Thursday, June 30, 2005

Relational Triangles

Warning: Long boring post containing extremely useful information.

This post was inspired by jane who made a post on June 20 posing what I thought to be an excellent question...and I just happen to be qualified to speak on the subject. It's a rather lengthy answer, so I've posted it here. Hope this helps.

They're created everyday and chances are theres at least one that's driving you insane this very moment.

Triangles usually have a long legacy and can "outlive" the people who participate in them-- when one person leaves, another usually takes their place.

There are 8 basic "rules" of relational triangles, and they can be summarized as follows:

1. a stable relationship between two individuals, A & B, can be destabilized by the addition (or removal) of a third person, C.

example: A & B are happily married. C is A's mother who upsets the balance between the couple when she comes to visit.

2. Conversely, an unstable relationship between two individuals, A & B, can be stabilized by the addition (or removal) of a third person, C. The resulting "stable" triangle is actually a dysfunctional triangle, where the relationship between A & B is "balanced" by the 3rd person, C.

example: a commonly occuring triangle is a failing marriage between A & B, in which they decide to have a child as a "distraction" rather than deal with the problems of their relationship.

3. An individual, C, cannot change the relationship between persons A & B. A change in the relationship of A & B can only occur when C changes his or her relationship with either A or B or both. You can only change a relationship to which you belong.

example: supervisor attempts to "make" employee behave in a certain way toward their job (ie: increase production or work overtime). If the boss continues to coerce the employee into the new behavior, the employee will either overtly or covertly resist even more.

4. If C attempts to "take responsibility" for the relationship between A & B, then C will likely end up with the stress of their relationship.

example: Relationship between A & B is damaged. Either on their own initiative, or when asked by A or B, person C takes the role of "fixer". The dysfunctional pattern occurs when C acts as a go between and "counselor" to both. Because they primarily interact through C and not directly with each other, the relationship between A and B gets more distant and less real. A & B are able to relieve themselves of the stress by shifting it onto C.
note: C can fill a valuable coaching role of listening to A or B "vent", help them get clarity about the problem, and encourage them to make plans to talk to the other person directly.

5. If C continues to attempt to change the relationship of A & B, that relationship will likely be transformed, by homeostatic forces, into the opposite of C's intent.

See example for #3.

6. All relational systems consist of a network of interlocking triangles. Homeostasis from other triangles in the system will tend to resist and "push back" change.

example: I think it's easiest to imagine homeostasis as a thermostat. Imagine you set it to 72. The room does not stay at exactly 72 degrees, the temperature may rise or fall causing the heat to come on when it drops below 68 or the ac if it rises past 76. This balance is homeostasis and is very similar to the "push and pull" created when C behaves in a way that is outside of the triangle's norm. Because all members of the triangle belong to several other (interlocking) triangles, this shift of balance has a ripple effect on the other triangles in the system causing them to "push back".

7. Conflict usually gets "stuck" on one of the sides of a dysfunctional triangle rather than "move around" as it would in a healthy system.

see example for #4.

8. A thing or idea can replace any of the persons A, B or C in a relational triangle.

example: A, to avoid dealing with the troubled or unstable relationship with B, "escapes" into a "stabilizing" pseudo relationship with an activity, substance or thing (C). This is a common occurrence in our culture.
note:If the intent is a temporary escape to allow for the reduction of stress or for time to process in order to deal with the troubled relationship, it can be a healthy triangle. A signal that it's possibly an addictive process is when the escape behavior becomes a repeating pattern and the troubled relationship never actually gets resolved. It's important you do not confuse this with physical addiction, which is a different process.

So you've found yourself in a dysfunctional triangle. What now?

Here is a (commonly occurring) example situation:
Someone, in the role of B, is having a problem with another person, A. B tries to relieve their anxiety about the problem with A by trying to engage you, C, into a dysfunctional triangle, rather than address A directly. What do you do?

How to break the triangle:

1. Define boundaries and wants--
Determine what you want out of the situation, and in your relationship with B. Identify your boundaries about what you are willing and not willing to do. Share with B at appropriate points in the conversation.

2. Decide Response--
Decide whether you want to take a limited role or a coaching role.

Points to consider:

a. Would you benefit from an improved relationship between B & A in terms of work or family atmosphere, clarity of responsibilities, etc.?

b. Which choice would best support the type of relationship you want with B?

c. If you are reluctant to coach, how much is due to your possible conflict avoidance tendencies?

3. If you choose a limited role, inform B, and encourage them to deal with A directly.

Elements of the coaching role:

4. Attentive Listening--
Listen without interrupting, agreeing or disagreeing. Wait until B has finished speaking before asking any questions and then paraphrase what B has said to check for clarity and demonstrate understanding.

5. Encourage specificity--
Get B to be specific about what they're unhappy about with A. Elicit specificity using behavior description, feelings description, specifics about who, what, when.

example of behavior description (vs. interpretation of behavior):

descriptive - B did not say anything when A asked him/her a question.
interpretive - B did not hear A.

both are referring to the same incident, but the first example is observable by everyone. The second can only truly be known by B.

example of Feelings descriptions (vs. feelings implied):

feelings implied - They all think their department is the most important one.
feelings described - A & B spoke up strongly about what their department needed in the meeting today. I'm worried that our department's needs on this project will be overlooked.

both examples are referring to the same situation. The first statement conveys strong feelings, but we don't really know what they are. The second clearly states a feeling of worry, and is specific to who, when, and why.

6. Summarize and check perceptions--
Summarize your understanding of how the disruption of A & B's relationship is affecting B, including what s/he feels about it and what s/he wants. Check out these perceptions with B to verify.

Note: Try not to focus on the specifics of a particular incident between A & B (the "he said, she said" trap). Instead, try to get B to focus on the impact of the conflict on them, and the patterns which seem to recur.

7. Coach for clarity and action--
Help B identify what s/he wants in the relationship with A, and what steps s/he will take with A to improve things.

If you've made it to the end of this post and you're actually still interested or have any questions, please leave a comment or send an email.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

I always knew the bitch was crazy, but damn...

my mom is delirious. I hope this menopause shit wears off quick, yo.

her latest:

mom: "when are you going to make me a grandmother?"
me: "..."
mom: "I'm ready to be a grandma"
me: "you'd better hurry up and have some more kids then, that's not my deal"
mom: "I don't want more children, I want GRANDCHILDREN"
me: "I'm 23, I'm unemployed, I'm still in school, I'm not married, I HATE kids.. and you think I should start shooting babies out of my ass?"
mom: "they don't come out of your ass. And it's really about time you got married"
me: "oh?"
mom: "you two have been living together forever now"
me: "ma, it hasn't even been 2 years."
mom: "well, you guys have been together for, what, 6 or 7 years? You know, I'm counting."
me: "then you can't count for shit; it'll be 5 in september."
mom: "well, you shou.."
me: "mom, just shut up"

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

did a bit of drinking camping off cooper river

New photo album on my webshots page.

Here's a little preview (click on an image for larger view):

Not as many pictures as I expected to get; I forgot my spare batteries and the ones I had died pretty quickly.

...all the more reason to go back next weekend :)

a mole tried dig out of the ground right underneath my bed and when I walked on the floor of the tent I could feel "mole tunnels" er whatever.
I was not impressed.
Tickles got lots of mosquito bites and I don't have any. I swam and got sunburned. spent most of the weekend sitting in the river. drank lots of fat tire. The Tapeworm and I tried to see how many 'smores it would take us before we puked but we both gave up at 3.

I got rather well acquainted with my dutch oven over the weekend. Made some kickass chili and baked cornbread (!) and it [cornbread] all came out in one piece and was only a little black on the bottom! So proud...

I made some berry cobbler and ate like half of it. Dutch ovens pretty much rock and I think it sucks that I can't use it at my apartment.

Monday, June 20, 2005

beans n' weenies

I'm leaving Thursday to go camping for 5 days and I gotta come up with some camp recipes. So far I have planned some foil packet vegetables and I'm guessing that's not gonna cut it, so I need some input here guys:

What is your favorite "tried and true" camp food?

I'll have a fire pit to use and I'm bringing my (charcoal) barbecue so I'm not exactly "roughing it" ..and I think someone might bring a propane stove.
I have lots of cast-iron pans and enamel ware.
I also have a cast-iron dutch oven (and a very vague idea of what to do with it).

**Oh, and please, try to come up with something a little more creative than 'smores :p

Saturday, June 18, 2005


I was in the student lounge before an exam and this girl named Sarah that always sits behind me walked up and was like, "do you have a minute to help me?" and I was like, "sure" because I'm a fucking nerd and I get off on the fact that people seek my help.

She sat down and I almost gagged because she smelled so fucking rank, like lutefisk and 3 day old armpit. I was actually trying to hold my breath and talk and I would turn my head to take another breath.

Anyhow, I was trying to explain the shit to her as quickly as I could but she doesn't listen and starts panicking when she doesn't understand. I'm trying to be patient and not be too obvious about the fact that I think she's a retarded werewolf bitch and I can't breathe at all because of the stench permeating from her body.

And then her cell phone rings.

Normally I would just be annoyed that she is wasting my time and doesn't even have the courtesy to step away while she answers her phone, but instead I was thinking, who the hell would want to call you and WHY??

She turned out to be one of those people that think I want to know who/what that call was all about when she gets off the phone and she couldn't be any more wrong, but of course she proceeds to tell me about how that was her sister letting her know that she had the vcr set to record dr.phil for her.

I don't understand why people like that even waste their tuition.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Art, defined.

One more final and I'm through with that bitch for the rest of the summer. I am going to be so incredibly drunk by 8:30 tonight. It's definitely going to be one of those shameless pissing in the middle of the street kind of nights. Wish me luck.

Went to some piece of shit artshow with the Tapeworm to get a bag and there was no fucking art there, just some canvas with a bunch of scribbles all over it. I'm not even being a bitch, it was seriously scribbles like someone had written their name about 400 times in the same spot and hung a $50 price tag on it. There was a kickass bed that stood on huge steel spikes and I wanted it but I think it would probably fuck my carpet up and I don't know how I would get it in here.
Oh yeah, I'm poor too.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

My God, That's An Ugly Baby!

Hey, it's Tickles' birfday today.

Don't be a cunt; go wish him a happy 27th. And send money.

...I guess I'm just easily amused.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

It could happen...

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