The Parenting Dynamic We Don't Want To Repeat

building better relationships

The Parenting Dynamic We Don't Want To Repeat

Many of us were raised in codependent families. There are roles that are modeled for us in these families that we reenact in adulthood; with our partners, and within the dynamics of parenting.

In an article by Lynne Forrest; “The Three Faces of Victim – An Overview of the Drama Triangle” she teaches about how the codependency drama triangle works. The drama triangle has many names, (the victim triangle, the codependency triangle, the drama triangle, etc.) but they all refer to the same pattern.

This is an outline of what to do when you realize you are on the codependency triangle.

“Victim-hood can be defined by the three positions beautifully outlined in a diagram developed by a well-respected psychiatrist, and teacher of Transactional Analysis, named Stephen Karpman. 

He calls it the “drama triangle,” or the "victim triangle.” Says Forrest. Whether we know it, or not, most of us react to life as victims. Whenever we refuse to take responsibility for ourselves, we unconsciously choose to react as a victim. This inevitably creates feelings of anger, fear, guilt or inadequacy and leaves us feeling betrayed, or taken advantage of by others.

Forrest sometimes calls the triangle the "shame" generator.

“Because through it we unconsciously re-enact painful life experiences that create shame. This has the effect of reinforcing old, painful beliefs that keep us stuck in a limited version of reality. No matter where we may start out on the drama triangle, victim is where we end up, therefore no matter what role we’re in on the codependency triangle, we’re in victim hood. If we’re on the triangle we’re living as victims, plain and simple!”

Forrest explains the three roles on the triangle.

Codependency Triangle: Rescuers - Persecutors - Victims


  • “Rescuers see themselves as heroes, saviors, helpers and caretakers.

  • “Leave it to me, I have to look after you.” They react from guilt.

  • They need someone to rescue (victim) in order to feel vital and important. It makes them feel superior.

  • They want to control the outcome, they interfere, and meddle.

It’s difficult for rescuers to recognize themselves as ever being in a victim position – they’re the ones with the answers after all.


  • Persecutors, on the other hand, identify themselves primarily as victims.

  • They are in complete denial about their blaming and shaming tactics.

  • When it is pointed out to them, they argue that attack is warranted and necessary for self-protection.

  • They feel superior, entitled, and highly judgmental.

  • They use anger to avoid vulnerability.

  • They punish, abuse, and criticize others.

  • They have unrealistic expectations.

These two – the Rescuer and the Persecutor – are the two opposite extremes of Victim. But again, regardless of where we start out on the triangle, all roles eventually end up in victim. It’s inevitable.


  • Victim’s project an attitude of being weak, powerless, helpless, fragile or not smart enough; basically, “I can’t do it by myself.” They act from self-pity. 

  • Their greatest fear is that they won’t make it. That anxiety comes from their avoidance of self-responsibility forcing them to be always on the lookout for someone stronger or more capable to take care of them. 

  • Victims see themselves as inept at handling life. “Life is unfair”. “It’s not my fault.” Feeling done in by, at the mercy of, mistreated, intrinsically defective or “wrong,” 

  • They see themselves as broken, unfixable, intrinsically damaged and incapable.

  • They feel they are always being blamed, “Why are you doing this to me?”

  • They feel unworthy, unsupported, and helpless.

This doesn’t prevent them from feeling highly resentful towards those on whom they depend. As much as they insist on being taken care of by their primary rescuers … they nonetheless do not appreciate being reminded of their inadequacy.”

Now, what to do about it…

4 Steps You Need to Leave the Codependency Triangle

The goal for any of us, regardless of whatever position we find ourselves in, is to get off the triangle. In order to do that we need to learn how to create boundaries and mind our own business. Become accountable and aware of our responses, reactions thoughts, feelings and behaviors.


The labels aren’t pretty. Most people I talk to hate the possibility they are in the role of victim.

The Persecutor/Bully

  • Needs to face buried pain and shame that makes him or her lash out abusively, which eventually means grieving a disowned inner child.

  • Give up the need to be right, superior and perfect.

  • Recognize that your anger helps you to disown your sense of powerlessness. 

  • Recognize your need to allow vulnerability and your fear of uncomfortable feelings.

  • Respectful, equal relating follows, rather than the previously used domineering and humiliating approach.

The Rescuer/Hero

  • Needs to come to a place of facilitating or coaching with detachment rather than rescuing and caretaking in a co-dependent, controlling, disempowering manner.

  • Needs to learn how to allow others to attend to their own needs by learning to recognize and attend to caregiving of themselves.

  • Tend to own feelings and responses first rather than attending to others first. 

  • Live their own life!

The Victim

  • Move to assertiveness, empowerment and problem solving. Take responsibility, respond from an adult place, recognize the victim language of inner self talk.

  • Actually do something that brings powerful self recognition and self mastery. Stop expecting others to rescue you.

  • Be authentic.

  • Set limits and boundaries that enable safety and security emotionally.

  • Grow up!  

Once you accept and realize you have jumped on the codependency triangle, you can make a conscious choice to change your pattern.

Step 2: STOP

  • stop giving advice,
  • stop blaming others,
  • stop trying to fix others problems,
  • stop gossiping,
  • stop complaining,
  • stop with the self-pity,
  • stop saying “I can’t”,
  • stop doubting yourself,
  • stop doubting others,
  • stop thinking you know it all.

This is a list of specific behaviors that need to stop so that you can feel at peace and your relationships can heal.

You may be asking “how do I just stop?” 

The short answer is make a choice and follow through.

Every time you catch yourself doing one of these things, consciously choose to do or think something positive. These behaviors become unhealthy habits that need to be broken just like any other habit.

Step 3: START

Start taking responsibility for your choices, your feelings and the circumstances of your life,

  • start working with a therapist a coach or a spiritual leader that can support your growth and change,

  • start letting go of the underlying beliefs that are holding you back,

  • start changing the negative voice in your mind,

  • start taking time for yourself by resting, meditating, exercising, eating well and educating yourself about self-acceptance, 

  • start making friends and surrounding yourself with people who support these goals.

If this feels like a lot to do at once, it is. Take one thing at a time and just start.


Change, growth and healing are all a process.

Most people get frustrated and quit when they don’t immediately get the results they are looking for.


The more you practice, the more you will recognize when the codependency triangle is in action and you will become better and better at jumping off.

Trust yourself and the process. 

Acknowledge your willingness and notice that the pattern is already shifting as you read these words.