey to one of the most dangerous types of client:


The Victim.


As a Rescuer, a client comes along with their bundle of problems, and your inclination is to say “Yes! I can help with this!  We’ll do x y and z, and we’ll reach those goals at the top of the mountain, and it will be fabulous, let’s go!”


At this point, a Victim will jump on to your back, and without realising it (although it might feel a bit weird, but you can’t put your finger on why) you’ll start carrying them up the mountain.


You’ll be fine for a short while, but then the complaining begins:


“I’m not happy about the way you’re carrying me.  You’re too slow, and it’s a bit bumpy, and I’m uncomfortable.”


You panic: “Oh no!  Hang on, I’ll try and make it a bit easier for you, and I’ll push myself harder.”


But no matter what you do, the Victim cannot be satisfied.


(Satisfaction doesn’t fit with their identity; it’s not how they get results or attention.)


About 300 yards up the mountain, you say: “I just need to stop for a break, I’m going to put you down, I’ve got some other things to take care of.”


And then the Victim starts to tantrum: “Hold on a minute!  You agreed to carry me up the mountain!  I’m not having this!”


This is where it gets interesting.


The Victim become the Persecutor - and you’re now in a Drama Triangle.  


When a Victim isn’t happy, they switch into Persecutor, and play the cards that usually result in a Rescuer picking them up.  


These can include:  


  • Superiority; talking down to you; being sure that you’ll realise you’ve made a mistake.
  • Entitlement; expecting to be carried; expecting an apology.
  • Anger; telling you how wrong / awful / unfair you are.
  • Crying; whining; trying to get sympathy; making you feel guilty.


At this point, you have two choices – you either pick the Victim back up, or you walk away.


Both options feel terrible.


If you go back into Rescuer mode it’s only a matter of time before the Victim on your back has another tantrum and slips into Persecutor.  


(And you’ve still got the burden of carrying them up the mountain, leaking their unique brand of ‘poison’ into your programmes – determined to be unsatisfied, no matter what you do.)


Yet when you walk away from a Drama Triangle, it’s extremely painful.


You take with you guilt, shame, fear, and worry.


As a Rescuer, your natural tendency is to look for all the things you did wrong, how you failed, and all the reasons you’re at fault.


You do some work around the stress of the situation: talk to your partner, your peers, have some energy work, cut cords, practise forgiveness.


Months, even years later, you might find your confidence in your abilities seems to be shaken.


You don’t link your current anxiety and low moods to something that happened so long ago, that you’ve ‘done the work’ around.


Your mind occasionally flickers to the person that you walked away from, and it feels uncomfortable. You rationalise and justify your actions to yourself.  


Occasionally you see that the Victim has found a new Rescuer, and you take it as confirmation that you failed.  


You worry a lot.  


You don’t realise it, but you’re processing the aftermath of a Drama Triangle.


After-effects include feelings of depression, confusion, anxiety, self-doubt and low confidence.


In business this might look like:


  • Worrying about decisions that you used to find easy.
  • Excessive thoughts about what people think of you.
  • Fear that you’re being talked about behind your back.
  • Not knowing who you can trust.
  • Hesitating about sharing the things you create.
  • Thinking you’re a bad person.
  • Reviewing all of your past mistakes and concluding you’re a failure.
  • Letting the Victim’s experience cloud your opinions of your work.
  • Thinking that everyone who works with you has a bad experience.
  • Going into long periods of ‘surrender’ and not choosing how to move forwards.
  • Shutting down your intuition.


And it becomes a cycle, because when you’re an intuitive, action-taking, people-helping, business-owner, and you suddenly don’t trust your intuition, your decisions, or your ability to help people, you feel even worse.


Do you recognise this experience?


The good news is that simply being aware that you’re processing the aftermath of a drama trianglesheds new light on the situation.


You’re not a terrible person.


You just made the mistake of slipping into Rescuer, and picking up a Victim.


Isn’t that a relief?


Now you can get some help to speed up that processing, talk to someone about it, release the stress, and recognise the reality of the situation.


You might be wondering how you can avoid making the same mistake again.


How can you recognise a Victim?


It’s time to activate your Victim Detector.  


You have one.


This is how my counsellor explained it to me:


Imagine two brothers.


They both work in a factory, and it’s expected they’ll have a job for life, just like their dad and grandad did before them.


Suddenly the factory is closed.  There are no other obvious options for employment in the town.  Both brothers receive a modest redundancy payment.


Brother A takes to his bed, moans about how unfair it is, spends the money in the pub, and gets more and more miserable.


Brother B says to himself ‘hmm, I could use this money and re-train, and maybe I could start my own business’.


Which one is the Victim?


You know instinctively it’s Brother A, don’t you?


Your Victim Detector works, you just don’t always use it.


Let’s be clear:  I’m not talking about people who are victims of horrible experiences.  


In client work we’re often focusing on past experiences and the affect they have on the present and future, and we release immense sadness and pain. 


This is about people who choose a Victim role (sometimes subconsciously, often unconsciously) in their interaction with you, in order to have you behave in a certain way.  


They will kill your confidence, taint the energy of your programmes, and they will never be satisfied.   


When you’re choosing who to work with, when you enter a conversation with a potential client, or you’re setting the intention of who to invite into your program, switch on your Victim Detector.


Look for people who are willing to carry themselves to the top of the mountain, and could benefit from you by their side:


Offering support and guidance, giving encouragement, helping to leave behind some of their heavy load, and clearing some of the blocks from the path ahead.


It will protect your confidence, your intuition, and your peace of mind, so that your business can continue to grow and expand in the way you want it to.


If you’re processing the aftermath of a drama triangle and would like further support, contact Michelle here.

Michelle Lowbridge