The fire service uses a tetrahedron to describe fire. Fire has three elements: oxygen, heat and fuel. The fourth element is IGNITION, which starts the chain reaction between the elements. Fire happens in an internal combustion engine. Fuel, air and heat are present, but without the spark from the spark plug, nothing happens.

Drama can be described using a tetrahedron.

Like fire, Drama has three elements and a dynamic which binds them together: victim, rescuer and perpetrator are bound together with chaos.

I acknowledge the work of Eric Berne the founder of the theory of Transactional Analysis, and especially Gregory Boyce whose book, No More Drama, I have with me constantly through the iBooks app.

The Transactional Analysis theory was used by Stephen Karpman, MD to develop the Drama Triangle, which maps out inner, inter and intra personal relationships. The victim is at the perceived centre of the dynamic.

Drama takes pain and creates theatre. The victim makes the statement “See how much I suffer?” The victim assumes no responsibility for the suffering, thus seeks a cause (perpetrator) and a solution (rescuer).

Sometimes these are people, sometimes they are events, sometimes fantasies, anxieties or beliefs. The victim’s creates a game, a script or a perception that life would be ok if only…

Sandra has a terrible time with guilt. She has a brutal inner critic which shames her into constructing weak boundaries. Sandra is so nice she does everything for everyone. She can’t say no. This manifests itself in her relationships when she attracts needy people who have Sandra to do everything for them. The most prominent person who takes advantage of Sandra is her son Michael.

The drama tetrahedron is active on two levels, how Sandra relates to her environment, and how Sandra relates to herself.

Same dynamic, two locations.

Where does it start?

Chaos creates an event:

Twenty-year-old Michael stays up late playing video games with his friends. He expects his mom, Sandra to get him up for work. Sandra tries, but Michael curses and hurls insults. Michael sleeps in, arrives at work late and is fired.

Michael sets up the drama by chaotically creating a situation from which he wants rescuing. Sandra is expected to save him from the consequences. When she doesn’t, Michael accuses her of incompetence.

According to Michael, Sandra is a perpetrator. Michael, the self-identified victim, also blames his boss for the situation. The boss is too rigid, too mean, too angry. If only the boss were different, according to Michael, the world would be ok.

Sandra, in defense of the hurling insults, has gotten angry with Michael. She yells, nags him, warns him of new consequences. Michael accuses her of being a bad mother. Sandra knows that is true, for just yesterday when she talked to the pastor, he did not understand the drama at play and gave her simple directions. He told her all the things she could do differently without seeing the bigger picture. Sandra heard it implying if only she were different, the situation would not have happened.

The Drama Tetrahedron | Jeffrey Hosick Counselling #drama #chaplain #counselor

Photo by Cristian Newman on Unsplash

Inside her head, Sandra sings the same tune. If only she were different, she would have better boundaries, and her son would not be as abusive. She is the perpetrator if only she rescued him better, he would be a more responsible adult.

At the same time, she wished if only her partner Tom would step up and intervene, she would not be so alone in this. If Tom acted differently, the world would be a better place.

The drama cycle, of victim, rescuer, and perpetrator is spurred on by the spark of chaos which results from irresponsibility. What many of us don’t realize, this style of relationship with self and with others happens to everyone.

Drama’s intention is to make the problem insolvable by making it all one person’s problem.

It is a stage through which we all must pass. Some get through, others do not and get stuck. Is there something she can do? Reading this blog is a good start and working with a therapist is another.

Do these patterns sound familiar? Did you know every human being on the planet suffers the same way… until they don’t?