Karpman Triangle, Playing Victim and Coaching

“How would your life be different if…You stopped validating your victim mentality? Let today be the day…You shake off your self-defeating drama and embrace your innate ability to recover and achieve.”

― Steve Maraboli


Dr. Stephan Karpman was student of famous psychiatrist Dr. Eric Berne. Karpman studied different roles that victim plays in transactions- Victim, Persecutor and Rescuer. Each role has its payoff. He presented relationship in form of an inverted triangle. The roles are not fixed, during interactions they keep changing ex. Victim can become Rescuer or Rescuer can become Persecutor.


Victim feels that he is treated unfairly by others and he cannot do anything about it. The payoff of this role is you don’t have any responsibility to change the situation and you attract rescuers. He will keep complaining that he cannot do anything as he has no power and feels useless.

Persecutor feels that he is surrounded by useless people (like victim) who are bringing down his efficiency. The payoff of this game is you communicate to world that you are superior to others and your handicap is your useless team. Problem with this role is a person wants to do everything himself and don’t trust others, and soon he is overloaded with work as he becomes a micromanager.

“There is a fine line between compassion and a victim mentality. Compassion though is a healing force and comes from a place of kindness towards yourself. Playing the victim is a toxic waste of time that not only repels other people, but also robs the victim of ever knowing true happiness.”

― Bronnie Ware

Rescuer feels that it is his responsibility to resolve issues between Victim and Persecutor and jumps in to end fight. Payoff of this role is you feel you are morally superior and world badly needs your advice. But his entry is resented by others and no one wants his advice. Rescuer feels bad that no one values his help and soon shifts to role of Victim.


As long as players stick to these roles, the conflict will never get resolved and the drama continues. To break this each should play a different role.

The victim should stop blaming himself and shift to role of creator- “I can do it”

Persecutor should stop labelling others as useless and encourage others to do better, he should play role of challenger -“You can do it”


Rescuer should stop giving advice and shift to coaching i.e. encourage the person to find his own solution by asking powerful questions. The Coach resists temptation to give advice and encourages the coachee to come up with his own solutions- “How will you do it.”


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