Drama Triangle in Action

I jumped on the drama triangle last week, and of course that hardly ever ends well.  It’s not helpful, and rehashing it is usually not helpful either.  But I talk about the drama triangle in escort trainings a little bit, and I don’t think I quite do it justice.  So this post is really for the escorts, because this is the quintessential triangle on the sidewalk.

You know, on the triangle, there is always a victim.  There is always a persecutor. And there is always a rescuer.

This particular drama triangle involved a child –  maybe three years old.  He was coming back out of the clinic in his father’s arms, head down on Dad’s shoulder.  He was “the victim.”

The triangle involved E, a tall, male protester, who stepped directly in front of me so he could get right up by the child’s face to rant at the father.  Clearly, he was “the persecutor.”

As you may easily guess, I jumped on the triangle with both feet, trying to be “the rescuer.”

The problem with this scenario is that I couldn’t actually “rescue” the victim.  I mean, what was I going to do?   It’s not like he was in physical danger, I couldn’t snatch him and run.  I couldn’t shove E back out of the way.

If I were magic, I would have put a huge protective shield up around this kid and the Dad, and they wouldn’t have even been able to hear the mean things E was saying.

They wouldn’t have heard him say, talking fast like he does, but each word clear and distinct, “That is a precious little boy and you wouldn’t kill him, would you, so why would you leave his mother in there to kill the child in her womb?  That baby’s just as precious as this one.  Be a man, go back in there and bring her out.”

Since I couldn’t throw up an invisible, magic sound barrier, and I was super frustrated with E anyhow, I vented my frustration by saying some mean things to him.  As if that would make him stop, or help the kid.

Now you see the triangle, right?  Kid’s the victim, E’s the persecutor, I’m the rescuer ~ only, wait, saying mean things to E didn’t actually help the kid any.  And the kid probably didn’t actually need any help.  Probably this was just one crappy moment in an otherwise lovely life that he won’t even remember when he’s older

But it upset me, triggered some hugely defensive reaction, so in my effort to help, I spoke impulsively, and completed the set up on the drama triangle.

Another protester decided to jump on the triangle himself.  Shaking his head sadly, he rebuked me, saying he just couldn’t believe how angry I was, and what an atmosphere of violence there was on the sidewalk.

Yeah.  So I suddenly became the persecutor and poor E was the victim and Other Anti was kind of trying to be a rescuer by calling me out.


And as soon as I felt like the other protester was acting like I was the persecutor, at that moment, I felt like I was the victim, because really, E was the one being mean, he was the persecutor, wasn’t he?  I was just trying to help.  So I stomped off feeling at least a little righteously indignant.

Later, in a calmer frame of mind, I felt bad.  Still on the triangle, I was ready to blame myself for reacting impulsively, ready to cast myself as the persecutor.  And then – are you still with me here?

Feeling like the persecutor because I over-reacted, then I wrote a big long blog post, trying to justify myself, which would have rescued me and invited you all to jump on the triangle with me.

You could have taken different roles, depending on whether you saw me as the persecutor or the rescuer. Some people could have supported me and said my reaction was understandable.  Some people could have said that no matter how “justified” anyone thought I was, there was really no excuse for engaging with the protesters at all, and certainly not for saying really mean things.  Someone could have jumped in to mediate, and the two groups could have taken turns “dancing on the triangle-” trading places round and round.

Fortunately, I decided not to publish that post.  And I don’t feel like I’m on the triangle anymore, so if you’re thinking about whether or not I was justified, then stop.  That’s the call of the drama triangle.

Don’t answer that call.

The goal is always to stay off the triangle.  That’s always the goal.  And when you realize you’re on the triangle, it’s helpful to try to get back off.

Here’s the story without the drama.  E was doing what he always does, trying to interfere in people’s reproductive choices and saying the same things he always says.  It was unpleasant, but the child wasn’t actually in danger, and couldn’t really be shielded from it..

I reacted strongly, which was understandable, but in retrospect not so helpful.  And another protester expressed his opinion about the situation, and that was the end.  If there’s a take home message, it’s that I’ll try to remember how not helpful my reaction was next time.

Ultimately, as Kescort often says, “No one got arrested or left crying or bleeding, so that’s a good day on the sidewalk.”

2 thoughts on “Drama Triangle in Action

  1. You were in a highly charged atmosphere faced with a situation you found egregious. It is not hard to understand your reaction. However, I have found that (for me at least) cultivating kindness and treating “the prosecutors” as well-meaning and even thanking them for their concern is disarming to them. I even smile, and that REALLY confuses them. I understand that this is a difficult choice for you, but doing the unexpected is powerful. They may not know what to say or what to do. Think Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi. OR WWJD? I have only escorted once, so maybe I should keep my advice to myself. Just wanting to help.

    • Hi, Anne,

      Thanks for the input! There are so many variations in ways to deal with the protesters, it’s always interesting to hear people’s ideas.

      I think that ideally I agree with you, but it quickly begins to feel so un-genuine, so fake, to me that it becomes sarcasm, and then that’s not really helpful either. Plus confusing and disconcerting them is fun, so the next thing you know, I’d be laughing about how well I was doing it, or how I failed to do it or something, and that wouldn’t be too cool either.

      Of course, i think if Jesus were there, he’d start writing some cryptic stuff on the sidewalk and the anti’s would all pack up and leave. But that’s just my fantasy. 🙂

      My best shot at staying calm and de-escalating really is disengagement. But your comment does give me food for thought. Thanks again for sharing your experience! ‘


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