What Is The Karpman Drama Triangle & Why Great Coaches Avoid This Manipulative Tactic

What we’d like to discuss with you today is the Karpman Drama Triangle, or what we would like to call in coaching, the Triangle of Terror. The Karpman Drama Triangle is basically something that your coaching clients can get trapped in if you, as their life coach, spend too much time inside their story.

The Karpman Triangle was invented by Dr Stephen Karpman. He put on a concept where he saw the polarity of energy, negative and positive, and how it affected the relationship between individuals as well as how we react and connect with people.

So, as something to keep in mind when working with people is that we don’t want to keep people inside their story for too long.

The Karpman Drama Triangle’s 3 Core Positions

The Karpman Drama Triangle imageThere are three core positions on this triangle of terror. There is the Persecutor, the Rescuer and the Victim.

What Dr Stephen Karpman discovered was that people can get stuck in this victim rescuer persecutor triangle where you get persecuted and you become the victim, and then someone comes along and rescues you. However, because you have this identity locked into play, you find a reason to become a victim again.

The Karpman Drama Triangle’s 3 Core Positions imageThe reason why I call the Karpman Triangle the “triangle of terror” is because a lot of coaches out there will inadvertently keep their clients trapped as a victim to justify the meaning and the relevance of their fee.

We don’t do it consciously. But the funny thing about the cells in your body is no living organism will ever give up its reason for existence. So, if my reason for existence is your problems, then I HAVE to make sure you’ve got problems. Otherwise, my reason for existence is over.

If you’re a full-time life coach, that fee pays your rent, it sends your kids to school, it allows you to go on holidays, it takes care of your lifestyle and survival needs, and so on. The money you make from coaching takes care of your reason for existence.

Therefore, deep, deep down the recesses of our minds, there’s a little thing that says, “If you fix EVERYTHING, then I don’t get paid!”

But like I said, we don’t think about it consciously. People aren’t overtly evil about this process. However, when someone comes up to me and says, “Ben, I’ve been working on my depression for 25 years.”

In my mind, I go, “No you haven’t. You’ve been stuck in the Karpman Drama Triangle for 25 years!

Victim of the Karpman Drama Triangle image

As a results coach, which is what you’ll be certified in once you complete our International Coach Federation (ICF) certified Accelerated Coaching Certification program, my advice is if you’re still working on the same problem after a couple of months, then you better start changing your coaching techniques, or send them to another coach.

As for me, I want to make sure that my clients are continuously progressing in everything that they’re doing. I don’t like to work on the same thing twice. When I work on it for the first time, I want to make sure that any of their issues are fixed properly.

“I Went And Gave Myself A Problem”

This really came to me hard when I was working on a lady client of mine. She rang me up one day and she said, “Ben, the strangest thing happened last week.”

I said, “What?”

“Well, you know how we have this fortnightly phone calls booked?”


She goes, “I realised I had nothing to talk to you about today.”

I said, “Okay… so then what happened?”

She said, “Well, I went and gave myself a problem.”

And it just hit me like a ton of bricks and thought to myself, “Far out!” I then asked her why she would do that?

She replied, “I gave myself this problem because this coaching call is going to cost me money today, and I needed to get the value out of it!”

So I told her that we needed to take a break straight away.

We took a three-month break where there was no coaching whatsoever because I realised that there’s a problem. There’s a relationship forming that we don’t want to be a part of.

In this scenario, what happened to her was she had been rescued, and since there’s nothing left to rescue, she deliberately created a problem to become a victim again.

Do The Right Thing

Do The Right Thing imageWhen you’re working with clients, they can develop addictions to the feeling of being rescued or the feeling of persecuted. You need to be aware that that is occurring.

So, if someone’s talking about their problems for five hours, trust me, they’re just practising being a victim. That’s all they’re getting better at.

Your job as a life coach is to interrupt that. You don’t want better victims. You want empowered human beings living a great life. You don’t want to be anywhere on the Karpman Drama Triangle.

The job of a life coach is not to rescue anybody. Their job is to empower people, make people resourceful.

Also, your job as a coach is not to persecute anybody. Your job is to persist with them and get them to where they want to go.

I’ve seen coaches that rescue you right up to the last second, and then they just flip! They just start persecuting you, and they bring all your problems back up. It’s the most bizarre thing! They probably don’t even know they’re doing it, but realise that they can’t give up their reason for existence.

And if I don’t have a lot of clients in my books, and you’re about to leave, we should acknowledge that there is an actual problem there.

We hope you like this post, “What Is The Karpman Drama Triangle & Why Great Coaches Avoid This Manipulative Tactic”. If you would like to become a full-time coach and would like to learn successful coaching strategies that will attract a flood of new clients every month, then we invite you to our 1-day FREE event across Australia and New Zealand called, “How To Become A Highly Successful Coach”.

For all the details and to reserve your FREE SEAT TODAY, visit the How To Become A Highly Successful Coach page here.

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Ben is the Difference-Maker Mentor and Co-founder of Authentic Education. He is exquisite at inspiring people to share their message, make a difference in the world and live abundantly on purpose.

Ben has been featured in media such as the Today Show, Inc.com, Entrepreneur.com, Huffington Post and News.com.au.