Transactional Analysis is a therapeutic and analytical system developed by Eric Berne. It focuses on personality, social interaction and therapeutic analysis. Part of the system looks at the games people play, and the roles they assume in these games. There are three basic roles:
We take on the role of rescuer when we perceive another person to be hopeless and helpless, in other words a victim. As part of this role we take full responsibility for that person’s well being, making them feel as though they can’t help themselves. By adopting this role we keep others dependent on us and make them feel that they can’t cope without us.
Persecutors start off as rescuers or victims. Because rescuers have assumed total responsibility for a victims well being, the victim will ask questions of the rescuer. The rescuer tries to solve the questions and give answers, but becomes increasingly frustrated when the victim rejects all of these answers as being unhelpful. Rescuers then begin to persecute the victim. This emphasises the fact that we shouldn’t try to rescue people who don’t need to be.
Victims are often helped by rescuers when they haven’t asked to be. There are situations in life where people are victims, for example someone who has been burgled or assaulted, but in transactional analysis the victim contributes to the game. They pass all responsibility for their well being to the rescuer, and don’t try to overcome this oppression. Victims eventually persecute their rescuers.
Where does this game begin? According to Berne families are ‘the training ground’ for the Drama triangle with children assuming the role of the victim and parents the rescuers/persecutors. Examples would be parents deciding on what friends a child should have, or reminding them that adults “know what’s best”. We may take these beliefs into adulthood. If we don’t want to be a victim we must stand up for ourselves and demand not to be rescued. Rescuers may struggle to take no for an answer because they feel guilty when not playing the rescuing game. Victims therefore have to be determined!
Are you a victim or a rescuer in Berne’s game of life?