Toxic Drama 105: Escaping Toxic Drama in the Three Realms

 Competencies and Learning Objectives:

  1. How the topic of toxic drama, the second of the four modules focused on healing in the Integral Deep Listening Certification Program, related to: 

Healing, balancing, and transformation?

Integral Deep Listening?

Dream yoga?

The three realms of relationships, thinking, dreaming?


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

Be able to explain

  1. Why understanding and freeing oneself of toxic drama is the second healing module in the IDL Certification program.
  2. The three different varieties of toxic drama and their importance.
  3. Reasons people can benefit from surfacing, recognizing, and stopping their engagement with toxic drama
  4. Why toxic drama is typically difficult to change.
  5. Strategies for escaping toxic drama in the three life domains of relationships, thinking, and dreaming.

Toxic Drama 105: Escaping Toxic Drama in the Three Realms

Don’t Fight With a Tar Baby

This slogan is based on an Uncle Remus story, “Brer Rabbit and the Tar Baby.” In it, Brer Fox is hungry, and to catch Brer Rabbit for lunch he makes a figure out of tar, puts a yellow coat, a cork nose, button eyes, and a red hat on it and sits it in the middle of the dirt lane along which Brer Rabbit hops every morning. 

Sure enough, Brer Rabbit hops along the lane. As he hops by, he sees Tar Baby and says, “Good morning, Tar Baby!” Not hearing a response, Brer Rabbit turns around, hops up to Tar Baby and says, “Tar Baby, don’t you know that when people say ‘Good morning!’ to you you’re supposed to say ‘Good morning’ back?”

But Tar Baby doesn’t say anything because he’s made out of tar and can’t talk. 

So Brer Rabbit says, “Tar Baby, if you don’t say ‘Good morning!’ I’m going to have to teach you some manners! See this right paw? I’m going to have to sock you one!”

But Tar Baby doesn’t say anything because he’s made out of tar and can’t talk.

So Brer Rabbit says, “Well, I warned you!” and hauls off and socks Tar Baby in the kisser. 

Now Brer Rabbit’s right paw is stuck in the tar. He yells, “Lemme Go! LEMME GO!!!”

But Tar Baby doesn’t say anything because he’s made out of tar and can’t talk.

So Brer Rabbit says, “Tar Baby!!!! If you don’t let me go right now I am gonna have to sock you with a left hook!!”

But Tar Baby doesn’t say anything because he’s made out of tar and can’t talk.

So Brer Rabbit says, “Well, I warned you!” and hauls off and socks Tar Baby in the kisser with his left paw.

Now Brer Rabbit has both forepaws stuck in the tar and he’s really mad. He yells, “Lemme Go! LEMME GO!!!”

But Tar Baby doesn’t say anything because he’s made out of tar and can’t talk.

He says, “Tar Baby, if you don’t let me go RIGHT NOW I’m gonna have to haul off and give you a good strong KICK!”

But Tar Baby doesn’t say anything because he’s made out of tar and can’t talk.

So Brer Rabbit says, “Well, I warned you!” and hauls off and kicks Tar Baby hard with his right foot. 

Now Brer Rabbit’s right and left paws as well as his right foot are stuck in the tar. He yells, “Lemme Go! LEMME GO!!!”

 But Tar Baby doesn’t say anything because he’s made out of tar and can’t talk.

Outraged, Brer Rabbit kicks him AGAIN, with his other foot!

Brer Rabbit is not one to give up easily. In addition, he’s not the smartest rabbit at IQ Zoo. So he says, 

“Tar Baby, if you don’t get me go right now I’m gonna have to head butt you!” 

 But Tar Baby doesn’t say anything because he’s made out of tar and can’t talk.

So Brer Rabbit says, “Well, I warned you!” and hauls off and butts Tar Baby hard in the head with his head.

Now Brer Rabbit is a very mad mess of tar stuck in the middle of the dirt lane. 

Brer Fox strolls up and says, “Hmmmm!! What have we here? It looks like lunch! Dirty, for sure, but I’ll manage!

Moral of the story: People in one of the three roles of the Drama Triangle are Tar Babies. If you try to get them to do what you want, don’t blame them when you find yourself stuck, covered with their tar.

  Learning to Recognize When You are Invited Into Toxic Drama

What are some indications that you are being invited into toxic drama in relationships with others?

If your “friend” or coworker frequently talks negatively about others, chances are they may do the same about you behind your back. Therefore, watch your reactions to such people. Ask yourself, “Do I feel like a potential victim?” (That is, likely to jump into the role of Victim.) “Do I want to defend myself?” (That is, likely to jump into the role of Persecutor.) “Do I want to “fix” them?” (That is, likely to jump into the role of Rescuer.) By all means, if you find they are attacking you behind your back, feel free to defend yourself, because you are being victimized. But work out how to do so without becoming a Persecutor yourself and in knowing that by doing so you will be seen as such and quite possibly encourage such people to redouble their attacks. 

Look at the lives of people around you. If any of them display a pattern of constant drama, conflict, and chaos, that probably indicates a toxic relationship environment. It’s a flashing red light that says, “Stay away!!” Healthy relationships can be chaotic at times, but generally are calm and stable. 

If a guest goes through your medicine cabinet without permission or a relative takes your things without your permission, they are disregarding your boundaries and personal space, that can easily lead to toxic drama. It is important to remember that some people will see you as a Persecutor regardless while others will treat you as if you were a helpless Victim. Once you understand this about someone you will not waste time and energy attempting to change their mind or proving that you are not. 

Manipulative people will use guilt  to control or influence your actions and feelings. For example, a family member may use guilt-tripping to make you feel responsible for their problems, making it difficult for you to assert your own needs. They may attempt to “gaslight” you. Gaslighting is the strategy of making you think you are crazy if you disagree with them or don’t view a situation the way they do. 

Healthy disagreements are a normal part of relationships, but if arguments become frequent, intense, or result in emotional or physical harm, it’s a red flag. If you get into heated arguments with your parents, children, or roommate on a regular basis, leading to shouting matches and emotional exhaustion, that’s an indication you are in a toxic relationship. Also, if the relationship constantly swings between extreme highs and lows, with a companion alternating between extreme affection and cold indifference, leaving you uncertain about the stability of the relationship, it can indicate instability and toxicity. 

Another signal of toxicity in your relationships is if there’s a constant sense of competition rather than cooperation. For example, if a colleague constantly tries to outdo your achievements at work, creating a hostile environment rather than collaborating for mutual success, that could be a clue. If your partner consistently blames external factors or other people for their mistakes, avoiding responsibility for their actions, they may be alternating between playing the Persecutor and the Victim. The problem is that there is nothing that one can say or do with such people because their perception and behavior is based on irrational assumptions. It is best not to get too invested in Tar Babies.

Another indication of toxic drama is if your partner demands excessive control over your life, decisions, or relationships with others. For example, if your significant other dictates what you wear, who you spend time with, and where you go, limiting your personal freedom, you may be issued an invitation into the Drama Triangle. If spending time with someone consistently leaves you feeling drained, stressed, or emotionally exhausted, due to their constant complaining and negativity, can be a sign of toxic drama. 

Toxic individuals may try to isolate you from friends and family, for example, discouraging you from spending time with friends and family, creating distance and isolating you from your support network, and making it harder for you to seek support outside the relationship. If a friend consistently breaks promises, shares your confidential information, or engages in behavior that undermines your trust in them, trust is repeatedly broken, which can lead to a toxic environment where you feel betrayed and hurt. If someone consistently shows a lack of empathy and understanding towards your feelings by dismissing your emotions, showing little understanding or concern for your perspective, it may indicate a toxic dynamic. If a co-worker consistently portrays themselves as the victim in every situation, refusing to acknowledge their role in workplace conflicts or challenges, constantly playing the victim and refuses to take responsibility for their actions, it can contribute to a toxic relationship.

 Getting Feedback from Others

It is easy to discount the feedback of others by thinking, “They are just saying that to make me feel better. It’s not what they really think.” It’s also easy to discount “expert” advice as being too remote and objective, unable to empathize with your particular circumstances. This is where IDL interviewing comes in. The perspectives you access know you inside and out because they are aspects of you. However, at the same time, because they can provide amazing autonomy and objectivity, they can reframe your stuckness and offer recommendations and perspectives that are both pertinent and useful.

 Looking for Examples in Others

Family members can easily get into the Drama Triangle. For example, an older sibling constantly criticizes and belittles their younger brother, blaming him for family problems. Perhaps the father habitually plays the Victim, complaining about how everyone mistreats them and never acknowledging their role in conflicts. Perhaps a parent consistently intervenes in their adult child’s problems, solving their issues for them and preventing them from taking responsibility.

If a friend frequently judges and criticizes your choices, making you feel inferior in various aspects of your life, they can be experienced as Persecutors posing as Rescuers, all the while believing they are simply helpers. Friends can also present themselves as Victims, portraying their life as full of hardships and injustices. This is a Tar Baby invitation to Rescue. If a friend constantly swoops in to solve your problems without being asked, assuming you cannot handle challenges on your own, they are in the role of Rescuer.

Nations get into the Drama Triangle just like family members, friends, and co-workers. When the US and EU imposed economic sanctions on Russia, from the standpoint of Russia they took the role of Persecutor. But of course the EU and US saw themselves as blameless helpers, defending Victimized Ukrainians, among others. When Israel portrays itself as a victim of anti-semitism, blaming Palestinians and others for its economic or political challenges, it is taking advantage of the adaptive benefits of the role of Victim.

Looking for Examples in Your Dreams

It is easy to spot examples of the Drama Triangle in our dreams. For example, if you dream that you’re criticizing and blaming others for a problem, perhaps shouting at someone for their mistakes or shortcomings, you may be reinforcing a Persecutor script in your dreams. If you dream that you’re in a situation where everything is going wrong, and you feel helpless or mistreated or are being chased or attacked, or you feel you are being treated unfairly or experiencing hardship without any means of escape, feeling overwhelmed and oppressed, you may be reinforcing a Victim script in your dreams. If you find yourself constantly rescuing others from difficult situations in your dreams, even if they didn’t ask for your assistance, you may be reinforcing a Rescuer script in your dreams.

Asking for Recommendations for Recognizing/Avoiding Toxic Drama

Breaking free from the Drama Triangle involves adopting healthier communication patterns, taking responsibility for one’s actions, and fostering a more empowered and collaborative approach to relationships. Doing so involves practicing self-awareness, setting clear boundaries, taking responsibility, learning and practicing effective communication, empowering others, learning conflict resolution skills, promoting collaboration, encouraging personal growth, mindfulness practices, like becoming emerging potentials in recommended situations and meditation. It is also important to develop emotional intelligence, encourage autonomy, build your social and intrasocial sanghas to surround yourself with others who encourage responsibility, open communication, collaboration, and support implementation of interviewed priorities. Learning from mistakes, and challenging your negative thoughts are also important skills for recognizing and avoiding the Drama Triangle. 

What to Do to Decline Invitations Into Toxic Drama

There will always be Tar Babies disguised as angels or innocent victims that will come along. To avoid them, pay attention to repetitive patterns in communication or behavior because toxic drama often follows predictable cycles. Be wary of guilt-tripping, blame-shifting, and emotional manipulation. Toxic individuals can use these tactics to draw you into drama. People naturally switch between the three roles of Persecutor, Victim, and Rescuer in a given conflict. Recognizing these roles can help you avoid getting pulled in. Ask yourself, “If I were in one of these three roles right now, which one would it most likely be?” “If (this other person) were in one of these three roles right now, which would it be?” You can also ask others to call you out if they think you are in one or another. This will also enhance their own self-awareness of the three roles, making it less likely they will fall into them in their interactions with you. 

Because Victims portray themselves as helpless or blameless, if someone consistently positions themselves as a victim without taking responsibility for their actions, it may be a red flag. Because Persecutors tend to criticize and blame others, if someone is always pointing fingers and not seeking resolution, they may be playing the Persecutor role. Because Rescuers will try to save you from your problems without being asked, it reinforces dependency. Clearly define your boundaries and stick to them. Recognize when someone is trying to draw you into a drama and assertively communicate your limits. Avoid taking sides or becoming overly emotionally invested in the conflicts of others. Maintain a level of emotional detachment to prevent being manipulated. Encourage individuals to take responsibility for their actions and find solutions rather than playing the victim or blaming others. Develop strong communication skills to express your thoughts and feelings assertively without escalating the drama.

Assignments and Homework 


Under “Essays and Interviews,”  read:


In the IDL video curricula, watch:

Strategies for Dealing with Fallout when You Attempt to Exit the Drama Triangle

When we decide we have had enough of the superficiality, duplicity, and abuse that is baked into the Drama Triangle and we decide it is time to leave it behind us, we are disrupting a long-standing way of living to which we and those around us have become well accustomed. Because our roles in the Drama Triangle interface with and co-originate with those of others, when we change how we talk, how we act, and how we deal with our feelings, others have to adjust. This video explores some of the challenges that can arise and how to deal with them.



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 are your current strategies for staying out of toxic drama in your relationships? 

What are your current strategies for staying out of toxic drama in your thinking? 

What are your current strategies for staying out of toxic drama in your dreams? 

What can you do to help your subjects/clients identify toxic drama in their lives and develop strategies to avoid it? 

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

How can it be improved?

For more information, contact While IDL does not accept advertising or sponsored postings, we gratefully accept donations of your time, expertise, or financial support.