The Persecutor – A Powerful Reaction to Powerlessness

The Persecutor – A Powerful Reaction to Powerlessness

AdobeStock_63356577-ePersecutors, like Victims, act out of fear ~ David Emerald Womeldorff


How we interact with others can often be fuelled by the unconscious roles we are playing that source from imprinted beliefs and family experiences from childhood.  One such set of roles is the Drama Triangle:


What is The Drama Triangle?

In 1968, Stephen Karpman, MD and Transactional Analysis practitioner, developed a model of dysfunctional behaviour in relationships called the Drama Triangle. It mapped out the dynamics of three distinct roles that play out in relationships -> Victim, Persecutor and Rescuer.

As we learned in last month’s post, the Victim role is all about helplessness and the Victim accepting the inevitability of persecution or mistreatment that causes suffering and pain.

The Persecutor plays the role of the ‘bad guy’ who applies pressure and control over the Victim and is the bully in the triangle.

The Rescuer assumes the responsibility of ‘supporter’ who defends, protects and helps the Victim.


Relationship and the Drama Triangle

The roles of the players in the Drama Triangle are interdependent and remain static until one of the players’ functions becomes intolerable or a specific circumstance causes a switch in the flow of interactions between the trio.

For Example

  • If the Rescuer becomes overwhelmed with the responsibilities of taking care of the Victim, they may suddenly act out and move into the role of Persecutor.
  • The Victim may tire of the Persecutor’s controlling ways and become the angry Persecutor while the Persecutor is forced into the Victim role.
  • Or the Victim may rebel against the Rescuer’s constant oversight and become the persecutor of the Rescuer.

The permanent/fluid pattern of these behaviours between Victim, Persecutor and Rescuer continues unconsciously until the cycle is made conscious and is intentionally healed.


The Persecutor

The dictionary definition of Persecutor refers to a person who ‘oppresses or harasses with ill-treatment’. Persecutors are the tough guys in the Triangle and are obsessed with the need to fight and dominate to prove they are right. They must win as a way to validate their sense of self and personal empowerment.

This compulsion sources from a belief that they must strategise, win, dominate and control in order to survive. At some time during their early life, they were subjected to traumatic experiences that felt life threatening or insecure to them. Their response to the chaos was to take charge in order to calm the powerlessness they felt inside. At their core, they are frightened victims who have learned to use anger, criticism and blame to strike a powerful stance in life. Part of their strength comes from feeling more capable and superior to a Victim.


The Driving Force of the Persecutor – Victimhood

Motivated by a conviction that the world is not safe, Persecutors are hyper-vigilant around any impending attack and adopt pre-emptive strike behaviours as a way to be prepared. Sometimes, the Persecutor can become abusive and believes their actions are justified as a means of self-protection.


How To Recognize the Persecutor

The Persecutor is the oppressor of the Victim and can be:

  • angry, overbearing and judgmental (“Why don’t you grow up!”)
  • rigid and authoritative in their point of view and interactions (“You get what you deserve”)
  • critical and parental in their tone (Mom threatens, “Clean up your room or else”); and
  • unwavering in their belief that they are good and right while the other person is bad and wrong.


Breaking the Persecutor’s Role in the Drama Triangle Cycle:

The process of moving out of the seduction of the Drama Triangle takes only a few steps. However, changing the Persecutor’s behaviours to stop the abusive habits and superior approach takes time and awareness as well as patience.

The Persecutor’s role changes from dominance to equality when they:

  • Learn to let go of entrenched patterns through Breathwork, meditation and personal work to gain awareness of their unconscious behaviours
  • Take responsibility for their feelings and communicate their vulnerability rather than their defensive toughness;
  • Ask of themselves and of the other person – “What do you want?” and spend time to answer honestly;
  • Respond rather than react in interactions with others.


How Can You Do Your Work?

For just one day, take time to observe your interactions with others. Pay attention to your speech and feelings in relationship to those close to you.

Where did you play the role of the Persecutor? Can you relate to the Drama Triangle in your life? Do you see the Persecutor or Victim in others around you? Journal your reflections and feel free to share in the Comments below.


couple of helping/praying hand black background,support/ aid/love/trust concept.healthcare/ therapy/healing conceptual ideal.kindness/comp assion/affection , friends and family.

Who sees all beings in his own Self, and his own Self in all beings, loses all fear.  ~Isa Upanishad


For more on the Persecutor:  http://powerofted.com/the-persecutor-role/

Further suggested reading: How to Break Free of the Drama Triangle & Victim Consciousness   http://amzn.to/2dQQL1R


 To find out more about the healing power of your breath through the powerful process of Breathwork, visit www.johnstamoulos.com



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