What role do you play?
What role do you play?

“Victim, rescuer, and persecutor”

These refer to the roles we play unconsciously and we can sometimes try to get other people to play them too. This a way to get you to think about how you behave around other people, rather than using them to consider your current life circumstances.

Do you recognise these in yourself or those around you:


Why me?! Poor me!

Victims view themselves as helpless, having lost their power or had it taken from them in some way but do not make inroads to sorting out situations themselves. I am not talking about those suffering at the hands of abuse or any extreme behaviour resulting in harm, neglect etc. The usage here is about those people claiming to be powerless but actually they lack motivation, seek attention and demand a lot of time from us for seemingly insignificant reasons (leaving 10 missed calls because they ran out of milk, for example). They suggest emergency situations when it is nothing that they could not remedy themselves in seconds, and they like to be doted on. They seek comfort in the extreme, want to be protected and have things done for them, often shirking responsibility for their own actions; any negative experiences are the result of other people’s actions. They won’t be able to admit their part in the outcomes.

They will likely seek a knight to rescue them but if the knight fails to save them on occasion, then they will then be viewed as another of life’s tormentors.

Impact on daily life:

  • Making decisions can be impossible
  • Problem solving capabilities are low
  • Reliance on other people even in simple tasks
  • Behaviours can be self-perpetuating, which maintains the cycle
  • Pleasure comes from the security of knowing everything is being done for them

Impact on others:

  • Draining the life force out of you
  • Constant phone calls, texts etc; you are on-call for this person
  • The person is dependant on you for their every whim
  • Stress symptoms develop if you have prolonged exposure to this person
  • Your life takes a back seat while you arrange this person’s life
  • Guilt feelings
  • Breakdown in relations with this person or your own support network as you make the other person the priority.


I’ll help! Let me do it!

These people are the caretakers and protectors, the reliable people who will bend over backwards to accommodate those perceived to need help in some way, in ways that the rescuer is most proficient in. So, if you have exceptional listening skills for example, you might find that you’re the one people come to when they have problems; and you want to make them feel good again. These well-intentioned qualities often see you putting others before your own needs with vast amounts of time spent consoling others while your own issues are left unattended to. You’ll notice you service a lot of victims- you are the knight I am talking about in the above passage. You’ll feel that brunt of their disappointment, guilt-tripping and shaming if you ever let them down.

If you are a seasoned rescuer, you’ll find that actually your behaviours enable victims to continue being victims. It becomes a co-dependent relationship. The guilt trip works both ways- the victims like being dependant but the rescuers feel guilty when they aren’t rescuing.

Impact on daily life:

  • No time to yourself
  • Self-care is poor
  • You aren’t a priority in your own life
  • Fatigue and exhaustion
  • Resentful but unable to break the cycle because caring gives you a purpose
  • Identity issues
  • Poor boundaries
  • Their issues become your issues

Impact on others:

  • Your fatigue is clear to be seen by others
  • You won’t accept help
  • Unable to reason with you that other things are more important
  • May begin to feel less worthy of your time if it is monopolised by victims or persecutors.
  • Friends worry about you
  • Less time for friends, you become difficult to make arrangement with; friends may go elsewhere.


It’s someone else fault! I’m never to blame!

A Persecutor’s style will be critical; blaming and shaming will be commonplace and they will be setting the boundaries not you. They are often controlling, command authority and respect and are prone to anger issues. These traits keep the victim or rescuer in-line and under control. It is essentially a form of bullying.

Impact on daily life:

  • Routine is held rigidly
  • Everything is on your terms and managing that against life can be a struggle
  • You won’t let yourself be seen as wrong, less than or vulnerable
  • Unable to take criticism
  • Happy to criticise others, so relationships suffer
  • Nothing gets resolved and problems remain problematic- you don’t want to change the status quo because you feel you are in control. If the boundaries move, you’ll lose control.
  • You fear being a victim and put a lot of energy into being the opposite

Impact on others:

  • People fear rationalising with you due to your outbursts of anger
  • You cannot be reasoned with unless you gain from the changes proposed
  • People will only see what you put out there because you have mastered hiding all the vulnerability that you do hold; this makes intimate relationships difficult, sharing your inside world is a struggle and if you do manage it then you become comfortable in bullying, manipulating and using those around you. You can fear being ‘outed’ by these people hence trying to control them with fear.

I have tried to portray the polarities of these 3 dynamic roles, the extremes you might observe or display. In reading this you might notice that you have a few traits of each, you may lean more towards one more than the other or indeed find yourself playing different roles with different people.

Can you think of 3 different people in your life who match each of the roles?

We utilise these roles as and when we have needs to fulfil. We are responsible for the roles we play and where we are in the triangle at any given time; our behaviours keep the triangle flowing. Each role serves a purpose to us- it has pay-outs depending on how we are able to meet our needs by behaving in these ways.

It’s quite normal to move around these 3 in your life. I’ve brought this up as topic today to get you to think about:

  • if your roles are beneficial to you?
  • where do you fall in this triangle?
  • are you happy or concerned about where you have placed yourself within your relationships?
  • Are people taking advantage of the role you play with them

I hope this helps you to consider how you could change or move towards well-being for yourself, better health and stronger, more balanced relationships. If you come to the decision that you need to work on these areas then counselling may be beneficial to you in addressing this.

Image taken from: https://powerofted.com/the-drama-triangle/

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