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February 5, 2024 22 mins

Rachel is joined by board-certified clinical counselor and trauma specialist Susan Zinn. Rachel's journey continues as she begins to understand herself and this cast of characters' behavior on a deeper level.

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Speaker 1 (00:05):
This is Rachel Go's Rogue.

Speaker 2 (00:10):
Hey guys, it's Rachel Savannah Lovis. We are back with
another episode of Rachel Goes Rogue Today. I'm super excited
because I have a guest here who is going to
give a little bit more insight on this Cartman triangle.
I have Susan Zen, who is a trauma therapist. Welcome, Susan.

Speaker 1 (00:31):
Hi, Rachel, thanks so much for having me on the podcast. Yes,
thank you for joining me, of course.

Speaker 2 (00:37):
Are you familiar with vander pump roles? Are you all
cut up with watching the premiere? I am.

Speaker 3 (00:44):
I really enjoyed watching it and also just hearing all
your insights of just your feelings and thoughts, and really
just thank you so much for also really raising the
awareness about mental health and how when we're talking about it,
I know we're getting a little further into to the
drama triangles that exist in relationship dynamics, but just that

impact that can have on people's mental health. And I
think that the premiere showed that so much of just
that dream and really the anxiety and even some of
the people sort of discussing even sort of feeling traumatic.
You know, that it was traumatic for them, including yourself,
and all the work that you've done at Meadows has

been really to illustrate the impact of sort of when
these sort of dangerous dynamics can happen that are so
unhealthy and group dynamics of what that can really do
to people's mental health.

Speaker 2 (01:38):
Amazing. Okay, So I wanted to get deeper into that
drama triangle and could you tell us a little bit
about each point of this triangle and how we get
from one point to another.

Speaker 1 (01:52):

Speaker 3 (01:52):
I think the most important thing is to really understand
that the drama triangle is a human survival tactic in
high conflict group dynamics. So it was created by Stephen Cartman.
So also that's why it's often referred to as the
Cartman triangle to explain the dysfunctional social interactions and power

gains that exist in group dynamics that involve the role
of the victim, rescuer, and perpetrator or offender and where
one or more person can take multiple roles in those
group dynamics. So the reason why this Cartman model is
so important to discuss too, is because as human beings,

we have two fundamental needs. We have the need to
belong and we have the need to feel loved, and
so in high conflict situations where there's triangulation, can actually
be an unconscious survival tactic used to needing to be right,
being self righteous, or needing approval from others and not

really taking any responsibilities for actions or feelings. And instead
what that starts to create as codependency within group dynamics,
and there's not self reliance or regulation in the group.
And that was really what happened last season for the group.
So what that looks like and what I think everyone

can relate to, is that the victim takes on the
poor me, you know, and oh, I didn't do anything
wrong and I need.

Speaker 1 (03:22):
Help and support, and there's a real helpless aspect to it.

Speaker 3 (03:26):
And then the perpetrator or offender is more about the
blaming and criticizing the victim, rarely admitting that they were wrong.
So there's a lot of gas lighting and confusion and
even bullying. And then the rescuer and sometimes it's also
called the hero, feels guilty that they didn't step in

and help to protect the victim. So later there's an
overcorrection where they need to show everyone in the group
dynamic that they were doing the right thing, and they
were helping the victim to step in their power in
some way.

Speaker 1 (04:02):
But really what ends up happening is the.

Speaker 3 (04:05):
Victim doesn't have any ability to have agency and control
that they're being overpowered by these two different aspects, and
there is an unwillingness and an unawareness of how these
each roles are sort of existing within the group dynamic.

Speaker 2 (04:22):
Totally. Yeah, when I was in this group dynamic, I
had no awareness of what was going on, and I
didn't really know that there was terminology to put on
the different roles that we were all playing in this
dysfunctional friend group. And so I'm so happy that we
can talk about it now, and I think it's so

important to talk about it early on as we go
into this season, because this drama triangle can be applied
to pretty much any movie or any TV show that
you watch. It is what drives a storyline, it's what
creates content for people to relate to, I guess, and

it's like entertaining in a way. So I just wanted
to put this on the forefront so that the viewers
watching vander Pump Rules can begin to point out each
person in the different role of this drama triangle and
gain more of that clarity of what's actually going on here.

Speaker 3 (05:26):
I think that's so important because I think that oftentimes
where relationship dynamics can be really confusing for people to
try to understand, or to your point, they can be
really exciting or dramatic for people to watch because they
can't believe that people are sort of existing in this way.
But this is not an uncommon dynamic that can happen

in group dynamics.

Speaker 1 (05:53):
And that's why it is so important too.

Speaker 3 (05:55):
You just saw it and lived it in sort of
an extreme verse than other and I think that's what
made it so relatable to so many people is that
they could relate to the fact at one point that
maybe they played the role of victim or offender or
a rescuer in some capacity. And the bottom line underneath
all of this is a lack of understanding of self

and also a lack of self regulation. So, given how
toxic and stressful and overwhelming the dynamic that was happening
within this group made it very difficult for people to
really have a lot of agency to kind of sit
back and as you've talked about earlier, being the observer
of what really happened for people to process their feelings

to be able to step back in and have real conversations,
and instead everyone was too in their feelings and too
rigid to really allow for there to be any sort
of movement, and so we just kind of kept seeing
this sort of victim offender rescuer kind of happen and
within the friend dynamic.

Speaker 2 (07:02):
And we'll continue to see that throughout. I'm loving everything
that you're giving us so far because it really is
this new lens to view reality TV through, Because once
we're aware of the dynamics that are going on through
these relationships and how that perpetuates a story and entertainment

for the viewers, we can start to understand, like, Okay,
I can see how some of the people involved on
the show know what their job is and they kind
of play into that for the purpose of providing entertainment.
But then also as some of the cast are playing

into this drama, there's other casts that are affected by
it and are on the receiving end of that. And
sometimes the emotions become so powerful that you're acting out
of impulse and not really thinking things through. And I
feel like that's the manipulation part of reality TV.

Speaker 3 (08:13):
I think you're speaking so much to when people are
feeling like they are not having agency or control and
when they're wanting to feel part of something, so for
them to feel outside of the group, we start to
go into fight, flight or freeze.

Speaker 1 (08:27):
We really get a trauma response.

Speaker 3 (08:28):
So, whether it's actually something that is a catastrophic event,
or it's something small like a group dynamic, or you
feel like it should be something small like a group dynamic,
it feels the same in the body. And so when
you're in it and you're sort of in an experience
where you're being filmed and you're being followed around in
this group situation where you all have the same experience,

and then to be pushed outside of it, or to
be ganged up on with one person from the group,
or be separated in some way.

Speaker 1 (08:58):
Or some capacity, it's the same as actually.

Speaker 3 (09:01):
Feeling like you're a Nepala in the sub Saharan region
of Africa and you've got lions circling around you. You're
really you've got your blood flowing to your heart, it's pumping.
You're feeling a stress response. You're in a high conflict
sort of situation of feeling so unsafe, and so as
a result of that in these situations, that's what really

mimics for people where you see them in such distressed
or overwhelmed over things that may not be in a
different situation when they didn't have cameras on or a
group dynamic that was sort of formed in this capacity.

Speaker 1 (09:37):
Feels so stressful.

Speaker 3 (09:38):
They may have had resources or other people in their
community or a family and friends to kind of support
them through that process, but in this sort of insular
way where this is the only you either belong to
this group or you're sort of pushed out, can feel
so overwhelming. And that's what you're really seeing play out.

And I'm so glad you brought that up because I
think that that oftentimes so what makes people appear to
be unstable or unwell, or have mental health issues or
high anxiety or panic.

Speaker 1 (10:13):
But it really is.

Speaker 3 (10:14):
Sort of that dynamic that's running that. Plus also then
having all the social media or having people comment on
your life and saying horrible things.

Speaker 1 (10:25):
As if they know you, and that can really cause
people to feel this tremendous amount of isolation and shame
and guilt and all kinds of feelings that it gets
really really complicated.

Speaker 4 (10:39):
So true.

Speaker 2 (10:39):
Yeah, I definitely felt like your alliances in this friend
group is what kept you safe. And it is kind
of like this I don't know, like I don't want

to say mob mentality, but it's definitely like we're here
to voice our opinions on what you did and like
bring that to the forefront, and so when you're at
it alone, it just seems like you're not going to survive.
And that's like part of the reason why I didn't
go back, because I knew that I wouldn't be welcomed

back and it would put me in that position of
feeling fight flight or freeze, like having that extreme response
and then once again only having Tom as the person
that I could confide in, and I could just see
how bad of a situation that would be for me,

especially as I'm trying to, you know, put my mental
health first and like have some sort of stabilityity insanity
in my life now.

Speaker 3 (12:01):
And I think what you're also speaking to, which is
also such a relatable experience for a lot of people,
is when you're in distress and you feel like you
need support and you have a bond with someone that
it actually can create a codependency where the feelings get
so heightened in the relationship because it's you versus other.

Speaker 1 (12:24):
It creates this polarity, so this.

Speaker 3 (12:26):
Bond that happens, and even there is kind of a
further word where people use the word trauma bonding, which
is when there is an abuse cycle that happens. I'm
not saying that that was happening in this situation, but
that's actually how that can easily happen in relationships where
people are feeling like they're in such distress that they

get bonded to people that are either unkind or abusive
in certain regards, and it can be really dangerous. So
your listeners, I think there are many people that have
been through unform situations like this that you're really bringing
the awareness of the need to sort of be able
to take a step back, be more introspective, really thinking

about what is my choice?

Speaker 1 (13:10):
What are what's my agency? What are my needs, wants,
desires and values.

Speaker 3 (13:14):
I call them your nwdvs because I like a little acronym.
But what do you really want in your life? And
and how do you want to feel every single day?
Because that's a choice that we can make every single day.
But when we are in trauma, or we're in distrust,
or we're in high conflict situations, we can easily start
to listen to voices of other people, especially if you

feel like there's only one person, and then that voice
starts to be cutting your voice, and it gets very
confusing where you start and they end and vice versa.

Speaker 1 (13:45):
Does that make sense?

Speaker 2 (13:46):
So confused? Yes, so confusing. It gets so confusing because
it was like I couldn't even think for myself. I
didn't know what I needed and what I wanted, and
it felt so foggy. And as I was doing my
trauma therapy and like distancing myself and following these boundaries
that I was enforcing for myself, I could see more clearly,

like I could literally feel this fog dissipating and like
finally being able to think for myself. And so I
you know, I don't take it lightly, like the situations
that the show really puts people in, like it is
not an easy place to be.

Speaker 3 (14:30):
Yeah, And I think what you're speaking to. I think
there's also a layer that, if this is helpful, is.

Speaker 1 (14:35):
When you're learning a new skill, you.

Speaker 3 (14:37):
Don't have it because you have to build a new
neural network in your brain to kind of operate in
a different way.

Speaker 1 (14:43):
And so when you first start.

Speaker 3 (14:45):
To learn something new, it may look really reactive or
really kind of jarring to certain people because you're trying
to learn the skill and you have to be really
conscious and that it's very kind of sudden or abrupt,
or someone might say something that doesn't really come out
quite smoothly or articularly because the fact is they're still

just regulated, feeling unsafe, trying to kind of operate in
a new way of being, which is so new, and
it's hard, and being conscious and aware of kind of
creating those new neural networks is very hard work, but
it's so worth it. And I can hear from earlier
you speaking of just the work that you've done and

really the importance that you're developing this relationship with yourself,
and it sounds like you've been right now that you've
been dating yourself and really getting to know who you
are outside of a man or someone else.

Speaker 1 (15:41):
And that's a really empowering place.

Speaker 3 (15:43):
For any woman or any person to really be in
to really like yourself and love yourself, because you're going
to talk to yourself more than any other person in
the entire planet for the rest of your life. You
better really like who you're looking at in the mirror
at the end of the day.

Speaker 4 (15:58):
Yeah, it's so true.

Speaker 2 (16:11):
Just to recap really quick, there's three points of the
drama triangle, the victim, the rescuer or martyr, and the
perpetrator or a fender. And is it true you could
be two things at the same time.

Speaker 1 (16:24):
Absolutely, you can actually even be three.

Speaker 3 (16:26):
You can cycle between various ones based on sort of
what the need is within the dynamic. And again, this
is a survival tactic that exists within groups to stay
belonging and to survive. It's completely unconscious. People are not
doing this intentionally out of malice. They're usually just doing
it because they are feeling so distressed or there's other

aspects going on within the group that.

Speaker 1 (16:52):
This is what they feel like.

Speaker 3 (16:53):
It's life and death in order for them to be operating.
But it is so common and it is an everyday
life that we sort of experiencing it. And the really
important thing I want to know is the group doesn't
have to stay in this. Not all groups, once they
get into these triangulations, is always going to stay with
these dynamics. The victim doesn't need to stay the victim.

The perpetrator doesn't need to stay the perpetrator. The rescuer
doesn't need to stay the rescuer. When people start to
become aware of their patterning and the roles that they're playing,
and they're consciously making different choices to set healthy boundaries,
to correct those patterns, to articulate their feelings and emotions,

to develop more sense of self, then we can start
to create what's called like an empowerment dynamic where it
shifts from being that drama triangle to an empowerment where
there's really a lot of healing that can happen within
the group. And so that can really look like where
the victim becomes the creator of their lives, where there's

agency and control, where they feel that they are choosing the.

Speaker 1 (17:59):
Life that they want to live.

Speaker 3 (18:00):
The perpetrator could even be creating and be thought of
as more of where there's a challenge and within the
group dynamic, and that by them voicing their opinions and
not being stuck on outcomes of their goals can really
also ship that dynamic within the group. And then also
the rescuer can be a coach rather than enabling the

victim to not allow them to take agency of their life.

Speaker 1 (18:28):
So every group dynamic has the ability to heal. Every
group dynamic has the.

Speaker 3 (18:33):
Ability to work through conflicts and get on the other
side of being healthier and happier. But it's a choice
the group has to make when there's consciousness and awareness,
and so you'll decide. I think that we're all kind
of wait to see whether or not you decide to
go back to this group where there is an empowerment

dynamic that's shifted based on the work that you've done.
Because once one person changes within the group, or many do,
the group can no longer exist is the way that
it used to.

Speaker 1 (19:05):
And so that can be really.

Speaker 3 (19:06):
Exciting for a lot of people and hopeful because we're
never stagnant. We're always growing and changing and becoming new
versions of ourselves.

Speaker 1 (19:13):
But we've got to choose that.

Speaker 4 (19:15):
Yeah, I love that so much.

Speaker 2 (19:18):
The victim becomes the creator, the offender becomes the challenger,
letting go of the outcomes, and the rescuer becomes the coach.
I think that is so empowering. And as I've been
reflecting on my own role in this and knowing that,

like I'm starting my own podcast, and you know, I
am kind of like dipping my toe back into the
drama by commenting on what I'm seeing. And my purpose
for doing that isn't to just like be in the
drama necessarily. The purpose for me like identified myself as

the rescuer and the way that I want to create
a healthier environment for people watching reality TV. I want
to be a part of creating ethical reality TV. And
I think a part of that is educating people who
are watching these shows about what we're actually consuming. And

so I love how you said like the victim becomes
the creator, because I feel like by doing this podcast,
I have created something and I have a vision and
so you know, I'm taking action as a coach in
educating and this is obviously a challenge for me in

so many different ways, and I'm not stuck on outcomes.
I'm doing my part and I'm learning to let go
and whatever happens happens, and there's such freedom in that.

Speaker 3 (20:56):
I'm so excited for you. And I think the one
advice I would give you is where we get stuck
is we have sixty thousand thoughts every single day. Eighty
percent of them are negative and ninety five are repetitive.
So when we get into these habits and behaviors, we
have to really be conscious. And the easiest and simplest
way for us to make a conscious choice about becoming

the creator of our lives or becoming the educator or
helping people in a different way understanding the importance of
mental health and how we're actually showing up in order
to have not only taking care of our physical bodies
but also our mental health as well, is by literally
starting to focus on your heart and putting your hands

on your heart and speaking from that place. I think
it can either be a protector if you're feeling a
little uncomfortable, or really reminding you that the heart beats
before the brain. And so when you're actually operating from
that place, you're never going to get it wrong because
you're speaking from truth, you're speaking from kindness, you're speaking
from your authentic self and your voice, and that's just

going to vibrate through everything that you do. And that's
so exciting and I'm so happy for you to see
that unfold for you and this growth, because we have
to remember, on the other side of trauma or suffering
is always joy, and that's the journey that you're on
right now, and I think you're taking everyone with you,
which is really exciting.

Speaker 2 (22:20):
Yea, it is very exciting. Thank you for being a
part of it as well.

Speaker 3 (22:25):
Oh, I'm my pleasure and I'll be championing you and
can't wait to see what you're doing and if I
can help you in any way, I know that I'm here.

Speaker 2 (22:32):
Thank you, Susan
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