Have you ever wondered why somebody who is angry all the time blames others while making excuses for their behavior? Have you noticed these kinds of people have difficulty respecting boundaries? They are the persecutors in the Drama Triangle.
As with all of the roles in the Drama Triangle, persecutors struggle with codependency. The reason for their “lashing out” behaviors is that they feel powerless. When somebody cannot control things to make them feel safe, he or she typically blames others for anything and everything that goes wrong.
The One Who Blames Others
Think about the people in your life who seem to have anger issues. Have you ever witnessed them taking ownership for the behavior? Probably not because he or she can often be blinded by their anger. When that happens, it is incredibly difficult for somebody to have self-awareness.
The reason persecutors are part of the Drama Triangle is that they need somebody or something to thrust their anger on. If we “need” somebody or something in order to function, we are codependent.
Typically, the persecutor is “attacking” the rescuer. To learn about the rescuer role in the Drama Triangle, click here. It’s also important to know that a persecutor has to have a victim to continue in the Drama Triangle. This is where a persecutor blames others with no accountability whatsoever for their own actions.
If you are utterly confused right now about the codependent Drama Triangle and the roles of victim, rescuer and persecutor, click here to learn more about the Drama Triangle. This post will probably make more sense to you if you read that post first.
I don’t know a single person who loves feeling powerless. It’s a pretty terrifying feeling that we have all felt at some point in our lives. When we are feeling powerless, we often try everything possible to gain some control. That is normal.
However, a persecutor experiences feeling powerless quite often. He or she has difficulty looking at himself or herself to determine the positive changes that need to be made. That is why a persecutor blames others for virtually everything that goes wrong. Are you thinking of people like this that you know?
We ALL know people like this. Not only that, but we have ALL been in the persecutor role at some point in our lives. As I have mentioned in several posts, almost all of us were taught to be codependent from our families.
Recovery from Codependency
We are not responsible for that, but we are responsible for our own recovery from codependency. As with the roles of victim and rescuer in the Drama Triangle, the persecutor role is very hard to step out of.
Persecutors often function in a state of anger for the majority of their days and usually for the majority of their lives. They can move to the other roles of the Drama Triangle, but they spend the most time in the persecutor role within their relationships.
Persecutors who are working on their recovery from codependency have to recognize their behaviors connected to that role. Once they do that, they can then identify when they are in that codependent role of being the one who blames others for their feelings and experiences that are negative.
Behaviors of the Persecutor Role:
*Explodes on others (verbally or physically)
•Difficulty respecting boundaries
•Tries to destroy the self-worth of others
Now, recognizing and acknowledging that you have these behaviors is no easy task. If it were easy to do, then persecutors would do it more often. That would hopefully mean the role of persecutor would go away.
As much as I want to be hopeful about the ability for everyone in our world to heal, I am also realistic. So, I don’t see the role of persecutor disappearing. I mentioned that the second step in recovery from codependence with the persecutor role is identifying when you are in that role.
Case Study of the Persecutor Role
Before I get more into that, we need to look at an example of the persecutor role in action. To do so, let’s look at a seventy-year-old man named John. He has lived the majority of his life in the persecutor role.
John has three adult children with whom he does not have relationships and hasn’t seen for many years. The reason for that is that they probably grew up with his anger and Not Good Enough Stuff being thrust upon them every opportunity he had. To learn what I mean about Not Good Enough Stuff, click here to read my post that gives an explanation of it.
John has difficulty respecting boundaries. So, when somebody sets a healthy boundary with him, he will lash out and persecute them. He blames others for everything.
Another probable reason his children don’t have a relationship with him is that he was incredibly critical of them as he is with everybody else. Now, let’s dig into a specific scenario with John’s persecutor role in full force.
John gets home from work and needs to change the filter in the air conditioner. He has held his anger in for the most part while he was at work all day. When he gets home, his ability to do that any longer is gone.
Persecutors Incite Fear
He comes in the house and is being very quiet. Keep in mind that persecutors can often be very quiet until they explode fully into the role. Think about people in your lives who scare you when they are quiet. You know at some point they are going to explode, and it is usually over something very minor.
As John is working to change the air filter, he realizes that the filter is bent and will not fit in properly. All of John’s anger that he has held in all day is about to be unleashed. As the Drama Triangle goes, he needs a victim to continue the codependent Drama Triangle. Click here to read my post about the victim role.
His granddaughter sadly becomes the victim in this situation. She was coloring nearby while John was working on changing the air filter. His frustration is taken out on her. Let’s call her Kate.
John begins yelling at Kate. He mumbles many nasty things such as, “Are you stupid?”, “Do you always have to mess up everything?” and “Why can’t you have a brain and know to leave my things alone?” My heart breaks for Kate as she is clueless to why John is saying these things.
The Drama Triangle Continues
Remember that a persecutor blames others for everything, instead of taking ownership of their mistakes or recognizing that maybe nobody is actually to blame. As the Drama Triangle goes, a rescuer precedes the persecutor role.
In this situation, John’s wife, Cindy, is the rescuer. Cindy knew that he wanted to change the air filter when he got home. She also knows that John is typically angry when he gets home from work. Cindy also knew that if he had to search to find the air filter he bought months ago, that would only increase his anger.
She searched all of the closets earlier that day and found the air filter. However, when she found it, there was a box on top of it that John had thrown in the closet. She tried to straighten out the air filter and thought she had done a good job.
Cindy was trying to rescue whatever victim that she subconsciously knew would get the wrath of John’s anger, if the air filter was not ready for him. Unfortunately for all who would be involved, Cindy did not get it straightened out enough.
As John starts mumbling, his criticisms of Kate gets louder and louder, Cindy rushes into rescue Kate. She has to be careful though or John will turn his anger and persecutory behaviors on her. She is also scared to tell him that he is the one to blame for bending the filter.
Persecutors Need A Victim and a Rescuer
John is the one who put a box on top of it in the closet. Cindy knows that John blames others for everything and is good at making excuses when he makes a mistake. She knows that he will probably blame her somehow for him putting that box on the air filter.
Do you relate to Cindy? Have you felt like you needed to walk on eggshells around people you are now realizing play the persecutor role?
I am sure you know all too well how this codependent cycle continues with the John scenario. He gets angrier and angrier and probably throws the air filter at some point while continuing to blame his granddaughter, Kate, for something she didn’t do.
Now that Kate is the victim, Cindy’s rescuer role tendencies are at play. She takes Kate outside to play to get her away from John. Thirty minutes later, John hears them outside playing. Kate is pretty sad and down from the nasty comments John made about her.
John hears Cindy telling Kate that she will take her to get ice cream in hopes of making Kate forget what just happened with her grandfather. This angers John because he is certain Kate was to blame and believes that Cindy should punish her for it. As with all persecutors, John blames others for everything and takes no accountability for his own actions.
Cindy is now being persecuted by John for rescuing Kate, the victim. As I have mentioned in all of my posts about the Drama Triangle, the codependent cycle never stops. This is because very few people are working towards their recovery from codependency.
Working on Your Recovery from Codependency
If somebody sets firm boundaries and sticks to them, they will remove themselves from the Drama Triangle. That is great, but the others will continue their codependent behaviors and remain in the Drama Triangle.
Do you recognize any of John’s persecutor traits and behaviors? Are you feeling shame that you have maybe dumped your anger on others who didn’t deserve it? If you are nodding your head “yes” to these questions, then you are way ahead of the game.
You may actually be willing to make changes to help get yourself out of the persecutor role, thus getting yourself out of the Drama Triangle. Recovery from codependency is absolutely possible! It’s just hard to do and requires a lot of work to change your codependent behaviors.
Self-Compassion While Working on Your Healing
There were many times throughout my life that I found myself in the persecutor role. I saw that role played out during my childhood within my family. I learned these same unhealthy, codependent behaviors that carried through to adulthood for me.
I still have to catch myself now when I start slipping into the persecutor role. In order to step out of that role, I have to allow myself to acknowledge my feelings that are trying to pull me into the persecutor role.
Keep in mind that I have been working on codependency recovery for many years. So, I can usually catch my persecutory behaviors fairly quickly for the most part. The reason I am mentioning that is so that you don’t beat yourself up for slipping into the persecutor role at times.
It will happen. I promise. Don’t give up and continue doing your healing work. As with every single post I write, I recommend finding a licensed therapist to help guide you through the healing process of stepping out of the Victim Triangle.
Are you willing to share some of your experiences with persecutors in the Drama Triangle? Have you been on the receiving end of a persecutor’s behavior? What kind of boundaries are you willing to set to step out of the Drama Triangle? Comment below as we can all learn from one another!
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This site is only intended for people who are truly willing to look at themselves with an open mind and have the ability to truly be vulnerable with themselves and others. Please understand that this site is in NO WAY THERAPEUTIC ADVICE. However, this site can be very beneficial in learning the causes of your Not Good Enough Stuff. This site is not intended to provide or replace medical or psychiatric treatment. Mary Beth HIGHLY RECOMMENDS finding a licensed therapist to help you process the information from this site and all that you learn about yourself. Visit Psychology Today to find a licensed therapist in your area.