and the narcissist

The following discussion is excerpted from an article addressing dysfunctional families, but the principles apply to anyone in a relationship with a narcissist.

Marsha Utain, M.S.

Recovery is often a long and painful process for adult children of dysfunctional families, but sometimes it can be made easier when you understand the systems and patterns that run your life.


If you were raised in a dysfunctional family, you have, for the most part, been raised to be inauthentic, to lie to yourself and others about what you are feeling and what motivates you.

You have been raised to play psychological games with yourself and others.

Although true insights about those games come from doing deep levels of process work, it often helps to have a framework of understanding from which to view your daily situations and some steps to follow to help you out of the dilemmas.


Developed in the late 1960s by Stephen Karpman, the Drama Triangle is a description of one of the most persuasive and damaging psychological games played today.

In 1978, after recognizing the value of the Drama Triangle, I began working with Dr. Arthur Melville to clarify the Triangle so that it could be used as a major tool in the understanding of dysfunctional families.

The Drama Triangle now can be used to describe the various processes characteristic of all dysfunctional families, including addictive families.

By understanding the roles designated in the Triangle, the way they interact and the rules that ensnare you, you can learn to avoid becoming entangled in the Triangle and the drama that the Triangle precipitates.


If you come from a family suffering from alcoholism, incest, emotional or physical violence or chronic co-dependence, you are probably aware of the chaos and drama that was part of growing up in a dysfunctional home.

Having been raised in a dysfunctional family, you realize that you were expected to act out a particular role in the family for the family's benefit.

You were expected to be inauthentic.

You were not allowed to be in touch with who you are, how you were feeling and what truly motivated you.

If you were raised in a dysfunctional family, you are already familiar with the Drama Triangle, although you never had a name for what you were experiencing.

All you would know is that you felt awful and nothing seemed to turn out the way you had hoped or expected.

What you were experiencing was being caught in the Triangle and having to play out the various roles and moves governed by the nature of the Triangle.

The Drama Triangle is the representation of a complex interaction process involving the three participating roles of victim, persecutor and rescuer.

The triangle is based on blame and guilt and is put into operation whenever any type of lie or denial occurs.

Without blame, guilt or lies there would be no Drama Triangle and no chaos.

Instead there would be healthy responsible relationships based on honest communications.

more Drama Triangle

go home from Drama Triangle
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