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In this podcast Joel and Antonia talk about The Drama Triangle and how we as humans have a tendency to live in one of three roles. A better way to look at these roles is to use something called The Empowerment Dynamic.

In this podcast you’ll find:

  • The drama triangle is something that was written for transactional analysis in which everyone has to fall in a triangle – hero, victim, and villain.
  • Villains – Feel safe by hurting others and pulling them down. For the most part, nobody sees themselves as the villain.
  • Victim – Unable to stand up for self and avoids confrontation. When we don’t believe that we can do anything in a given situation.
  • Hero – Feels good at the expense of others power to take care of themselves. The catalyst for somebody else’s ability to get through something.
  • If you’re the victim, you’re helpless.
  • We see this in family dynamics, movies, stories and basically everywhere.
  • Nobody really needs to be saved, nobody is really the hero who’s going to save them and nobody is a villain that’s making all bad things happen.
  • One of the best antidotes to the drama triangle is another model called empowerment dynamics. This restructures the roles into: Villain – Challenger, Victim – Creator, Hero – Coach.
  • Having a model that serve as a guidance can be very helpful.
  • The coach has the ability to create boundaries and has the ability to say no, emanating empowerment.
  • At every level the drama triangle only produces one thing and that is drama.
  • Creators seek coaches who can help them with their work.

Exercise we recommend in this podcast:

  • Go through 5 of your closest relationships. Take each person’s name and write them in a piece of paper and figure out if you are in a drama triangle with these people. Are you placing yourself in the drama triangle at your own will or are these people putting you in the drama triangle. Observe some patterns emerge. Then, think about how you can empower your relationships.
  • Once you’ve identified your role (victim, villain or hero) how can you empower your character? We want to hear from you. Leave your comments below.


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Showing 5 comments
  • Dana

    I encountered these [overlapping? reframed?] models for drama and empowerment a while ago but hadn’t thought about them much until recently. The way you ‘unpack’ the underlying concepts and draw out examples in your discussion definitely highlights situations that I can identify with. I especially liked Antonia’s example of women authentically complimenting other women. I making an effort to be more intentional with my compliments to friends and co-coworkers.

    • Charis Branson

      Thanks for the comment, Dana! Bravo for taking the initiative to make the world a better place! 🙂

  • Katie

    Have you read the novel, Jane Eyre? When she is a child at school, she makes friends with an amazing girl named Helen Burns. Helen is thoughtful and kind, and also messy and forgetful. There is a teacher at the school, Miss Scatcherd, who has taken it upon herself to reform Helen. She is caustic and petty in the way she does this, which infuriates Jane to no end. She sees Miss Scatcherd as the villain and Helen as the victim.

    Jane confronts Helen at one point and asks why doesn’t she stand up to Miss Scatcherd when she is so cruel to her?

    Helen responds, “She is not cruel. She is severe. She dislikes my faults.”

    Your post reminded me of Helen’s patience and unwillingness to cast Miss Scatcherd in the role of villain. She was ahead of her time.

  • Ehsan

    It was simple and at the same time illustrative.
    It was almost 3-4 years ago that i noticed most of people -except those rare ones who are really happy with their lives, no matter what kind of life they live- love drama and to dramatize in different ways as a palliative treatment; to forget momentarily about life -which is in essence difficult (which doesn’t mean negative)- and to forget. It is like hiting ones head to the wall to forget about life and to get rid of responsibility one’s life and at the same time, the pain, plays the role of a good excuse to justify oneself and criticize others.
    In fact you have categorized and formulated it in a nice way; I was the type to feel and create the drama around being victim which is in fact self pity and is a very common trend. So, it is basically a negative loop of three main interchangeable roles, creating and continuing the drama but never confronting the reality of life in general and one’s life specifically.
    It was illustrative and a nice formulating.
    Thank you like always.

  • Shelby Nicholson

    I understand how to defeat the Victim role by pro-actively becoming a Creator, but I don’t understand how the Challenger role is the antidote to the Villain role, nor how the Coach is the antidote to the Hero. For instance, my boyfriend said something unsupportive to me, which hurt, so I feel like a victim. “He did this to me; he started it.” Since the antidote to being the victim is to become the Creator, I gather you are suggesting I make peace, as Antonia suggests, by complimenting…. I send my boyfriend a funny video of two cats immitating humans having an argument with subtitles that shows the childish farce we have been engaging in. End of power struggle. All is well. But suppose I don’t send the video and decide to punish my boyfriend further by giving him the cold treatment for two days. Now I have passed into the Villain role, for it is I who is victimizing him. “I’ll show you!” How do I apply the Challenger role? Do I challenge myself? Do I send the video?!! (It’s a little late for that!) How does the Challenger work? Is not the Challenger the same as the Creator? Meanwhile, I am hoping my boyfriend will become the Hero and baby me, that he’ll say he’s sorry and will not ever do it again, but he does not! How does the Coach work? Do I coach myself? Call in the Bath Salts, lick my stupid wounds, because the boyfriend has long gone, never to be seen again? Opportunity for growth missed! Is that how Coach works? I coach myself back to wellness, so that I might get to the place where once again I might try a relationship all over again?

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