Do you recognize who is in this picture? That’s Smeagol in his pre-Gollum days, when he just found the One Ring in Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings.

Is he joyful and happy? You bet!

Emotions are a common and powerful way most people keep themselves stuck in the Drama Triangle.

Fear

Fear is generally viewed as a persecuting emotion. People want to avoid it. Do you view fear as a persecuting emotion? When you feel scared or anxious, what do you usually do? If you are like most people, you will first try to avoid your fear; if that doesn’t work, you will fight it; if that doesn’t work, you will get even more scared. (Notice that these are the strategies that nations also tend to use.)

For example, when you feel persecuted by fear you experience yourself as victim. Powerless and helpless, you then seek rescuing: something or someone to make your fear go away. Because the fear is not a persecutor in reality, but only in your perception of it, you seek a cure for a problem that doesn’t exist, thereby marrying yourself to the problems inherent in your rescuer. It may be the problems of alcoholism, a love mis-match, the escapism of a vacation, or simply waking up out of a nightmare. The problems of your “rescuers” may in time be experienced as big a persecutor as you imagined your fear to be.

Notice that you get to choose whether you experience fear as a persecuting emotion or not. I didn’t cure my stage fright until I re-framed my fear as energizing me to do a better job of communication. When you assume your fear is a persecutor you guarantee you will view life in a hunkered-down position, from within the Drama Triangle.

Notice that when you feel fear you generally experience all three roles of the Drama Triangle. Fear is a persecutor, you are a victim, and you feel compelled to rescue yourself.

Anger

When we ourselves feel anger, it is generally viewed as a rescuing emotion. Why? Because we generally use anger to defend ourselves, to back off a perceived threat. When you get angry you don’t experience yourself in the role of persecutor. This is because your anger is justified in your mind. Somebody has done something to justify your defense from an attack. Anger is your defender, your savior, your rescuer. When you get angry, aren’t you usually rescuing yourself from some fear?

However, when people are angry at us, anger is generally experienced as a persecuting emotion. Anger means we are being attacked.

In both cases, these conclusions are often incorrect. if someone is not attacking you and you only think that they are, then your anger is misplaced, unnecessary, and abusive. You are in the role of persecutor. If the anger of the other person is not about you but is instead a reaction to their own fear, then you only create a problem where none exists by reacting with defensiveness.

Notice that when you feel anger you generally experience all three roles of the Drama Triangle. Anger is a rescuer, you are a victim of the consequences of your anger, and your anger at yourself or others turns you into a persecutor.

Sadness and grief

Sadness and grief are generally viewed as victimizing emotions. People generally feel that they can’t help but feel sad.  When someone you love dies, do you feel helpless and powerless in the face of your grief? When you feel depressed and alone, do you feel helpless and powerless in the face of your sadness?

While it is not easy to be sad or to experience grief without getting into the role of victim, it is not inevitable. Just because you feel sad or grief, it does not mean that you are a victim, although it certainly feels that way. You get to choose. For example, bad things happen every day to people and you don’t feel sad; people die unnecessarily every day and you don’t feel grief. Why not? Mostly because they are not important to you; they live somewhere else; you have never met. So there is no necessity for you to feel sadness and grief when there is loss, and there is no necessity for you to get into the role of victim. You only do so because you take the loss personally; it is as if you have lost a part of yourself. Even if you have lost a part of yourself, does that require a response of sadness or grief? No, but it is a normal response. Does that sadness or grief require that you put yourself in the role of victim in the Drama Triangle? No, and to do so only makes it harder for you to get over your sadness and grief.

Notice that when you feel sadness or grief you generally experience all three roles of the Drama Triangle. Sadness or grief cause you to feel you really are a victim; they feel like they are persecuting you. In a strange way, they are also rescuers, because they validate the meaning of your loss. Their presence says, “My loss is real; that person, pet, body part, home, or relationship was meaningful! To not feel grief or sadness is to deny the reality of the meaningfulness of what you have lost. Therefore, grief and sadness are powerful rescuers from meaninglessness, even as they create withdrawal from a meaningful, full life.

Confusion

Nobody likes to be confused. It creates a sense of powerlessness that puts us in the role of victim. Therefore, we avoid confusion or pretend that we aren’t confused when we really are. Knowledge, clarity, and wisdom become rescuers.

However, is the problem with confusion? Can you not learn to view your confusion as a wake-up call? Can’t you simply listen to it and figure out what information you need? If you view confusion as a persecutor, you become a victim looking for rescuers. If you view your confusion as just another wake-up call, then you don’t use it to pressure yourself into the Drama Triangle.

Notice that when you feel happiness or joy you generally experience all three roles of the Drama Triangle. Confusion becomes a persecutor; you get to feel justified in your role as victim; and you also feel justified in searching for a rescuer from your sense of persecution. Notice also that sometimes people retreat into confusion as a form of self-rescuing from difficult decisions. If you stay confused, you don’t have to choose; if you don’t choose, you won’t risk making a bad choice, and thereby avoid feeling even more a victim. Notice too that such reason causes you to stay stuck in the victim role in the Drama Triangle in any case.

Happiness and Joy

How could such good and valuable emotions as happiness and joy possibly put you in the Drama Triangle? Don’t they help you get out of it? Happiness and joy are generally viewed as rescuing emotions. People seek experiences that make them feel happy and joyful. Why? There are many reasons, but a major one is that they don’t want to feel unhappy, sad, angry, or scared. In such instances, happiness and joy are being used as rescuers. As with all rescuers, they only provide the illusion of help. In time they fade, often leading to a painful despondency and a craving addiction for a return to the Lost Paradise of good feelings.

Happiness and joy are not in themselves rescuing feelings. The problem is that most people use happiness and joy to rescue themselves from some discomfort, insecurity, failure, or responsibility. Because the happiness or joy serves the function of avoidance, it is corrupt; it becomes a persecutor, trapping you more deeply in the Drama Triangle.

This is life on an emotional roller-coaster; there’s not much that is healthy about it, although it is very common and very understandable. It is healthy in three year old children, who are their emotions and their preferences.  While you may wish you could live your life as a three year old, how realistic is that? Happiness and joy are like good, strong, healthy horses in charge of a chariot in which you are riding; if you don’t keep hold of the reins and provide direction, they will drag you and themselves over a cliff.

Notice that when you feel happiness or joy you generally experience all three roles of the Drama Triangle. Not only do happiness and joy rescue you from a grey, boring, unhappy life; they can act as persecutors by blinding you to the reality of suffering of others. Seeing that suffering does not mean that you should lose your happiness and joy, but it does mean that you need to differentiate between happiness and joy that are rescuers and that which is not. In addition, happiness and joy can cause you to throw caution to the wind and make terrible choices in partners or actions.

The problem is not with any of these feelings. The problem is when they are associated, usually out of your awareness, with the Drama Triangle. These emotions then create bondage within the Drama Triangle, a psychological space in which inner peace does not exist.

Sadness and grief

Sadness and grief are generally viewed as victimizing emotions. People generally feel that they can’t help but feel sad.  When someone you love dies, do you feel helpless and powerless in the face of your grief? When you feel depressed and alone, do you feel helpless and powerless in the face of your sadness?

While it is not easy to be sad or to experience grief without getting into the role of victim, it is not inevitable. Just because you feel sad or grief, it does not mean that you are a victim, although it certainly feels that way. You get to choose. For example, bad things happen every day to people and you don’t feel sad; people die unnecessarily every day and you don’t feel grief. Why not? Mostly because they are not important to you; they live somewhere else; you have never met. So there is no necessity for you to feel sadness and grief when there is loss, and there is no necessity for you to get into the role of victim. You only do so because you take the loss personally; it is as if you have lost a part of yourself. Even if you have lost a part of yourself, does that require a response of sadness or grief? No, but it is a normal response. Does that sadness or grief require that you put yourself in the role of victim in the Drama Triangle? No, and to do so only makes it harder for you to get over your sadness and grief.

Notice that when you feel sadness or grief you generally experience all three roles of the Drama Triangle. Sadness or grief cause you to feel you really are a victim; they feel like they are persecuting you. In a strange way, they are also rescuers, because they validate the meaning of your loss. Their presence says, “My loss is real; that person, pet, body part, home, or relationship was meaningful! To not feel grief or sadness is to deny the reality of the meaningfulness of what you have lost. Therefore, grief and sadness are powerful rescuers from meaninglessness, even as they create withdrawal from a meaningful, full life.