The famous Drama/Trauma Triangle is actually a Square:
The Drama Triangle
The original Drama triangle was offered by Stephen
Karpman in the 1960s.
It presented three roles which exists in almost any
relationship – The persecutor, the Victim and the Rescuer.
The Prosecutor blames, judges, has demands on the
The Victim feels blamed, that its not his/her fault,
helpless, powerless, incompetent, unable to really change the situation by themselves.
They often feel somehow abused.
The rescuer tries to save the Victim by offering
solutions, by taking the blame/the load over him/herself. The Rescuer feels
that they must intervene or the Victim will be seriously hurt/die/lose
The rescuer believes that the Victim doesn’t have enough
power/ability/… to mange the situation by themselves.
We all have these three roles, and we can usually move between
them, either between relationships or in different contexts of the same
From Drama to Trauma
The Drama triangle is also often called the Trauma Triangle.
Here we have a Perpetrator, a Victim and a Savior.
The Perpetrator is the person who hurts, abuses, kills, rapes, forces, take away…
The Victim is the victim of the acts of perpetration.
The Savior is the person who saved (or tried to) the Victim when things happened or the one who is trying to so now (could be now from actual hurt or now from the traumatic memories, patterns and symptoms).
Persecutors who were also perpetrators
For some of our ancestors, the persecutors and the perpetrators were the same person.
This, for example, was the case of the holy church inquisitors, or the case of lords/ military leaders who were both persecutor, judge and sometimes executioners.
Almost always, we can trace the Drama triangle back to its
root in some Trauma and Trauma Triangle.
The Silent Accomplices
The “Silent Accomplices” is wide role which includes everybody and anybody who could have or should have helped, saved, seen, supported or reported but did not do so.
Think of the three monkeys – See no evil, hear no evil, Speak no evil.
Note – This is not the legal definition of an accomplice but the energetic/soul level one.
It is a definition which can help the healing process.
It is not a precise definition and therefore can be easily over extended beyond the healing into the moral realm – and thus paving the way to moral persecution which is a perpetrator energy and is also unhelpful.
Some common and painful example are
(Here comes a trigger warning)
- The parent who did not know/see that the other parent (or any family member) was sexually abusing a child.
- The parent who knew but couldn’t face this horrible truth, or was too afraid for their lives, or the social status or… to do what needed to be done (report, leave, something else).
- The neighbors who heard the screams and told themselves it’s not their business.
- The community members who should have known and/or protected but did not.
- The superiors who protected the perpetrator because he/she are so useful/helpful/needed – thus participated in sacrificing the Victim for the supposed good of the community.
- The bystanders who were too afraid to intervene in a high school bullying.
- Countries and nations can be silent accomplices as well. We see it often in war (e.g. the Holocaust)
Healing and the Trauma Square
For the healing of Trauma to go deeper, to be more whole, we need to be aware of all four roles – the entire Trauma Square.
From the perspective of Family Constellation it gives us a wider range of roles to consider when we sense what is asking to acknowledged in the field.
When I began to work with this role/archetype it greatly expanded my range of options when facilitating and teaching.
I had sessions when adding a representative for the silent accomplice, even without knowing in advance who they were, was transformative and brought a deep sense of peace and reconciliation.
Practical considerations in
The entire Trauma Square is extremely important in therapy and coaching.
Wherever there is a process, these roles will appear at some point, as a part of transference and counter transference.
It is especially important to be aware of the Trauma Square dynamics with clients that their original caretakers/nurturers were deeply entangled with one or more of Trauma Square roles themselves (e.g. an abusive parent, or one who always tried to save).
However, from my own experience, and also that of others, the Trauma Square can strongly influence also one-time sessions and interventions.
Each of us, facilitator, client (and representatives/students) may be captured (unconsciously entangled) in any of the roles.
A client is feeling helpless, in great suffering.
The facilitator can find him/her-self reacting to this by any of the four options:
- Triggered in an aggressive way – trying to move the client from this position by force, judging the client, believing “tough love” is needed here, while the client is unable to protect themselves from the facilitator.
This would be the Perpetrator Energy/role taking over the facilitator.
- Trying to save the client – doing things for the client which the client could do, crossing their own boundaries while trying to help the clients, as well as the boundaries of the setting.
This would be the Savior Energy/Role taking over.
- Not seeing that the client is actually suffering, that the client actually really needs more attention, perhaps additional support. Possibly being unaware to the degree to which the client is suffering and how desperate or in despair the client is.
This would be the Silent Accomplice Energy/Role taking over.
In group settings, the facilitator entangled with the Silent Accomplice will often not notice, not understand the severity or simply ignore harmful dynamics between group members.
- Feeling helpless to help the client, losing hope, believing the client should go to someone more senior/experienced/ to a completely different modality – where it is actually not the case and not what is needed.
This would be the Victim Energy/Role taking over the facilitator.
Some Roles Dynamic
As mentioned earlier, we can easily move between roles.
A common example is:
A therapist begins in the Savior role – unconsciously determined to save the client.
After overextending, the therapist feels drained and perhaps used – Now in a Victim role.
The therapist tries to reinforce the settings and the boundaries, but in a harsh rigid way, sometimes even stopping the process (“firing the client”) as a part of trying to avoid being used.
This is an unconscious movement into the Perpetrator role.
The Silent Accomplice role can be mixed up with any of the other roles.
The merging of roles
A merging of roles is when two or more roles are merged or fused together.
the Perpetrator who is blind to his/her perpetration:
This is a very painful yet common merging of roles.
Typically, it would take the form of a therapist/facilitator/person in power who is Unaware of the power imbalance and its effects on safety, choice, consent and autonomy.
This often leads to some form of abuse – emotional, economic, physical and/or sexual without any of them realizing this is the case.
This may include:
- Forcefully leading (sometimes literally, with painful force in bodywork) the process, believes the words of the client who thanks them while deeply inside the client feels lost/hurt/…
- Repeatedly crossing the boundaries of the client “for their own good”. E.g. Telling the clients how they should act and insist on it.
- Being emotionally disconnected from the client who is longing for warmth and empathy, all the while telling themselves it is for the client benefit.
- Having a romantic/sexual relationship with a client, while believing its either not harmful or the right thing to do in order to heal the client
A Shadow Work Perspective
We all have the four roles in us.
When we have a strong tendency to become unconsciously entangled with a role, it has to do with our Shadow – with what we not willing to see in ourselves, to become or to consider as an option.
We therefore identify with what we feel is the opposite of the Shadow and hold it as a fixated Persona.
The Perpetrator role– Often has weakness, vulnerability, helplessness, empathy in the Shadow.
Among other reasons, this also makes them focus the perpetration on the helpless, vulnerable and seemingly weak people – Victims.
The Victim role – Often has in the Shadow Power, competence, initiative, strength, and sometimes the perpetrator role itself.
The Savior role – People who fall into this identification often has in the Shadow the experience of watching helplessly as others or themselves were abused or traumatized.
This experience can be personal or family/inter-generational.
often, the Silent Accomplice in the Shadow of this role as they feel they just can not just sit and do nothing while someone else is being hurt.
Most therapist fall easily into this one.
The Silent Accomplice role – Often has responsibility/guilt/blame, as well power in its Shadow.
Sometimes it’s the Victim role which is in the Shadow here
(If I don’t see/hear the evil, I will not feel helpless and powerless to change it.)
The Shadow is the Child of Trauma
If we look deeply enough into the family and culture history, we reach certain difficult and/or traumatic events that resulted in some aspects being sent into the Shadow.
We should always consider the potential for traumatic re-enactment.
In all four roles, the facilitator/therapists are often unaware that a part of the clients suffering and the position they take towards it is actually a re-enactment of a previous relationship/trauma.
This trauma may be of the client own life or from the client family/inter-generational system.
Some suggested steps for
working with the Trauma Square
Step 1: Awareness – Know its here, always present to some degree.
Step 2: Acknowledging what is – When you notice a role or a dynamic in yourself or the client, acknowledge it.
First within yourself, then, if and when relevant, letting the client know can be deepen your relationship and empower the client.
Step 3: Shadow Work – Identify and integrate with the Shadows (Shadow Materials) which makes you vulnerable to be captured by the Trauma Square roles.
Shadow Integration will make you more centered and less vulnerable.
It will also bring forth from the Shadow qualities, options and abilities you have long wanted but believed they are not in you (Golden Shadow).
Step 4: Inter-generational healing – As the Shadow is the child of Trauma, a full Shadow integration may require (and in any case be supported by) reaching out into the past, into the inter-generational wounds you may be carrying.
Doing this healing, in addition to aiding Shadow integration, has the benefits of freeing you from the burdens of your ancestors and at the same time, allows you to connect with the power and support your ancestors can offer you.
The steps mentioned above are at the core of the Shadow Constellations approach.
In Shadow Constellations we learn to become aware of Shadows, Traumas, the archetypal roles connected with them.
We strive to deeply and experientally understand how these roles manifests and influences the client-facilitator/therapist relationship, and how to become better, safer and deeper helpers.
It is a practical, powerful and healing approach to add to any professional helping path you are on.
You are welcome to learn more about the training on the Shadow Constellations training page.
Your thoughts and remarks are welcome in the comments below.
Please feel free to contact me about this topic through the Contact page.
I have been formulating this concept of Trauma Square for a long time,
From the first time I heard the term silent accomplices, I realized that they are an integral part of the system.
I had thought long and hard about this topic, trying to identify where it has affected me and my processes, me and my students and did my best to learn from these occurrences, to create a better, safer, more authentic and deeper relationships than before.
I have reached some conclusions and shared them with you here.
It is a huge topic.
Therefore this essay is not a comprehensive description, but more of an attempt to organize it with some clarity and to make it accessible to the helpers community at large.
1 thought on “The famous Drama/Trauma Triangle is actually a Square:”
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