A blog by Claire Standen Coaching
While not many of us like to think of ourselves as victims, there are often situations in which we feel victimised, hurt or vulnerable. It is a necessary part of relating to others to encounter difficulties, and my personal feeling is that we can get huge personal growth through these points where we are forced to look at our ‘stuff’. I have often presented the victim triangle to clients, in order to help them understand the dynamics at play in less than healthy relationships. In the victim triangle, the victim is subjected to the unpleasant behaviour of a perpetrator, and sometimes saved by the kind actions of a saviour. Whether the perpetrator is being unkind, or the saviour kind, the victim remains the victim. This is the problem with the victim triangle. There’s nowhere ‘empowered’ to go. You either move to become a perpetrator (for example, if you don’t ‘appreciate’ the saviour’s kindness, you may become their perpetrator), or you become a saviour (otherwise known as focusing on other people’s lives and relationships, and ignoring the issues in your own). Maybe I sound harsh, but I’m just a really big fan of exiting the victim triangle, you see. It seems to me, that anything between a victim and a perpetrator is a dynamic I would rather not be involved in, and the saviour role is the epitomy of being all up in someone else’s business.
So, I present to you, the alternative. Within exactly the same relationship, with the very same people, it is possible to remove the metaphorical acetate sheet with the victim triangle written on it, and to re-apply one with the empowerment triangle. Here we have the creator (who takes over from the victim), the challenger (who was once a perpetrator) and the coach (who may or may not be fulfilled by the person who was acting as a saviour). As a side note, more than one role can also be fulfilled by one person (for example, someone my caste you as a saviour one minute, and a perpetrator the next, regardless of your actions being the same in each circumstance. They would be operating in the victim triangle).
Within the empowerment triangle, the creator takes agency over how they are seeing the situation, first and foremost. I could write a whole post, or book, about becoming the creator in your own life. Primarily, this is about moving away from the illusion that you are seeing things as they truly are. It is about divorcing ‘reality’ (hence the blog name), and looking for fresh, more empowering ways to view your situations, relationships and the people around you. This is the groundwork for creating mental freedom, and emotional flexibility, in my view. Without this step, we are always falling prey to the old stories we have, which were often created when we had very little agency in our lives (when we were much younger, for example). As the creator, you start to have choice around the meaning you are making of any given situation. You get to stay curious, and to increase your capacity to relate to others from a more ‘adult’ place. This is not always easy, and having this conversation with clients can also be tricky. Who really wants to think they’ve been a victim, a perpetrator or a saviour? I know I’ve tried my hand at all three, on numerous occasions.
The coach can be an actual person, a book, a podcast, a TED talk or a friend, colleague or professional. It can even be a moment of clarity from within you. Self coaching is an excellent skill, and one that gets more intuitive and easier over time. Meanwhile, life will, of course, continue to bring you challenges. In the form of people, situations or scenarios you’d rather just avoid. They are not, however, uniquely out to ‘get you’, and believing so will land you firmly in the victim triangle.
Which brings me to my final point, which is about awareness. If there’s one thing I’d love for you to take from this blog post, it’s that you can always bring more awareness to your processes. You don’t have to be faultless, you need not strive for perfection, but if in any given moment you are able to bring even 10% more awareness to the processes at play, and to your own ‘stuff’, it will serve you in becoming the creator in your own life, and in relation to others.