The Rescuer - Karpmann Drama Triangle

The Rescuer – Karpmann Drama Triangle

The Rescuer – what could possibly be a problem about them?

Isn’t the Rescuer just trying to help?

Yes, but in this context remember that their need to rescue is always driven by them getting to be the Rescuer. It’s not necessarily driven by the other person’s situation. And that can mean that they manipulate situations to require a Rescuer.

How can they do that?

At its most extreme you have someone like Niels Hoegel, the German nurse. He induced heart failure or circulatory collapse in patients so that he could impress colleagues with his resuscitation skills. Subsequently he was charged with over 100 counts of murder – perhaps one of the worst examples of the Hero Syndrome.

What’s the Hero Syndrome?

It’s where people deliberately engineer a situation where they can be the hero. It’s not confined to the medical profession – it can be firemen starting fires, or colleagues deliberately provoking a row between other people. One thing to be wary of is someone who talks about how good they are in a crisis. That’s because those people need crises to happen to show how good they are.

So, if someone’s making themselves the Rescuer, what does that make me?

If you’re on the Karpmann Drama Triangle then you could be the Victim, or the Aggressor. In other words, they’re putting you in a situation where you need rescuing, or they’re making you the person the Victim needs rescuing from.

The Karpmann Drama Triangle

The Karpmann Drama Triangle


What if people don’t respond to being rescued?

If people resist the Rescuer it’s only a sideways move for them to becoming the Aggressor and administering blame or responding with anger. It’s also only a sideways move to Victim, and talking about how all they try and do is help, but that they’re misunderstood or rejected.

What if people are trying to make me play the Rescuer?

Don’t engage with the rules of their ‘game’. Instead short-circuit the interaction by acting as a Coach instead of a Rescuer. Help them come to their own decisions, and take their own action, rather than acting for them. If people genuinely want help they will respond to this. If they don’t, and they just want to play their game, they’ll very soon lose interest and look elsewhere.

The Karpmann Drama Triangle

The Positive Engagement Triangle


If you found this blog about the Rescuer useful you might like the ones about the Karpmann Drama Triangle; the Aggressor; and the Victim. You might also like to sign up for my monthly newsletter here with three stories every month on the quirky side of psychology and relationships