How To Get Out Of The Karpman Triangle? 5 Stages To Know

Last updated by Katie M.

Arguments, hassle, wanting to help, moaning… Social relationships are never simple! And a psychologist understood this so well that he theorized a model for relationships: the Karpman triangle. We lock ourselves into 3 roles unconsciously: persecutor, victim, rescuer. But how can you get out of the Karpman triangle? How can you find a more peaceful relationship? We’ll explain all.

5 stages to know to get out of the Karpman triangle

👉 I explained the Karpman triangle in a previous article. If you’re unfamiliar with the subject, I invite you to read it to get a good idea of this psychological game.

1. Become aware of the relationship problem

The first thing to do in order to get out of the Karpman triangle is to become aware that it exists! The relationship problem must be taken into account, but how do you become aware of it 🤕? A dysfunctional relationship comes about when nothing is natural and there is constant conflict. You soon realize that there’s one person who criticizes and belittles (the persecutor); one person who complains and does nothing to make things change (the victim); and one last person who constantly tries to ease tensions or defend the victim (the rescuer).

👉 Note that there doesn’t have to be three people for a Karpman triangle, it can come about in couples!

2. Identify the roles of each person

Once you’re aware of this system, you’ll be able to identify who holds which roles 🧐. For this, you’ll need to take a step back in order to have a neutral view of the situation and the social interactions (if it’s not clear who is the persecutor, the rescuer and the victim). The hardest part of this exercise is knowing who we are in this triangle too and identifying our own behavior. For this, we have to understand the triggers that push us into this game.

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3. Understand the triggers

Many of us suffer from cognitive biases and aren’t aware of them 😔. The big culprits of these biases are our negative emotions. Yes, when someone makes a derogatory remark to us, it’s normal to feel anger. Nevertheless, cognitive biases will lock us into the role we have in the Karpman triangle. This will cause us to have triggers that are usually harmful sentences or toxic behaviors without us realizing it 👇:

  • “It always lands on me, I’m fed up with working for others” (the victim’s sentence with exaggeration).

  • “You complain all the time, stop whining and get off your backside, otherwise you’ll never get anywhere” (the persecutor’s sentence to the victim).

  • “Stop jumping down his throat, you can see he’s doing what he can!” (the rescuer’s sentence to the persecutor).

⚠️ However, it’s not necessarily sentences, as non-verbal positive communication can also be significant. The only purpose of these triggers is to further emphasize the roles of the Karpman triangle. Once we understand the roles of each person and the behaviors that go with them, they’ll jump out at us!

4. Acknowledge your faults

Obviously, if we’re part of this triangle and if we occupy one of the roles, it means that we have faults. We occupy one of the positions because lock ourselves into it. However, to get out of Karpman’s triangle, you need to refuse to play the game and become aware that we’re responsible for ourselves.

👉 If we’re victims, perhaps we suffer from the Calimero syndrome?

👉 If we’re persecutors, our anger probably hides unresolved frustration?

👉 If we have excessive empathy and always wants to defend others, it’s clear we have the rescuer’s syndrome.

It’s good to have a clear look at our own flaws as well as the wounds we suffer from.

5. Adopt transparent and caring communication

Rather than getting stuck in the role, we may decide to go against it. To do this, it’s important not to behave as we usually do. This involves identifying our flaws, so we don’t commit them again. Furthermore, in order not to bias the relationship anymore, we must adopt non-violent communication. Kindness helps to calm relationships, but it doesn’t solve everything.

😥 If you see that the others continue playing this unhealthy game, you’ll have to make them responsible. To do this, you need to make them aware that they have something to lose: you! It’s out of the question that you remain in a toxic relationship, so you must set boundaries ✋.

Editor’s note: To get out of it, you just have to stop playing!

Getting out of the Karpman triangle when you’ve understood how it works and who plays which role, it’s not so complicated as you just have to stop “playing” to break the chain. Silence can be an interesting option as it breaks the chain if for example you’re expected to play a certain role. But for this, you need to be really aware of the role you’re playing, or the role others want you to play, and it’s not easy without an outside perspective. Don’t hesitate to contact a psychologist if you feel like you’re locked in this triangle or if your relationships are unsightly.

🤗 Understanding yourself, accepting yourself, being happy... It’s here and now!

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Article presented by Katie M.

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