A few years back, I introduced the Karpman Drama Triangle as “The Three V’s” — the TL;DR on that is this:


We’ve got this dynamic of relationships in which there’s a role we each play, and if we find ourselves feeling powerless and getting sad a lot, we may be in the victim role. If we’re easily angered and need everyone to do things differently, we’re likely the villain in the story. And while victor may sound like the best word in this trio, please note that this is you if you need control at all costs.

And that ain’t a good look either. (It’s always just the illusion of control anyway.)

Lately I’ve been playing with a fourth role in the whole triangle dynamic (and yeah, I know, a fourth role makes this not a triangle anymore, but bear with me here) and that’s the role of VISITOR.

The visitor is less a participant in the triangle of V’s and more an observer, hanging out around the triangle, taking in the experience the players in the drama may be having without getting swept up in it all.

Dispassionately labeling what’s happening without a stake in the outcome. Noticing… without needing to charge in and make something different than it is.

I’ve been noticing a pattern in my 1:1 sessions with my glorious clients lately: I keep saying the phrase, “How can we lower the stakes on this a little bit?”

We creatives LOVE high stakes. We thrive on ’em. We use them for our art, of course, but if we’re not careful, we become a magnet for high-stakes nonsense (things that needn’t be high-stakes status, but we amp everything up out of habit, inertia, or our place in the drama triangle).

We BECOME so completely one of the three V’s that we attract the other V’s because that’s what makes it all feel RIGHT. And right now with so much wonky in the world, we gravitate toward anything that feels right. Even drama. Even high-stakes nonsense. Even playing a role we really don’t enjoy (we enjoy it somewhere in our nervous system or we wouldn’t keep going back to it).

So here’s the fix: Become the visitor.

When something feels high-stakes and you are whipped up in the story of it all, take a breath, ask yourself if you could just CONSIDER observing this from a different point of view rather than doubling down on your V-role-of-choice for a moment, and then from the visitor perspective notice which V you were in (victim, villain, victor) and ask yourself if you can STAY in visitor mode with this particular issue.

That’s how we lower the stakes.

And from a lower-stakes perspective, the field of possible solutions expands. Like, literally, our brain’s VISION for what’s available to us in terms of resources to not only survive the situation but thrive in it no matter what GETS LARGER when we lower the stakes even the tiniest bit.

Come practice this with me! I’d love to know how this is playing out for you! Comments are open just below.

So much love flowing your way,

Bonnie Gillespie is living her dreams by helping others figure out how to live theirs. Wanna work with Bon? Start here. Thanks!

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1 Comment

  1. Sean Frost April 12, 2021 at 2:06 pm

    I remember my agent once told me acting was too important to me. I denied it, of course, but he had a point: we can let things get too important, put too much on the line so that we just HAVE to get that role, make that move, whatever. And that smacks of desperation. Like acting is all we have. Who wants to work with that? Is that even a whole person–one whose WHOLE LIFE is one thing? I remember also Bonnie advocating that, in an audition, for example, we should care enough to give it our level best, care enough to do the work (preparation) and then, having done the work, and then, when the audition’s over, care enough to go on with life, having left it all in the ring. Trust that you did your bit and the results will be the results. Meantime, time is still flowing forward, so best to continue with it.

    I think casting directors and, really, just other people who are our friends, want to engage with a whole person who has, again, done the work, presented themselves in the role as best they could at the time and are healthy enough to keep on living. Walk their dog. Meet a friend for coffee. Be the multi-dimensional person we are. And that takes the ability to detach, to zoom out to see the forest that the trees make up, to take a breather, to leave the micro view and look at the macro view–to take the blinders off. After all, if we fail to take the blinders off, we may not see the other life/work/whatever opportunity just beyond our current field of vision.

    It’s working for me: realizing that I don’t live and die by a part I get or don’t get. There’s more to me than that. And I think at one point or another, dialing into that bit of enoughness willl come across onscreen and will help me get a part if for no other reason than that I come across as somebody secure, solid and a person with whom folks want to work.


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