The Scripts: Bully or Persecutor
So have you ever found yourself feeling like a friend or a loved one was setting you up?
Ever felt like you were going to get in trouble no matter what kind of response you gave?
Have you ever heard this line, “Does this dress make me look fat?”
If you say yes, you’re in serious trouble!
What if you say no? Maybe you’re being truthful…but maybe you’re being set up for a conflict. The “non-fat” friend of yours could reply back with something like…well are you saying the other dress makes me look fat?
It’s a no-win for you isn’t it?
How about this one: “It’s your fault I over drew the checking account! You said I could buy what I want.”
The language that we use is based on our personality. These are examples of people using the Bully script. It is also called the persecutor or the perpetrator. This is one of the three scripts in the Drama Triangle or the Victim Triangle. The Drama Triangle was a concept put forward by Dr. Stephen Carpman. He viewed personality conflict through a triangle with three different scripts. Each script puts the responsibility for behavior on the other person in the relationship. Not on the one doing the talking.
I remember being in the group home where I worked for two years as a therapist. I would constantly watch kids attempting to get out of trouble by blaming other kids or staff members for the unjust treatment that they thought they were about to get. It usually came about because of something they had done wrong, but they were frantically working on a story that put the responsibility for their behaviors on someone else. Usually they tried to come up with something they remembered from earlier in the day. They would try to spin the story so that they were the victim in the situation. The thing that struck me was that fifteen minutes later they would be staring down some other poor kid, and threatening unspeakable things they were going to do to them. Where did that poor victim go? It had only been fifteen minutes and they were threatening to beat up on another kid. They hadn’t learned anything from the consequence that was used or attempts to make them feel like less of a victim. (Assuming they were convincing enough to the staff member involved with them.)
I was introduced to the Victim Triangle through these episodes. I used this concept in treatment every day…all day. Here’s what I would do.
A teenaged child would approach me, usually screaming about what they were going to do to so and so, if they didn’t start getting some respect. Usually there would be some other poor teenager backed into a corner. I would ask them, “I didn’t know you were such a perpetrator (Or bully)…Is that what you are telling me you want me to believe, or is there something else you are trying to tell me? Usually that was enough of a warning about the child’s behavior to get them to stop for a minute from their tirade. Usually the other kid (or staff member) was even more intrigued, because few people actually talk in this type of language in their daily life. Think about it. I’m not saying they are a perpetrator, or a bully. They approached me and said they were about to do something painful and bullying to someone else. Their own language already shows their intended choice through a threat of bodily harm to someone else. I’m just taking them seriously…but I had already spent time with the same child as they were using the victim script. I had empathized with them when they believed they were the victim. I didn’t necessarily enable that belief. I empathized with them.
Sometimes I reality checked with them about twisted thinking in the victim script too. But I empathized with them when they were the victim. I validated their healthy choices, and offered alternative ways to think for future situations. The other child always safely got out of the corner. The Bully was also able to save face, because I was actually calling them a bully, which was what they wanted their victim to perceive. But they made the choice to step away from the bully role in the episode. It also showed the actual potential victim in the situation how to use de-escalating language in the moment.
By taking the threatening behavior seriously and telling them what it is, I give them the opportunity to be responsible for choosing which role they want to occupy. They can’t be all three things (Bully, Victim, Rescuer) in the matter of an hour. They know it’s not consistent. Over the course of the relationship with the children, I would spend time empathizing with them, regardless of what script they used. They always needed empathy, because they were working on changing aspects of how they cope with others. I was challenging how they view the world, and how they believed others perceived them.