Addiction And The Games Involved

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Addiction And The Games Involved

Some of you may have heard of the Drama Triangle at some point in your lives, you may have been involved in the triangle of psychological games more often than you realise and you may have even caused the games yourself without meaning to.

The Drama Triangle was conceived by Stephen Karpman, who was a student of Eric Berne - founder of Transactional Analysis, and the Drama Triangle entered the psychological world in 1968 explaining the destructive social and psychological games we all find ourselves in from time to time.

In any addiction, you will find psychological games being played, they are usually unintentional, but once detected they can change the recovery process, having great success for both the addict and those supporting them.

There are three positions within the drama triangle (DT):

  • Persecutor
  • Rescuer
  • Victim
Drama Triangle

So, let’s look at how psychological games are played

Once Addiction has been identified, the addict may feel embarrassed and small, putting them in the position of victims in the DT. Then a family member/friend wanting to help notice the vulnerability of the addict and therefore moves into rescuer wanting to aid the addict's recovery from their addiction.

Some time may pass in these positions, but as the addict's addiction needs increase, they find reasons or maybe cause arguments to make way for their addiction to be met.

So the addict moves into the persecutor position in the DT, by causing arguments and the friend is pushed into the victim position feeling all their efforts were worthless.

The cycle could then move to the friend moving into persecutor, through anger towards the addict or fear for their wellbeing and depending on where the addict is in their addiction cycle, they could move into rescuer by saying “everything is ok” or back into the victim and feeling small and vulnerable again.

The friend then moves into either rescuer or remains in persecutor for a while until the whole cycle starts all over again.

There is another position within the DT I haven’t mentioned, the position of adults. This position is one of being real, honest and truthful here and now. It is a place which gives you the ability to identify the psychological games being played, which the addict may be in control of and allows the helper to protect their own well-being and peace of mind from an often very destructive path of communication when aiding addiction recovery.

Choosing to step out of the DT can be tricky, as you don’t want to abandon the addict, and the addict may well try and pull you back into the DT by moving into the victim position. But over time as you remain an adult you discover it is a much healthier psychological place to be and the help you offer the addict is more productive and less destructive to both parties.

There are no winners in the DT, as its destructive cycle restricts growth, and understanding and aids addiction survival in the long run. Finding help to change the way you communicate as an addict and someone who is helping an addictive person can change the whole process of moving into recovery and once your awareness is at the point of identifying the DT, it is highly unlikely you will get pulled back into the DT over again.

Psychological games appear in all social situations, they appear in the workplace, friendship groups and families and can be very destructive to the well-being of all.

Take some time to see if you can identify the DT in any situation in your life at the moment.

Do you know that one friend who you just can’t work out with?

One minute you’re the best thing since sliced bread and the next you’re hardly worth talking to.

Is there a person at work who has you jumping through hoops to please them, and then you feel everything you did was worthless?

Is there a member of your family always in the victim's position, but then if everyone tries to help they reject all offers?

These are psychological games being played through the Drama Triangle.

Try your hardest not to engage in the game the next time you identify it.

Addiction of any kind is hard to negotiate through to recovery, but if you are aware of and are able to remove some of the unseen elements of this process it can aid not only the recovery but also the future management of the addiction.

Seeking help from a counsellor with knowledge of the DT could help addicts and their friends/family members in the understanding of the DT elements……’s beneficial to all be on the same page as you work through this very common chapter of life, as many people find themselves in today, and it is possible for you to evolve into a more aware and psychologically healthier person.

Rebecca Jarvis - Hilton

About Author

Nicholas Conn

Nicholas Conn

Nicholas Conn is a leading industry addiction expert who runs the UK’s largest addiction advisory service and is regularly featured in the national press, radio and TV. He is the founder and CEO of a drug and alcohol rehab center called Help4addiction, which was founded in 2015. He has been clean himself since 2009 and has worked in the Addiction and Rehab Industry for over a decade. Nick is dedicated to helping others recover and get treatment for drug and alcohol abuse. In 2013, he released a book ‘The Thin White’ line that is available on Amazon.

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