The Triangle

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I read two chapters out of Codependent No More this morning.  One addressed a codependent’s intense drive to control others as being a illusive quest.

Who’s controlling whom?, the author asks.

A codependent thinks they’re in control, but its the behavior, thoughts, and actions (real or imagined) of the person they’re trying to control that is the true controlling force.

The author goes on: When we attempt to control people and things we have no business controlling, we are controlled.  We forfeit our power to think, feel, and act in accordance with our best interests.  We frequently lose control of ourselves.

The second chapter introduced Karpman’s Drama Triangle–this continual dance codependents play, going from role of rescuer to persecutor and victim.  At the heart of it is a codependent making bad choices–that is, not honoring their wants and needs.

Essentially, codependents do what they don’t really want to do in an effort to rescue, win, or influence, but eventually get resentful of the other person, and when that resent is expressed–directly or implied–and the persecution is turned back on them, the codependent moves to the role of victim: “Why is this other person treating me so cruelly? Why does this always happen?”

Poignantly, the author brought up the story of Mary and Martha in the Bible.  While Mary was engaged in fellowship, Martha did household chores.  Eventually, Martha grew resentful of Mary and accused her of never helping. Jesus quickly put Martha in her place: Mary was doing the more important work.

The author suggests that there is a lesson here for codependents: Mary was doing what she wanted to do, Martha was not.

I could write volumes about doing exactly this: choosing to do something I didn’t want to do, growing resentful, and when resulting conflict arises, playing the victim.  And here’s the thing: when you’re in the throws of codependency, you’re not aware that this triangle is your way of life. It’s an instinct, a habit, as automatic as breathing.

So, I hesitate to say I’ve “played” the vicitim, because to me it wasn’t playing–I was the victim. And I would seek validation, sympathy, and comfort for anyone who would listen. And all whom would think I was completely crazy to return to the role of rescuer.

Because I was.  It’s not unlike a child slamming their hand in a drawer, crying that it hurts, and doing it again.

And in my intimate relationships, I did just that–over and over and over again.  Until the other person simply couldn’t handle it, my sources of validation couldn’t handle it, and I found myself emotionally bereft, alone, and needing new dance partners.


I think I just hit on Step One: I am admitting that I am powerless over others–that my life had become unmanageable.

This dance isn’t sustainable. It’s certainly not manageable. For so much of my adult life, I’ve felt the victim of other’s cruel and thoughtless actions. Once again, if I’m being honest, the way I felt was a result of choices I made—big and small.

It wasn’t too long ago that he and I sat on the couch while I cried about not having a sense of family anymore.  Why was his family so caring toward him, and mine distant?  He was upset: this was not his problem and he wouldn’t be blamed for it or be responsible for the fix.

I clearly remember him saying: “This is a result of your choices.”

And I’ve heard this many times before in self-help books, in webinars, and more–this life is a result of choices I’ve made.  Whether consciously or not, I chose this life, this moment in time.  I’m exactly where I am right now because I chose it.

My life has become unmanageable because I chose to make it that way.  Out of emotion, out of a drive to control, influence, and win over others.  I chose this.

And yet, I’ve shifted the blame on everyone else.

God, I am crazy.

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