Victim, Persecutor And Savior: Three Existential Positions

The psychologist Stephen Karpman was the one who posited the idea that manipulation mechanisms are often installed in non-genuine human relationships that he called “control games. In them, those involved end up adopting basically three existential roles or positions: victim, persecutor and savior.

These existential positions are typical of human relationships that lack authenticity. There is no link based on the truth, but precisely on a mutual “game of control”. It prevents us from seeing who we really are and who others are. Victim, persecutor and savior are masks to conceal our desire not to grow.

Sometimes with the shield you hurt more than with the spear .”

-Unknown author-

Definitions of victim, persecutor and savior

Each of the existential positions, according to Karpman , has some characteristic features. In this way, victim, persecutor and rescuer show more or less stable patterns of behavior, which, as mentioned before, do not eliminate the fact that they can interchange with each other. The characteristics of each of them are the following:

  • Victim. It corresponds to those who interact with others adopting a defenseless attitude. They don’t know, they can’t, they can’t. They look for others to help them, or support them, but at the same time they complain about their condition. They put their responsibilities on the shoulders of others.
  • Pursuer. The persecutor is one who stays out of situations, at least in appearance. Their thing is to judge others, which they do with extreme severity. They point out all the mistakes and enjoy, in some way, generating emotional suffering in others.
  • Salvador. It has to do with the attitude that is characterized by taking on the shoulders the responsibilities that fall to others. They offer false help, because their contribution does not make others grow, but, on the contrary, encourages dependency.

A dramatic triangle

Victim, persecutor and savior are masks with different facets. The victim, for example, may manipulate and take advantage of others, protected by their supposed helplessness. At the same time, it nurtures their sense of worthlessness and their insecurity. Think that because you are lacking, you deserve unconditional understanding. He easily becomes an aggressor.

The persecutor, for his part, turns his own frustrations on others. He seeks that others give him certain authority or relevance by way of becoming judge and party. Learn to make yourself visible to others through their cruelty and intimidation. In general, they are very cowardly when facing their fears.

The savior, who seems to be the friendliest of the triad, needs to be needed. However, their help is not disinterested. He also feels insignificant and seeks to make others depend on him to feel recognized or win the affection of others. However, he complains because he sometimes feels exploited. Easily move into victim position.

Exit control games

Although the “game” of control between victim, persecutor and rescuer tends to become a structured situation, it is also possible to get out of them. Obviously it requires honesty with yourself and a desire to have more genuine ties with others. There are ways to transform the three dramatic roles into healthier attitudes. Let’s see:

  • From saving, to providing empathic collaboration. It is not about carrying the problems of others, but about being able to recognize one’s own shortcomings and difficulties and help that person overcome them by himself. That you gain more confidence and autonomy instead of giving it up.
  • From pursuing to promoting assertiveness. What the persecutor lacks is to stop looking so much at others and turn his gaze to himself. It can be an example of autonomy, insofar as it has a seed of assertiveness. He knows how to set limits, although he is not so good at respecting the limits set by others.
  • From victimizing to taking responsibility. Rather than waiting to be rescued, the victim should focus on fully assuming her responsibility. You may need help, but you should not request it unlimitedly and unconditionally. You must first help yourself.

The three existential positions give rise to what is called “Karpman’s dramatic triangle.” It is a triangle, because the three vertices that compose it, that is, victim, persecutor and savior, are closely linked to each other. Some do not exist without the other. Also, roles can be swapped . Thus, the victim goes on to chase, the persecutor to save, the savior to chase, etc.