The Many Faces of the Persecutor
During workshops, we often ask the group to describe the Persecutor role, one of the three roles that make up the Dreaded Drama Triangle (DDT). Participants often use words like angry, controlling, critical, and bossy. Almost without fail the descriptions are less than flattering.
All three of the DDT roles of Victim, Persecutor, and Rescuer are reactive, anxiety-driven, and problem-focused. We all inhabit all three roles from time to time as a strategy to deal with what we have judged we don’t like or don’t want.
When in the Persecutor role our desire is to:
These desires can show up differently depending on the situation, which is why the Persecutor is described as having many “faces.” By becoming more familiar with these faces, it is easier to catch yourself and redirect your focus to more constructive ways of relating.
Here are a few examples of the many faces of the Persecutor we have observed, and the impact on others:
The Sergeant—Micromanages with a my-way-or-the-highway mentality. Co-workers or family members fear making mistakes and stop thinking for themselves. Opportunities for innovation or new ideas are limited for fear they will run head-on into the Sergeant’s strong opinion of right and wrong thinking.
The Critic—Uses their critical disposition to control the family or work environment. Others walk on eggshells to avoid setting them off. Control is gained because others spend a lot of time and energy paying attention to their criticism.
The Silent One—Uses silence to control and punish by withdrawing and cutting off interaction to control the situation and other people. This creates powerlessness in others as they try to figure out how to react to the silent treatment.
The Manipulator—May schmooze and relate to others to win their influence. Their motivation is questionable, and they may work hidden agendas. They befriend those who serve their agenda and shun those who don’t, creating suspicion and distrust.
The Cynic—Uses misplaced humor and sarcasm as a way of subtly belittling and staying in control. This may leave others confused and bewildered about how to react and they often see through the inauthenticity of the satire.
Whatever the face, when people operate from the Persecutor role there is a strong desire to control and manage others and uncomfortable situations. This is not who we are as Creators, Challengers, and Coaches; the three roles that comprise TED* (*The Empowerment Dynamic)®.
The positive alternative to the Persecutor is the Challenger. One way to begin the shift from Persecutor to Challenger is to ask yourself:
Challengers have a strong desire to grow, learn, and progress rather than to focus on how to control the situation. Whatever face you may take on when you slip into the Persecutor role, clarify your intentions, and learn to observe and redirect your focus.
Tell yourself the truth about how you are relating, then pause, reflect upon your intention, and choose to focus on what there is to learn in the moment—for yourself and others.