Monday, October 26, 2015

Triangles and the Way Out of Victim

This morning in church we prayed these words: “But only say the word and I shall be healed”, and I almost laughed out loud.

This week it was three words that words that jump-started some crucial healing for me: The Karpman Drama Triangle. That is a psycho-social theory developed by Stephen Karpman. In it he describes the cycle-- or triangle --of how we move from rescuer or persecutor to victim—always cycling through to victim, victim, victim. I stumbled on this in some unrelated
research but there it was: triangles, rescuing, blaming and victims. The very words that I needed to hear and heal.

It was perfect timing. I realized that I have the bad habit of trying to out-victim the victim in my relationship with John, and in other parts of my life as well. Karpman would simply say, “Uh huh.”

Here’s where it gets’s tricky: cancer care. People with cancer—those in the throes of chemo and surgery are kind of victim-y and cancer caregivers—those in the midst of physical and emotional exhaustion are wonderfully victim-ish, and those surrounding both of them make perfect persecutors: “You should”,  “You never should”, “You must”, “Do it this way, and “Well…”.

Cancer care is loaded with victims, rescuers and persecutors all vying for top billing: Who can be the biggest victim. We even say “cancer victim”. (Stop saying that.) It’s so easy to say, “take care of yourself first”--but in real life, and real caregiving, theory is honored in the breach. 

Maybe the Karpman Triangle can be taught to caregivers. Maybe we can give out little triangle pins as a reminder. 

Maybe I need a little triangle tattooed right on my hand. 

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