Karpman triangle in relationships: roles, exit, exercises

We have already written more than once about why people, in principle, find themselves in a hopeless cycle of situations from which they cannot get out for many years. In particular, we are talking about the wives of alcoholics who have similar psychotypes, about teenagers who are looking for themselves in alcohol and drugs, but cannot find them.

But there is also the second side of the coin - relatives of addicts who always make the same mistakes, step on the same rake. And it is they who always “get stuck” in situations with addicts, either trying to save them, or forcing them, or suffering from their antics.

Who are these people and what should they do to stop living this life?

This article is for those who are mentally on the verge of giving up such behavior, but are unable to do anything. We will tell you about the so-called Karpman triangle

, about a system that forces people to go in circles and repeat the same mistakes. And it is this system that includes several stages of personality growth.

How to move to the level where suffering ends and normal life begins.

The essence of the Karpman triangle in psychology

Eric Berne told us about the many games that people play unconsciously. And Stephen Karpman developed on this basis the psychological model of the Triangle of Fate. Now it is called the “Karpman Triangle”.

Characters of the game:

  • A victim is a suffering person, dissatisfied with his position, circumstances, those around him and the whole world.
  • A tyrant or persecutor is one who attacks a victim. Criticizes, aggressively teaches life. He always knows who should do what and how to live.
  • The rescuer actively saves the victim even though no one asked. He tries in every possible way to help with his advice or actions.

Game conditions:

  • The victim does not want to solve his problems, he wants to suffer. She doesn't need any responsibility.
  • The rescuer helps for his own moral benefit, a sense of superiority.
  • The tyrant enjoys the fact that he can openly point out the shortcomings of others and sees this as his mission.
  • The roles in the game are constantly changing. One participant can alternately be a victim, a tyrant, and a rescuer.

For example: a mother constantly does homework for her child - she is a lifesaver. Then she complains to everyone how tired she is of being a victim. Attacks a child for bad grades with the words “You yourself can’t do anything without me!” - tyrant.

The meaning of the “game”: Secret manipulation in order to realize one’s hidden benefits. Often the manipulator is not aware of his benefits, but acts out of habit, out of emotion. It's like a consequence, not a cause.

Reason: This is an old behavior strategy inherited from the outside world and role from parents. A person, without understanding why, creates a toxic space around himself, poisoning his life and others.

It can accommodate 2-3 people. and entire groups of people. But there will still be 3 roles. That’s why the participants have to change.

Rules for leaving the game:

  • Only you are responsible for your life and what happens in it.
  • Everyone has their own life. Everyone has the right to their opinion and their life.
  • Take care of your life, your self-realization.

Following simple rules, all triangles will remain to the side.

The role of the rescuer

Understanding the role of the rescuer character, the motives for his actions and their results is the key to realizing and tracking this role in one’s own existence. This is a chance to make a meaningful choice: to continue to manipulate individuals or to learn to treat the environment and oneself in a healthy way.

Playing rescuer should not be equated with true help in emergency situations, for example, saving people in a fire. In the efforts of a rescuer there are always secret motives, understatement and dishonesty. In reality, codependent relationships like the triangle of fate slow down development, bring suffering to people and confusion into existence.

The rescuer loses the chosen role because of the need to save, so as not to think about his own hidden feelings, anxiety, because the object of attack needs participation.

We can identify 7 characteristics inherent in people who prefer to occupy the described position in relationships.

First of all, such subjects have problems in personal relationships, which is expressed by the absence of a family, or in the family each spouse lives a separate life.

Rescuers are often very successful in social life. Their superiors value them for their conscientious work, they do not violate legal norms, and if they do, it is unproven.

The main task of this category of persons is to provide the victim with a chance to “sip a little air” so that the object of persecution does not “suffocate”, and then tighten the “noose” more tightly. This process can last indefinitely until one of the players decides to change their role. The main goal of the rescuer is to exclude the possibility of the victim becoming a victim on his own.

People who adhere to this role always slightly despise the object of attack, as a result of which their help is condescending in nature.

The rescuer often harbors rather “large-scale” rescue plans. This category of people is characterized by ambition. They strive to control as many individuals as possible. The more insecure and helpless people are, the better the rescuer, since his power becomes more comprehensive.

Individuals in this role try to hide their own aggression, and therefore completely deny its presence. A person is a living being who is often overwhelmed by various emotions, as a result of which he is characterized by aggressive messages. The rescuer seems to be demonstrating his love for all living creatures.

When the victim finally decides to refuse intrusive help, the rescuer resorts to manipulation, threatening that the object of persecution will remain alone in this huge world full of horrors and hardships. After which he steps aside and takes an observant position, waiting for the victim to stumble, lower his already low self-esteem, and repent. He is waiting for such a moment to appear triumphantly. However, such an appearance may be late, since the victim could have acquired a new “yoke” in the form of a subject trying with all his might to impose his own help.

Roles in the Karpman triangle and how to get out of them?


How can you characterize a Victim?

  1. Reluctance to take responsibility: everything that happens is either a coincidence of unpleasant circumstances or the fault of others. It’s as if life is separate, I am separate.
  2. The victim feels a lot of guilt and fear and is often offended.
  3. In behavior, he unconsciously chooses situations where he will be a victim, or perceives any information through the prism of “I’m bad, it’s all my fault,” which supports victimhood in his own mind. A person who is afraid non-verbally broadcasts his fear, attracting it into his life. Gets sick often.

What is important to know?

  1. The Victim has a lot of suppressed aggression, which gets its way out passively, through aggression from the outside. That is, a person does not directly defend his interests, but manipulatively—provokes others to the necessary feelings or actions.
  2. It is very important for the Victim to be “good”, “correct”, so the situation when “Well, I’m good both at work and with children, and she (he) ...” is just about the Victim.

How is it formed?

Victim behavior is formed in early childhood, from upbringing. When a child is blamed for something he is not in control of, or for who he is, what he wants. When the very essence of a child is rejected, he becomes an instrument of someone else's happiness. At the same time, a dangerous thought takes root very deeply: “I am bad, I don’t deserve happiness, only punishment.” As a result, the Victim is a comfort zone.

How to get out?

  • Stop complaining about life. Think about what you personally can do, say, how to start thinking if this situation does not suit you.
  • Remember, no one should solve your problems. They can help if you ask. And if they have the opportunity. You don’t have to depend on their mood and don’t wait for salvation.
  • Everything you do, who you live with, where you work is your choice. And you have the right to make a different choice if this one does not suit you. It may not be easy, but that's life.
  • Stop feeling guilty if you feel like you don't live up to someone else's expectations.
  • Don't beat yourself up about it.



  • Serves as a judge.
  • He puts himself above the victim and the “maniac.”
  • Angry at the stalker.
  • Feels sorry for the victim.
  • Self-affirms at the expense of salvation.
  • Native feelings: vanity, pride.

Why do people take the path of “rescue”. The reasons may be different:

  • Often, people who fail to realize their potential become Saviors.
  • Often mothers become the Savior in their relationship with their children; they surround them with excessive care even when they have grown up. This behavior does not indicate great love, but a desire to control the child’s life and the desire to manage him.
  • Often people who did not receive enough love in childhood become Saviors. They are used to their interests and desires being less important. Therefore, adults strive to save, while secretly hoping to get a return.

How to get out?

  1. Allow people to live their lives, have their own experiences.
  2. No one has to live by your rules. A person has the right to live his own rules and his own life, even if you don’t like it. If you are not comfortable with this, do not communicate with these people.
  3. Try to resolve conflicts without aggression.


A brief description of:

  • Life is constant problems.
  • He carries everything on himself.
  • Tired, zero energy.
  • Native feelings: anger, fear, tension.
  • Controls and criticizes loved ones.

What does the stalker do?

  1. Such a person has a deep sense of injustice.
  2. Often this is a cruel person who wants to teach his victim a lesson, to put pressure on her so that she gives in and accepts his conditions.
  3. Looks at other people as an enemy and a source of problems.
  4. He cannot forget past problems and predicts new ones in the future.
  5. He controls, criticizes and gets very tired of it.
  6. His energy quickly drops to 0.
  7. He is characterized by the desire to rule, dominate, and literally attack people.

In fact, such people experience a deep sense of injustice and helplessness, which they try to suppress by persecuting others. They do not take responsibility for causing pain to others, believing that such an attitude will be beneficial. Sermons, threats, intimidation, blackmail, moralizing are the usual actions of the persecutor.

The easiest way to recognize this “role” is to get out of it. It has an obvious destructive nature for all people. It is very difficult to stay in it for a long time. If the manipulation was not successful, it was not possible to suppress the victim, then the Persecutor himself will want to hide in the role of the Victim.

How to get out?

  1. Do not get involved in a situation until you are asked for help or specific advice.
  2. Observe how much the person himself is involved in solving his problem or whether he is manipulating you in order to relieve himself of responsibility and shift it to you.
  3. Try to understand that you are not the only one who knows how to live and act correctly.
  4. Try not to give false hope, namely something that you cannot fulfill.


In the state of Victim there is a person who in childhood chose the life position “I” – “You” + “I am BAD – YOU ARE GOOD” or I” – “You” – “I am BAD – YOU are BAD.” The victim is easy to recognize by her detailed description of her problems, her complex of suffering - alternating series of accusations and justifications, an expression of doom on her face, drooping shoulders, a sad, anxious or absent look. The Victim seeks and finds support in life in Rescuers, who periodically “take advantage” of her, transforming into the Persecutor.

Victims are unsurpassed complainers and mourners, knowing how and when to postpone the moment of making important decisions until later, or even better, to entrust them to the Rescuer. Moving along the Karpman triangle, the Victim at some stages of life can exchange roles with his Rescuer, who, “in a jump, changing his shoes” into the Victim, will for some time with great pleasure forget about responsibility FOR someone.

When communicating, both the Rescuer and the Victim pursue selfish goals. At the same time, complementing each other, both parties can always count on winning. If such a relationship continues for a long time, then mutual dependence is formed. Less often, the Victim, brought by the Persecutor to an extreme degree of psychological exhaustion, herself transforms into the Persecutor, bares her fangs and changes her role to the opposite.

Being in a state of depression, the Victim does not dare to enter into the event in order to gain the fullness of the sensations of life and form his own opinion about something. Movement in any direction is a challenge for her, meaning the need to make a decision and take responsibility. This is unacceptable to her. The victim fetters the soul in an iron cage of hopelessness and immobility, deprives it of any opportunity to develop and makes it suffer. The eternal struggle with oneself and a complex of constantly spurred negative emotions transforms over time into a bouquet of somatic diseases.

The victim is happy to be the center of attention, as it happens on the silver screen; he simply loves to suffer a little and still be saved in the end. This is how, according to psychoanalysts, a person’s tendency towards masochism manifests itself.

Her emotions are jealousy, envy, guilt, resentment, shame, fear, uncertainty.

Slogan of the victim: “I want, but I can’t. To be honest, more often than not I just don’t want to, I’m tired of everything, everything is falling out of my hands, ... life is hard labor.”

Symmetrical wedges Stars on the right and left, corresponding to the spheres of Love - Sex and Relationships - hands that create opportunities for self-realization and full development in society.

⚓ Claude Steiner: “... In fact, the Victim is far from being as helpless as he wants to seem, the Rescuer is far from sincerely helping, the Persecutor in most cases has no justified claims.”

How to get out of the Karpman triangle?

  1. Study yourself.
  2. Learn to distinguish between your feelings - they will be the indicator that you are getting involved in the game.
  3. Understand which of the roles (Victim-Persecutor-Rescuer) is most typical for you, and how you implement it.
  4. Explore your weaknesses and strengths.
  5. Work with self-esteem - all three heroes have low self-esteem and disguise it in different ways.
  6. Work with resources – internal and external.
  7. Explore what can pull you into a familiar role: for example, the Rescuer “turns on” to an indirect request for help, the Persecutor - to injustice, the Victim - as soon as the need to make a decision looms on the horizon.

The stronger the level of codependency, the longer and more difficult it is to get out of it. And in most cases, instead of getting out, you can only learn to live with it. Happily. Gradually a person begins to notice that he has “grown up”. This means that he meets more conscious partners. He sees the games that others are playing. And, looking back at his past, he realizes that he won’t step foot into the triangle anymore.

After all, the Karpman triangle is about manipulation. And manipulations eliminate the chances of intimacy and the right to be yourself.

Signs of a codependent relationship

Victimization - what is it in psychology

Initially, the term “codependency” was used to refer to people who were in alliance with drug addicts, gambling addicts, or people suffering from alcoholism. Today this concept has the broadest meaning.

Important! It involves an unhealthy emotional, physical, or financial dependence on another person.


Psychologists identify 7 main signs by which the presence of a codependent relationship can be diagnosed:

  1. A person who depends on another, in most cases, refuses to grow up. Infantility provokes him to demand love from his partner without giving anything in return. A codependent person focuses on others, not on himself. Because of this, it is difficult for an immature person to gain independence.
  2. An infantile person, realizing the toxic influence of codependent relationships, does not try to break them.
  3. An immature person is not able to take the blame upon himself, so he blames outsiders for all his troubles and suffering.
  4. Thoughts about breaking up with a partner lead a codependent person to panic, worry and anxiety.
  5. If a breakup occurs, the person may experience physical ailments due to the stress. Breakup is perceived as a tragedy of enormous proportions, because of which a codependent person feels worthless, unnecessary and empty. Only the return of a partner can return him to good health and good spirits.
  6. If in a relationship one partner can do everything, but the other can do nothing, then this indicates the presence of codependency. In an “unhealthy” relationship, it is difficult to say “no” to your loved one.
  7. In codependent relationships, there is a ban on the expression of thoughts and emotions. If there is an unauthorized demonstration of feelings, they are immediately suppressed by the partner.

The presence of at least one point may symbolize the presence of an unhealthy relationship that requires adjustment.

Expert: about the Karpman triangle and how to get out of it

Marina Gogueva is a candidate of psychological sciences, a psychologist of the highest category, a certified specialist in prenatal, child and family psychotherapy. Practicing since 2007. Works with children, adults, couples, including on issues of infertility and miscarriage.

In the video, Marina talks about the Karpman triangle and how to get out of the state of victim, rescuer, and persecutor.

Life story: triangle in the family

Elena Mitskevich – psychologist.

The Karpman Triangle played out in my family. Due to certain circumstances, I had to remember the basic theory. What kind of triangle is this? This is stereotypical behavior, where the parties take one of three roles and express themselves in a certain way. After literally a couple of minutes, and sometimes even seconds, roles can change. But in any case, we are talking about manipulation - this is what these games are built on.

Yes, I myself was in the Karpman Triangle. I'm not ashamed to admit it. Moreover, I am proud of myself! Because I was able to get out of it. And this was difficult (so that you understand in my family, and here we are talking not only about the parents, the sacrificial-tyrant-savior model has been the norm for several generations; and for some relatives, it continues to be so).

In the parental home, the roles were distributed as follows: dad was the Tyrant, mom was the Victim, and I was the Rescuer. I know very well how the Triangle works from the inside. I am well aware of the feelings and motives of the Rescuer.

It seems that only you can calm down the tyrant’s aggression. And the phrase from my mother: “Lena, dad understands and hears you better than me” for a long time automatically triggered this role in me. Well, how can I not help if parental well-being depends on me? Who else will support and help mom? They can't do it without me! They will argue as usual. And I’m like a buffer, but I can help.

I'm a good girl. Mom and I are close. I adore dad. Well, how can I not help them? The feeling of pity and guilt, suffering from the general regime and the belief that I could fix it overwhelmed me.

Yes, this is a common story when adults cannot build mature contact with each other, involving a child in their relationship. Need I say that I was unable to save anyone or anything? This was basically outside my jurisdiction. But hyper-responsibility plus the role of an older sister prevented me from leaving the position of a superhero for a long time.

True, the superhero himself felt bad inside. Unconscious sensations that:

- This not normal,

- I do not like it,

- I don’t want to participate in this

didn't leave me.

At some point I got tired and realized: I can’t do this anymore. If they like to live like that, ok. But I won't get involved in this anymore. The exit was long. And started the stage of emotional separation from parents. And it lasted almost 3 years

And praise be to psychotherapy, that now I personally feel the meaning of the phrase: help is finite, but salvation is endless. And I choose not to save anyone anymore.

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