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One useful way of looking at the unhelpful patterns in our relationships is by applying drama analysis. This was first done in a school of psychotherapy called Transactional Analysis by Stephen Karpman. He used the three standard roles of drama (persecutor, victim and rescuer) to look at the ‘dramas’ in our relationships.
Often when we are in those relationships where we feel that everyone knows the moves, or that we have had this same argument a thousand time, we are involved in a drama switching between these three roles.
Seeing we usually feel unsatisfied by these dramas the question is: why do we do it?
The not very surprising answer is: because we get something out of it. In Transactional Analysis this is called “The Payoff”.
“The Payoff” can be anything that we want. It may be that we need to have a fight in order to get time alone. It may be that I need to invite a put down so that I can confirm that “I’m no good”. It may be that we need to talk about how good you are so that I can confirm “You’re superior to me”.
And yet when we’re involved in a drama there is something unsatisfactory too. We get enough of what we want for some satisfaction but not all of it. There is a missing element. The missing element is some dimension of reality in the relationship. ‘Playing’ a role isn’t as satisfying as really engaging with those around us (as long as love and safety are present of course).
So one way of moving out of a drama and into a real relationship is thinking about The Payoff. Once we know what The Payoff is for us we can try out other ways of getting it.
Reflecting on a relationship:
- Is there a relationship where I feel I’m playing a drama?
- What is The Payoff (the benefit I get) for being in this drama?
- Is there a more satisfactory way to get this benefit?