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  • The Triangle From Hell


    Anyone who observes social groups can tell you that within a social group, patterns and dynamics begin to appear and people begin to fall into roles within the social group.  These roles, dynamics and patterns are very resistant to change. Some of these roles, dynamics and patterns are much more damaging and dysfunctional than others. One of the most dysfunctional of them is a triangle dynamic that arises in situations where there is any conflict, where every person involved in the conflict is essentially forced to take one of three roles or classic characters relative to one another; the victim, the hero or the villain.  And this is how we subconsciously see the world. We subconsciously see all people at any given moment as divided into one of these three positions.

    The human ego’s #1 enemy is shame.  Ego is essentially nothing more than self-concept.  And we must see ourselves as good. To understand more about this, watch my videos titled:  Self Concept, The Enemy of Awakening and The #1 Relationship Obstacle and How to Dissolve It.  But some people are raised in dysfunctional households that were founded on shame. When this is the case, the root of every person’s self concept in the household, no matter what role they play in the household is shame.  In other words, the narcissist has a self-concept of shame.  The codependent has a self-concept of shame. The golden child has a self-concept of shame.  The scapegoat has a self-concept of shame. The lost child has a self-concept of shame. And the dysfunction of their lives is maintained by the fact that they then try, in every dysfunctional way they can, to get away from that shame.  But what happens is that the closest they can get to feeling as if they are good is to be a victim or to be a rescuer, also known as a hero.

    We see the victim as the underdog; they are always the powerless, innocent good guy.  When we are so dysfunctional that our self-concept is so low that we can only access the feeling of being good when we are a victim, we actually begin a vortex of dysfunctional creation in our lives where we create scenarios where we are not actually the victim, but we feel and act like we are.  This is the classic victim control dynamic. And we also begin to attract constant scenarios where we are the victim, such as accidents. Our lives will be full of villains.

    We also see the hero as the good guy.  So many people enter the healing field because by being the healer they get to play out this role of being the hero.  Our self-concept is so low that the only access we have to feeling like a good person is being the rescuer and the hero.  It involves courage, action, nobility, morality and selflessness. But we actually begin a vortex of dysfunctional creation in our lives where we are roped into victim control dynamics where we defend a false victim against a false villain.  We become self-righteous and justify the cruelty we exact upon the villain because we tell ourselves they deserved it. By doing this we actually become the villain but don’t see ourselves as such. We may make people sick or cause them to collapse just so we can heal them and save them.  We enable people’s dysfunction because when they are in a weak and dysfunctional pattern, we get to feel good about ourselves. And in order to do that, we have to have someone that we are defending the victim against. Our lives will be full of nothing but victims and villains.

    What makes this triangle so obnoxious is that one role automatically creates the other because none of them exist in a void.  They need each other to exist. There is no such thing as a victim without it being implied that there is a villain. So the second someone slips into any of these roles, the others are automatically created, whether someone likes it or not.  The victim needs a savior and it needs a bad guy. The savior needs someone to defend, a victim and someone to defend the victim against, the villain. And guess what? If someone decides not to play the game and not to fit into any of these roles, that decision automatically makes them a bystander to injustice and so they are cast in the role of another villain on the spot.      

    In a dysfunctional household, these roles are constantly being played out.  For just one classic example, a dysfunctional adult will pull a victim control dynamic and perceive themselves to be the victim to the scapegoat child (who is therefore the villain), making the golden child become their defender against the scapegoat child, making the golden child the hero.  We become identified with these roles and tend to play out the role/character we were most commonly cast in within our dysfunctional home all throughout our life, including our adulthood.

    This triad dynamic between the victim, hero and villain is responsible for the psychology of triangulation, the dynamic where one person splits two other people, pitting them against one another.  

    This triangle from hell dynamic arises out of conflict or perceived conflict.  When we feel trapped in a conflict, it is usually because we are caught in this triangle dynamic.  The triangle is the position of non-movement because the dynamic itself is not conducive to resolution.  Each person’s argument or story in each of the roles makes the others stuck in their respective position.

    There both is and isn’t such a thing as true victimization.  Because even in cases where there is a genuine victim, the perpetrator was a victim… It is what led them to their crime.  We are all just the victim of victims. But this being said, victimization is actually the rarity. What is common is conflict.  In a situation where conflict occurs, the needs of both people or parties are being threatened. This naturally makes both sides of the conflict feel innocent and feel powerless.  It triggers our fight or flight or freeze mechanism and due to that powerlessness, it often makes us naturally want to find someone to rescue us or side with us against the other person who we perceive (due to our own feeling of powerlessness) to be more powerful than us at that moment.  We feel we need to be defended. This opens the door for the hero role to be filled. We naturally then blame the person on the other side of that conflict and by doing so; open up the door for the person on the opposite side of the conflict to fill the role of the villain.

    The villain role is all about power and control.  Every negative trait we assign to the villain is associated with power and control.  And like it or not, we all have this within us. If we feel like a victim, we begin to behave in ways to try to gain back the power and control we believe we lost and by doing so, become villains.  We become self-centered and fight for our needs and our needs alone without regard to impact on any other parties. We believe them to be separate from us. If we feel like a hero, we are doing all of these things but justifying it as the right thing to do.  If you watch any super hero action film, if you take away the ‘in the name of what is right’ aspect of the character, you will have a villain. You will have someone who kills, steals and by society’s standards should be in prison for their actions.

    The villain always comes with a background story.  A reason why they believe what they are doing is right.  For example, we call terrorists villains when people of their same ideological persuasion see them as saviors.  Every villain’s story will reveal that they are the victim or perceive themselves to be, which justifies their actions.  Therefore, a villain is as much a hero in disguise as a hero is a villain in disguise. All that makes them different is how we judge them and judgment is highly, highly subjective.

    Social groups are being divided beyond repair by this dynamic.  These roles force all members of a group to pick a side for and a side against.  They create a zero sum game in which the goal becomes I win - you lose. But because no one will be ok with losing in a scenario like this, it breeds revenge.  Revenge makes it a guarantee that a win-lose game will eventually prove to be a lose-lose game. Every war ever started was started from this dynamic.             

      In order to solve this dynamic and break free from the stuck ness of the triangle, we need to seek resolve instead of victory for our own needs.   We need to step back and consciously see the role that we are playing in it. We need to start recognizing conflict as simply an opposition of needs between two parties, both of whom will feel like the victim in a needs conflict.  Being aware of that, we need to not get sucked into the fragmentation of hero, victim and villain as a result of the conflict arising. We need to see that the objective truth is that we are all victims, villains and heroes. We have seeds of all within us.  We cannot identify with any one role. We need to see that if both the person we perceive to be the victim in the situation and the person we perceive to be the villain in the story feel like they are the victim, there is a much more complex situation at hand than meets the eye.  We need to stop seeing the bad guy as the bad guy and instead see them as someone who we must work directly with to identify a solution with.  

    We need to begin to own our needs and feelings as our own.  This means we need to become aware of and value and communicate our needs directly.  Not complain to other people about our victimized position. We have to risk the discomfort of confronting someone or a problem directly.  We also need to see that our needs might conflict with someone else’s needs. If this is the case, we do not get to make them the villain simply because our needs are not their needs.  Being accountable for our own feelings and needs means really owning them instead of making them someone else’s responsibility. For example, “you are so self-centered” is a victim statement.  It creates no opening for resolve. “I feel as if my needs are not getting considered and I need them to be” is a statement in which no victim or villain is created, except feelings and needs were clearly stated.  It puts the problem that needs to be resolved on the table in plain view.

    We need to shift our attitude when approaching a conflict.  We need to drop our idea of what is right or wrong entirely.  Instead we need to adopt an attitude of How do we ensure that the needs of both parties are met?  If they can’t be met, how do we make it so both parties at least feel good or resolved and can move forward with the situation?  In a conflict, anyone involved can so easily slip into any of the three roles in this triangle from hell. All of us involved in a conflict need to see ourselves as partners in a conflict.  Partners who all have the common goal of resolution and harmony and everyone having their needs met. We need to take the other person as well as their story as if they were a part of us. We need to put ourselves in their shoes.  Through mutual understanding, the resolution can actually arise. If we are used to these roles in a conflict, especially if this was the way we were taught to approach conflict in our dysfunctional childhood homes, this will take a lot of practice and conscious awareness.  But the happiness and longevity of our relationships absolutely depends on it.

    We need to see that the minute we see ourselves as the victim or the hero, we automatically make a villain.  And that pigeon holes them. Because you are the one making them the bad guy, you are attacking their sense of self.  Therefore, they will feel like your victim and they will see you as the villain. Behaviors they perceive as self-defense will be seen by us as attack and further fuel our idea that they are the villain.  It becomes a cycle that only spirals and solidifies the roles until all parties involved are split and fragmented beyond repair. Resolution becomes impossible.

    The second that any conflict arises let it be an alarm bell alerting you to the extreme risk of falling into this pattern, the triangle from hell of the victim, hero and villain.  Ask yourself honestly are you somewhere on this triangle already in this conflict? Accept that we are all victims and at the same time villains in every conflict. We are all innocent and we are all at the same time guilty.  Our needs are being threatened and so are theirs. There is no one to defend and no one to fight against. All there is, is a problem to be solved. Commit to stepping back from those roles so as to find resolution to the problem instead.