Karpman’s triangle is the main model of social relationships, during which people unconsciously become dependent on each other.

The Triangle of Destiny, a psychological and social model of interaction between people, was first described by Stephen Karpman in 1968. This concept provides a simple explanation for the psychological problems of a person.

Our expert – clinical psychologist, psychotherapist Angela Seryogina.

We all play this exciting game in one way or another. Throughout life, we change roles, play different plots and … step on the same rake. How to get out of the vicious circle and write your own script of fate?

One team

If you are not even fond of football, then you probably know that the team has a striker, a defender, a goalkeeper. On the field, each of them plays according to certain rules and performs a special function. You and I are also team players, only our matches are held on the family field, then on the office, then on a friendly field. Unconsciously, each of us chooses a social role for ourselves – Aggressor, Victim or Rescuer – and successfully plays it match after match.

Getting out of the game is quite difficult, but possible. To do this, first of all, you need to understand which scenario you personally play out.

Click to enlarge.
Click to enlarge.

How to exit the game

The funnel of conflict draws the players deeper and deeper. But as soon as you realize your role, the situation will begin to change. Do this, otherwise you will be involved in the game without beginning or end.

1. Determine what role you play in this triangle. Ask yourself questions: “Why do I need this? What feelings do I experience and what personal emotional tasks do I solve?

2. Take responsibility. You have the right to refuse if you don’t like something.

3. Analyze if there is an increased load in other areas of life. Often we choose a role in conflict by compensating for problems in other areas.


– Was it really difficult to go for bread? – the wife reproaches the husband (acts as the Aggressor).

“Ugh, I forgot again,” the husband answers guiltily (acting as the Victim). – And you yourself could not go, you sit at home all day (turns into an Aggressor)?

“Of course, I have to do everything, no help from you,” the wife is offended (switches to the role of the Victim). In the evening she calls her friend, complains about her husband, receives support and advice (the friend acts as a Rescuer).


Each of us had to be in the role of the Aggressor (when we download rights, defend our position too actively), the Victim (when we feel helpless, in need of sympathy), the Rescuer (when we give out advice).

Look carefully, listen to yourself, you may recognize yourself in a particular role.


Always and in everything sees suffering (consciously or unconsciously). The victim always finds the culprit. Everyone is unfair to her, she cannot cope with life’s difficulties alone, there is always a reason explaining her failures. She lacks the strength, time, desire to do something real to improve the current situation. The victim does not expect anything good from life.

The senses: resentment, jealousy, envy, fear, shame.

Target: to shift the responsibility for your life onto someone else’s shoulders. To do this, the Victim finds a Rescuer who sympathizes with her, helps to get rid of problems. As a result, the Victim blames the Rescuer for his failures.


His problems have a culprit – the Victim. He accuses and criticizes her, imposes his thoughts and behavior. He will never admit that he is wrong. The aggressor acts assertively, decisively, does not allow the Victim to come to his senses, explain something, and sometimes even say a few words. It puts pressure on people psychologically, and can also use physical force. For the Aggressor there are no good arguments and reasons, his word is the law. It is difficult for him to forget past problems, so he sees only troubles in the future.

The senses: tension, irritation, anger, vindictiveness, criticality.

Target: from total control over the Victim, a feeling of self-importance and even omnipotence appears. Despite the fact that the Aggressor constantly feels an unbearable burden of responsibility, he cannot and does not want to give up this role. It gives him a sense of superiority and infallibility.


From the outside, it seems that the Rescuer rushes to the aid of the Victim with dedication: consoles her, listens, regrets, helps, gives advice. But his help is not so disinterested, he works for good bonuses. Chief among them is self-esteem. The rescuer most often does not admit to himself that he is drawn to people who, as he thinks, need to be helped.

The senses: pity, sympathy (for the Victim), anger, aggression, hostility (for the Aggressor).

Target: to feel wiser, higher, more successful, more capable than the Victim. The rescuer takes pleasure in the fact that he can save others, which means that he is nobler and better than the rest. In fact, he solves his problems (low self-esteem, boredom) at the expense of the Victim, and does not help her.

The trap of the triangle lies in the fact that each participant is pleased and dear to his position:

The victim is always irresponsible and is guaranteed the support of the Rescuer.

The Rescuer feeds on the “helplessness” of the Victim and thereby feeds on the self-worth.

The aggressor notes with satisfaction his omnipotence and enjoys permissiveness.


Each role has its own clear script. And, no matter how strange it may seem, all the participants act at the same time. It seems that they argue and oppose each other, but in fact everyone is interested in the conflict not being resolved, because everyone gets their bonuses from continuing the game. The anxieties, children’s fears and attitudes of the characters coincide, and this helps the conflict to live and develop. It won’t be resolved until someone exits the game.