The Relational Triangle

According to NLP practitioners, we all make meanings based on relational comparisons. How we relate influences how we communicate. How we relate is a cause. How we communicate is an effect. We need to understand how we relate to take ownership of how we operate and create change in our relationships.

Have you ever caught yourself mentally making a story out of something happening in your life? It’s kind of like you’re narrating your life in your mind as you live it.

We all do it. It’s normal.

However, our tendency to narrate our lives in our minds encourages our tendency to cast ourselves as either the hero, victim or, less often, as the villain in our internal stories. These roles are interconnected and interdependent.

Relational Triangle

The role we take on, or assign to others, directly impacts our emotional state and communication. If you see yourself as a victim, that’s going to be a different emotional experience than you would have as the hero or the villain.

The victim mindset is one consumed with the feeling of being hard done by, or wronged in some fashion. I’m certain you can think of at least one person in your life who operates from the victim position. It is tempting to “play the victim” in your mind, and with others, because there is less responsibility or blame associated with being a victim.

However, this perception can also be a source of low self-esteem and low confidence. People with a victim mindset are self-consumed, stuck in the past, and feel like they are not good enough. I believe empowerment comes from responsibility, so disowning responsibility for your life by taking the victim position will leave you feeling helpless.

Needless to say, this is not a strong position to take. Not only is it disempowering, but it presupposes conflict, and dependency.

Every victim has a bad guy. If you think about it, this makes sense. In order to be a victim, there needs to be a perpetrator or bad guy of some sort.

Many people like to imagine they are a victim. However, few people will imagine themselves a villain.

Odds are, because of how common the victim mindset has become, you’re a villain to someone out there. As a villain, you’re hated and blamed for crappy events in other people’s lives – even if you’re not really to blame. It doesn’t feel very good, and it makes communication more aggressive and contentious than it needs to be.

A victim feels a desperate need for a hero. This sort of dependency is not going to build self-esteem or confidence in the victim.

Being cast as a villain doesn’t feel very good. Nor is it empowering to take on the role of the victim.

It would seem, by process of elimination, that the hero is the role everyone should strive toward. In fact, aren’t people encouraged to be the hero of their own stories?

It may seem that the hero is powerful, and really has everything going for them. However, being the hero isn’t a secure mindset either because the hero needs to be validated to feel worthwhile.

It’s hard to be a hero with no victim to save, and no villain to fight, so this position also sets up conflicts. The hero, victim and villain cannot exist without each other. None of these positions are particularly healthy.

If you’re unsure if you’ve taken on any of these roles or unhealthy relational dynamics, examine your life for indicators like needing or depending on someone else. Step out of that role and re-approach, relating as equals.

Personally, I know I have had a tendency to look up to my mentors as heroes. Unconsciously, this makes me feel “less than” they are in some fashion.

Through studying NLP, I’ve come to accept the presupposition that no one is broken. If no one is broken, then there is no need for a “fixer” or guru. Of course a fixer or a guru is just another word for a hero. Now, I focus on building my self-image, so that I may always be confident and secure in myself.

If you are not secure in yourself, you fall into the victim-bad guy-hero relational triangle which is not empowering for anyone.

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