Toxic Drama 103: The Role of Victim

Competencies and Learning Objectives:

  1. Examples of the role of Victim in relationships
  2. Examples of the role of Victim in thinking
  3. Examples of the role of Victim in dreaming
  4. Why people need to recognize and avoid the role of Victim
  5. Why it is difficult to escape the Victim role
  6. Strategies for outgrowing the role of Victim in all three domains
  7. Why and how aligning your priorities with the priorities of life compass keeps you out of the role of Victim

What is the relevance of the role of Victim in the Drama Triangle for IDL?

The option of playing the role of Victim never goes away. Part of the function of the IDL curriculum is to immunize students from major ways of falling into the role of Victim in major varieties of healing, balancing, and transformation. In relation to scripting, it is easy to fall into chronic feelings of hopelessness and powerlessness within the relentless onslaught of ever-present familial, social, and cultural pressures to maintain the status quo. To attempt to stand outside these three roles is likely to  make others uncomfortable, threaten their sense of self, and their orientation in their social and cultural matrices. Understanding the nature of this scripting and how propaganda utilizes built-in cognitive biases to manufacture consent is essential if one is to avoid the desired consequence of a complacent, compliant population, out of touch with its own emerging potentials and inner compass. While IDL interviewing amplifies both our emerging potentials and life compass, it cannot replace the importance of basic knowledge not only of scripting but of cognitive distortions, biases, and logical fallacies. 

The role of Victim blocks goal setting because setting and moving toward realistic goals affirms competency rather than powerlessness and helplessness. Setting clear goals, continuously updated and based on input from interviewed emerging potentials, builds confidence in your own re-evaluation of your scripting and increases your ability to withstand familial, social, and cultural headwinds. 

While the role of Victim is fundamentally a position of passivity, because it is objectively powerless and helpless, the subterfuge is that it is actually persecutorial toward oneself by destroying personal autonomy but avoids personal responsibility, while being persecutorial toward others by blaming others and outside circumstances for our own unwillingness to act assertively. The IDL module on assertiveness works to counteract this dynamic that blocks authenticity, autonomy, and intimacy. 

The role of Victim undercuts the ability to problem solve by feigning helplessness. Learning and practicing triangulation builds confidence in problem solving and then helps us outgrow a reflexive emotional tendency to fall back into the role of Victim.

Meditation, as the cultivation of clear objectivity, clearly transcends all three roles in the Drama Triangle. Because meditation is not anchored in concrete situations, it does not generate either awareness of when or how we are stuck in the role of Victim in specific situations, nor does it give specific recommendations about how to get out of them. IDL interviewing provides specific objectivity regarding invitations into the Drama Triangle. IDL naming meditation has the advantage of objectifying whatever drama crosses your mind, so that if some mental drama is associated with being in the role of Victim, naming tends to disassociate you from that role related to those specific thoughts. However, meditation is not designed to provide any practical, specific solutions. Interviewing and coursework in the ten modules are designed to do that.

IDL pranayama is a way to immediately moving yourself out of the Drama Triangle and whatever role you happen to be in at the moment, with each breath. It utilizes seven different approaches to doing so, and within each of those, differentiates six components that are drama free, giving you a total of forty-two ways to use your breath to leverage you out of toxic drama. 

Setting intent to recognize invitations to get into the role of Victim and to make a priority of not accepting such invitations, either from others or from your own emotions, is an important reason to develop and use daily a statement of intent. The portion of the IDL statement of intent that reflects this is in two places: 

I am asleep, dreaming, sleepwalking, lost in the drama of my life script. 

and also in: 

I am addicted to the past and future, 

to my feelings, thoughts, and sense of self.

I move from anxiety, drama and depression as I 

Move into the here and now, 

name the contents of my mind,

quit monkeying around in the five trees (thoughts, feelings, imagery, sensations and states), and

Become the seven octaves of the cycle of my breath…

Examples of the role of Victim in dreams

It is not unusual to find dreams with themes of victimization, because victimization is a very real part of life, and that gets reproduced in our dreams in an effort to process, make sense of, and integrate those experiences. Maybe we are in a car that gets rear-ended or in a house that is burning down, or about to be hit by a tsunami, burglarized, or attacked. Those are common dream themes of victimization. However, we typically jump into the role of Victim in our dreams. Because we are being victimized in a dream we tend to respond with hopelessness or powerlessness if we do not counterattack or run. Such hopelessness and powerlessness typically is expressed by being overwhelmed by the antagonist and then either waking up or shifting to a different dream, in order to avoid the experience. In either case we are left with a reinforcement of our Victim status; nothing has been done to reduce our feelings of hopelessness or powerlessness or prepare us to handle such dream experiences better in the future. 

Examples of the role of Victim in relationships

This is the realm of exposure to the role of Victim that we are most familiar with. People tell us we are wrong, stupid, a failure, incompetent, or worthless and, if we don’t have a response, we easily experience feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and powerlessness that are validated and strengthened. Those who avoid those generally do so by fighting back, which generally means jumping into the role of Persecutor, which merely succeeds in keeping them trapped in the Drama Triangle. 

Examples of the role of Victim in thinking

The use of the toxic word “can’t” is a common way of both telling ourselves in our thoughts and signaling to others that we are players in the Drama Triangle, inhabiting the role of Victim. As explained in our unit on Toxic Words in the Clear Thinking module, “can’t” signals powerlessness and helplessness. If you “can’t” make an appointment, making it is beyond your power, due to some external, unforeseen circumstances. But generally that is not the case. We could make the appointment, it’s just that other priorities have intervened, or we forgot, or we didn’t leave on time to compensate for traffic, or we just had to finish our desert before we left. Saying “can’t” is a way to excuse ourselves and avoid responsibility for being irresponsible. The price we pay is that we put ourselves in the role of Victim in the Drama Triangle, which is a lie, because we’re not really Victims; we haven’t really been victimized.

Most of the justifications that we give ourselves for doing what we do and not doing what we don’t do are basically excuses and defenses that validate our Victim status by attempting to offload responsibility onto others or external circumstances. When you are outside the Drama Triangle you don’t need to justify, rationalize, excuse, or otherwise defend your behavior. But most people don’t think like this; their lives and identity are built around one justification after the other. IDL is designed to stop that very corrosive habit.

Why we need to recognize and avoid the role of Victim

Eliminating the feeling and belief that we need to justify ourselves and our actions is one reason why we need to recognize and avoid the role of Victim. In addition, feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and powerlessness easily build resentment which encourages jumping into the role of Persecutor, which in turn fuels the ceaseless dynamic of the Drama Triangle. Once learned, the role of Victim can be difficult to extract ourselves from. Martin Seligman’s “Positive Psychology” popularized the concept of “learned helplessness,” in which powerlessness becomes habitual and comfortable, as a default life position and identity. This is one reason why it is important to do IDL interviewing with children, as it can break them out of the Drama Triangle before it becomes a habitual life stance that is difficult to break. 

Why it is difficult to escape the Victim role

We have seen how familial, social, and cultural scripting and contexts reinforce the Victim role as a coping strategy. It can become adaptive, in that it can back off the pressure of others when they agree we are helpless and powerless Victims. Once learned, playing the chronic Victim easily becomes preferred because it is functional. In addition, there are multiple cognitive distortions and biases that we either inherit or learn to tell ourselves that normally happen out of our awareness that reinforce the Victim role. 

The role of Victim as an Adaptive Strategy

In the Drama Triangle, the role of the Victim is not an adaptational strategy in the sense of being a deliberate and conscious choice. Instead, it often represents a pattern of behavior and thinking that we adopt automatically in response to stress, conflict, or challenges. It is often an attempt to cope with difficulties, gain support, or avoid responsibility. Here are some of the ways the role of Victim can express itself as an adaptational strategy. 

We can play the Victim to seek support and sympathy. For example, if someone is facing challenges at work constantly shares their struggles with colleagues, emphasizing how overwhelming the situation is and how they feel mistreated by superiors, they may seek sympathy and support from others, creating a dynamic where they are the victim of circumstances.

Adopting the Victim role can serve as a way to avoid taking responsibility for one’s actions or life circumstances. By attributing negative outcomes to external factors or the actions of others, individuals may protect themselves from accountability. For example, a student who consistently performs poorly in exams might adopt the Victim role by blaming teachers, the educational system, or personal circumstances for their academic difficulties. This can be a way to avoid taking responsibility for studying and improving their performance.

Playing the Victim can be a way to gain attention and validation from others who may offer support or reassurance. If you feel overlooked or undervalued in social situations you might adopt the Victim role by constantly emphasizing your own struggles or misfortunes. It can also be a way of maintaining a comfort zone for someone who is afraid of taking risks.

By portraying ourselves as victims, we can seek support, sympathy, and attention from others, gaining emotional and practical assistance, as people often feel compelled to help those they perceive as vulnerable or victimized.

Playing the Victim can be a manipulative strategy to gain control or influence in relationships. By eliciting feelings of guilt or a sense of obligation in others, we can indirectly shape the behavior of those around us. For example, we might portray ourselves as the victim to manipulate family members into doing things for us. By eliciting sympathy, we may successfully get others to take on responsibilities or make concessions. By emphasizing our struggles and hardships, we can create a narrative that encourages others to be more forgiving or accommodating. Chronic Victims can use their perceived vulnerability to secure emotional, financial, or physical support or allies. 

The Victim role can be used as a strategy to shift blame onto others. By portraying ourselves as the helpless target of external forces, we can deflect criticism and avoid addressing our own contributions to conflicts or problems.

Playing the Victim can help us to maintain the status quo by resisting change or avoiding challenges. By framing ourselves as powerless and at the mercy of external factors, we can discourage efforts to disrupt the existing order.

The role of Victim as a psychological game

The Victim role is part of a psychological game because individuals in this role may use their perceived helplessness to manipulate others or gain attention, sympathy, and support. They might elicit sympathy or assistance from Rescuers, maintaining a sense of power by effectively manipulating others to rescue them. By constantly complaining, we can consistently portray ourselves as victims, babbling on about how life is unfair and how nothing ever goes right for us, as a way to gain attention and sympathy from others while validating our worries. By blaming other people or external factors for our problems we can avoid taking responsibility for our actions and circumstances while reinforcing our perception of powerlessness. This is a favorite strategy of students who blame teachers, the course material, or the grading system rather than owning their lack of effort or preparation.

Another way chronic Victims involve themselves in psychological games is by playing the Martyr. We may intentionally take on burdens or responsibilities beyond our capacity and then complain about how overwhelmed we are, hoping for others to come to our rescue. Perhaps we consistently fail to meet deadlines at work and then expect our colleagues to step in and help us complete our tasks. Once we surface and recognize these dynamics they seem both superficial and humorous in their transparency. Learning to do so is a major step forward in waking up. 

Strategies for outgrowing the role of Victim in all three domains

Avoiding the role of the Victim in the Drama Triangle involves developing self-awareness, taking responsibility for your actions, and adopting a more self-empowered mindset. 

Cultivate self awareness by reflecting on your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors to identify patterns that may contribute to a victim mentality. Pay attention to recurring themes in your complaints or feelings of powerlessness. Awareness of your childhood and socio-cultural scripting is an effective tool for objectifying invitations into the victim role in the Drama Triangle. 

Acknowledge your role in creating or contributing to challenging situations. Avoid blaming external factors or other people for your circumstances. Focus on what you can control and take proactive steps to address challenges. IDL interviewing generates self-responsibility by owning life issues and the steps necessary to heal, balance, and transform them. 

Clearly communicate your needs, expectations, and limits to others. Learn to say “no” when necessary, and avoid overcommitting yourself to prevent feelings of overwhelm. Avoid passive or aggressive communication styles that can perpetuate victim-persecutor dynamics. Both the clear thinking and the  assertiveness modules in the IDL curriculum are designed to improve your ability to set and maintain realistic boundaries, not only with yourself, but with your habits and addictions: Instead of dwelling on problems, focus on finding constructive solutions. 

Break down larger issues into manageable tasks, and take steps to address each component. In any situation, toward any challenge, we can have either a problem or a solution focus. A problem focus emphasizes what’s wrong and who is responsible. A solution focus asks, “What are my options?” “What can be done to make this situation better, when, and with what resources?” A problem focus inclines you toward immersion in toxic drama while a solution focus does not. 

Cultivate a mindset that views challenges as opportunities for growth rather than insurmountable obstacles. Learn from setbacks and use them as learning experiences. As you do IDL interviews you will get in touch with perspectives that have more of both resilience and confidence than you do. By identifying with them, in multiple interviews and as homework, in specific recommended situations, you will incorporate their resilience and confidence into an expanded, thinned, and more effective sense of who you are.

Instead of relying on others to rescue you, seek support in a collaborative and reciprocal manner. Share your challenges with trusted friends, family, or colleagues, but be open to their perspectives and advice. Asking others about their life issues, dreams, and nightmares is an excellent way to generate reciprocal relationships while introducing others to Integral Deep Listening. By doing so, you broaden your support system while creating a collective, collaborative culture that transcends family, cultural, religious, and national identities. 

Challenge negative self-talk and replace it with realistic and sensible statements. The IDL module on clear thinking is designed to increase your ability to do so. 

Cultivate gratitude for the positive aspects of your life. Recognize and appreciate the support and opportunities you have. This is because you are not feeling angry, sad, or scared when you are feeling grateful. The IDL statement of intent is designed to provide an important and effective way to amplify your sense of gratitude on a day-to-day basis. 

Establish realistic and achievable goals for yourself and take active steps toward them, fostering a sense of control and agency in your life. One of the most effective ways to reorient your relationships in a positive direction is to share your five year goals and your plan for attaining them and inviting others to do the same. This informs others of areas of compatibility, shifts conversation from conditions and relationships outside our control, inspires others to set goals themselves, and encourages them to experience you as a support person who is interested in collaborating with them in accomplishing their goals. This is a powerful way to move relationships out of the Drama Triangle. 

Why and how aligning your priorities with the priorities of life compass keeps you out of the role of Victim

Because the vast majority of characters you interview will be less invested in toxic drama than you are, as you access, become, and internalize their worldviews and preferences you move out of drama yourself.

Assignments and Homework 


Under “Essays and Interviews,”  read:

“Don’t want to be dumped on? Become a Flying Toilet!”

Learning to See Through Your Delusions

Learning to See Through Your Delusions


In the IDL video curricula, watch:

The Role of Victim

Integral Deep Listening is designed to help you escape the Drama Triangle in the Three Realms: Relationships, your thoughts, and your night time dreams. In this video I explain how the role of Victim is different from victimization, how being in the role of Victim creates both Persecutors and the need for Rescuers. Strategies for escaping the Drama Triangle are discussed.



Check for study questions and/or create some of your own.


At a minimum, do one interview a week, getting experience with both dream and life issue protocols.

One week, interview yourself.

One week, interview a subject. It can be a fellow team member, a family member, friend, or client.

One week, be interviewed by someone else. 

Focus on thinking about if your life issues and dreams reflect your enmeshment in toxic drama and if so, how. Consider how the feedback and recommendations made by your interviewed characters impacts your ability to understand and extract yourself from toxic drama.


  1. Write down your answers to the following questions. 
  2. Share your answers with your other study team members.
  3. Discuss.
  4. Submit your written answers.

What is the relevance of the role of Victim in the Drama Triangle for IDL?

Examples of the role of Victim in your dreams

Examples of the role of Victim in your relationships

Examples of the role of Victim in your thoughts

The role of Victim as an Adaptive Strategy

The role of Victim as a psychological game

  How would you rate the usefulness of this unit 0-10? Why?

  How can it be improved?


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