The Boss Show

Workplace wisdom with heart and humor

June 19, 2016

Escaping Victimhood

At work, what do you complain about — your boss? overwork? low pay? deadlines? … maybe the very fact that you have to go to work? In the second of two parts, David Emerald, author of The Power of TED*, explores with Jim & Steve how to avoid the debilitating trap of victimhood and take responsibility for creating possibilities.

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Speaker 1: It’s a Northwest Lifestyle Weekend on KOMO News. Now, a show for anyone who is or has a boss. This is the Boss Show with Jim Hessler and Steve Motenko.


Steve: Hey there. Welcome to the Boss Show. I’m Steve Motenko. I am known, at least in this context as the “Psychology Guy,” because of my long-term study of human development, and my degree from Harvard in that subject. I’m an executive coach and a leadership development guy here in the Puget Sound, and across from me is …


Jim: My name’s Jim.


Steve: Hi, Jim.


Jim: Jim Hessler, I’m “The Business Guy,” which means I have a complete lack of self-awareness. I’m greedy and I have no idea of anything about human behavior.


Steve: At least you’re self aware about your lack of self-awareness, something I’ve been working on with you for a long time.


Jim: I was the founder of Path Forward Leadership Development, and along with my partner Steve, we wrote a book called, Land On Your Feet, Not On Your Face. Good book. We know where you can get a copy if you need one. It’s on Amazon, which you may have heard of.


Steve: Right. That place. You can also go to our website,, but you can’t find the book there.


Jim: No. You can listen to our podcasts.


Steve: Right, but you can go to our website, and you can find the book there.


Jim: Yes, you can, and you can see that we have highly recommended the book of the gentleman who is our guest on today’s show.


Steve: What a segue. What a segue.


Jim: I like it. I’m smooth.


Steve: Let’s get to it. We have in studio with us David Emerald Womeldorff, who under the pen name David Emerald wrote the book, The Power of TED*, that Jim and I are both huge fans of. If you’re a dedicated fan of this show, you know that we never introduce our guest until segment two. Jim and I always play in segment one. This is an exception today, and the reason is that we think that this material is so powerful that we want to get right to it, despite the kind of inane banter that we’ve been [inaudible 00:01:53] two minutes, so let’s get into it. David, welcome back.


David: Delighted to be here again.


Steve: Let’s briefly review the drama triangle that we talked about last week. We know what people say about listener’s attention spans, so let’s briefly review the Karpman Drama Triangle all centering around this notion of victimhood or the victim mentality.


David: Right, so the three roles, the central role you just mentioned is victim. In order to be a victim, one must have a persecutor. Once the dynamic gets set up between the victim and persecutor, a rescuer either inserts themselves or is either hoped for or looked for by the victim. As I said in the last show, the reality is we all play all three roles and can shift between them very quickly. I might also add very quickly that in the book we refer to the Drama Triangle as the Dreaded Drama Triangle with the initials of DDT, because of the toxic nature of the relationship roles and dynamics.


Jim: It’s a really good book and it’s a story. It’s a fable book, so it really pulls you along. It’s one of those books you’re going to want to read pretty much entirely in one sitting. It’s really that kind of book.


Steve: Then probably re-read, because the concepts are so profound in it.


David: I appreciate that.


Steve: As we mentioned in the first episode, this notion of victimhood is core to human development, and we all play victims in certain ways, whether it’s to traffic, or weather, or to a bad boss, or to a deadline in front of us, or our workload. We all complain. There are very few of us who are above complaining, and when you complain, you’re being a victim, as we mentioned in the first episode. You have a choice here, and that’s really what we want to focus our part 2 today on, is the choice that you have to move out of that victim role, as well as the choice that you have to both move out of the other two roles, the persecutor and rescuer role, and to regard other people as not persecutors and rescuers, but as healthier influences. All of that is what we want to get into as we go forward in this show. Before we get there, David, your website is?




Steve: Okay. What will people find there? Will they find resources?


David: They’ll find a lot of resources. They’re downloadable PDFs. There are a number of videos, and as we’re going to be talking about, there are some hints around how to escape the Dreaded Drama Triangle and move into TED, which stands for The Empowerment Dynamic.


Steve: We’ll get into The Empowerment Dynamic when we come back from the break. Sometimes my tongue moves too fast for my brain.


Jim: You’re a victim of your own tongue.


Steve: Exactly. Exactly. I’m just a victim here. I’m just a victim. Stay with us. We’ll look at the three antidote roles to the Drama Triangle. You’re listening to The Boss Show.


Speaker 1: It’s a Northwest Lifestyle Weekend on KOMO News. The Boss Shows continues.


Jim: Hi, I’m Jim Hessler. I’m The Business Guy. We have a listener line 206-973-7377, 206-973-7377. Call us. Leave a message. Tell us what you want us to talk about. Tell us we’re full of it, whatever you want to say. We want to hear from you.


Steve: We really love to hear from you. We really love those calls. Keep the calls and letters coming (that dates us). Speaking of letters, in case you use this new-fangled thing called electronic mail, our address is, if you’d rather not call. We have in studio, David Emerald, author of “The Power of TED,” which is all about escaping from or maybe transforming the victim role that so many of us find ourselves taking on whether we want to or not, and creating a more proactive, more responsible stance towards life as a result of it. David, the role of victim. We’ve covered it pretty well, I think, in part 1 of our 2 part series, and also in the last segment. To transform out of victimhood, we want to become what?


David: You want to become a creator. It really involves a shift of mind in order to do that. We often refer to this work as about upgrading our internal operating system from an operating system that is problem focused, anxiety or fear based, and reactive in nature, which is a victim orientation, to a creator orientation, which is focused on outcomes that we care about. It taps into our inner state of passion and then drives our behavior. As we upgrade our mind set, and make that conscious choice to transcend or move beyond our sense of victimization, the basic move is from the role of victim to the role of creator.


Steve: Okay, so devil’s advocate here. I’m stuck in traffic. I’m late for a meeting. You know, I’m a victim to the traffic. I’m stuck. There’s no place I can go. I can’t even take the exit because the exit is 10 minutes away, when I’m crawling at 2 miles an hour.


Jim: The darn Washington State Department of Transportation has their head, you know where, and can’t figure out how to get the traffic moving. It’s all their fault. It’s not our fault for driving cars. It’s their fault for not having enough highways for us to drive them on.


Steve: How do I get out of, in that moment, how do I get out of the victim role?


David: I’ll answer that, but first let me say that the characteristics of the creator, there are two primary characteristics. One is the capacity to envision and to create outcomes in our lives. The second, which is relevant to your question, is owning my capability and responsibility to choice my response to the situation that I find myself in.


Steve: I want you to say that again, because its so freakin’ important.


David: It is very important. It’s being able and having the responsibility and capability to choose our response to the situations we find ourselves in.


Steve: The critical distinction is, there’s an external influence that we may in fact be victims of, but the external influence does not have to absolutely drive my response to it?


David: Right. To play off that situation, I may be stuck in traffic or I see that this is going to take much longer than I thought it would, what do I choose to do with the extra time? Do I want to call someone, on my hands-free device?


Steve: Of course.


David: Do I want to call someone and have a conversation. Do I want to turn to some music that will really soothe me? That I’ve got choices. It may be a narrow range of choices. It may a large range of choices, but as a creator, I am always at choice as to how I respond. Although I won’t repeat it, last week when we talked we talked about Viktor Frankl and his ability to choose his response even in Nazi concentration camps. If he can choose his response in that situation, we can choose our response when we’re sitting in traffic.


Jim: One of the things I’ve chosen to do in traffic recently, is actually to think compassionate thoughts about the other people that are in that traffic jam with me.


David: As a creator, you are literally creating those thoughts.


Jim: Yes, absolutely.


Speaker 1: Meditation. You’ve talked to me Jim about using driving as a meditative exercise. Being absolutely present with what’s in front of you, which is really, some people might think, you shouldn’t meditate when you drive. In a way, that’s what you should be doing. You should be fully present in every moment.


Jim: Let the tail lights of the car in front of you be a trigger for you to be mindful and compassionate in that circumstance.


David: So you can choose your response.


Steve: Yes, and there may be no greater message in life than those several words. When we come back, we’ll talk about, we mentioned in the previous episode how the victim is dependent on other roles, persecutor and rescuer, so the creator also is interdependent with the roles of the empowerment dynamic triangle. You’re listening to The Boss Show.


Speaker 1: Now back to Jim Hessler and Steve Motenko. This is The Boss Show on KOMO News.


Jim: Hi, I’m Jim Hessler. I’m the Business Guy.


Speaker 1: I’m Steve Motenko, I’m the Psychology Guy. We have in studio with us, David Emerald, author of “The Power of TED.” We’re talking before the break about the antedote to the victim role and in his book, David calls that anecdote the role of creator. Now, the victim in the Drama Triangle, the original model from psychologist Stanley Karpman in the late 1960s, the victim was dependent on you had to have a persecutor. What does that persecutor turn into in your new healthier triangle?


David: Turns into the role of challenger, and before I describe that, I just want to highlight, before the break you mentioned the interdependence of the roles in The Empowerment Dynamic, and that is a great use of the word interdependent. As you just described in the Drama Triangle, the DDT, it’s a dependency role. They depend on one and other to stay in that drama.


Steve: You can’t be a victim if you don’t have a persecutor, whether it’s a person, or condition, or [crosstalk 00:11:28].


Jim: It’s interesting that you say that. We were also moving from dependency to interdependency, which is also a powerful life changing paradigm, as well.


David: The role of challenger, if I’ve adopted a creator orientation, and I really seek to be in that creator mindset, when stuff happens in life, and stuff does happen, whether it’s person, condition, or circumstance, I can look upon that situation as a challenger for me to learn from that may spark growth and development. May cause me to get up on the balcony and do some reflection on what has this occurred in my life to allow me to learn, grow, and develop.


Steve: Your choosing your response, as you said before the break, in the previous segment, so that if I am seeing myself as a victim, then I see something or someone as the persecutor, I can choose my response and reframe that exact same situation or person as a challenger. How am I going to meet this challenge as opposed to, whoa is me, for being under the thumb of the challenger.


David: Exactly. Let me give a different facet of the challenger role, which is my being a challenger to you. I can as a creator choose my response to a challenger that shows up in my life, but also I can step into the challenger role, and challenge you from a learning intent, not from what I call looking good intent, that’s going to set you up for being a persecutor, but a learning intent. I may challenge you around an issue, so as a boss, I may give you a project that I know is really going to stretch you, and that you might not be really thrilled about, but I’m doing it from a learning intention, and trying to build you up, rather than persecutors try to be one up or to put the other person down.


Jim: In our workshops, we ask people to identify what they need to work on, and it’s amazing how many of them say that they need to work on this challenging aspect of their leadership. It’s hard to get comfortable being a challenger to other people, because you’re afraid you’re going to turn them into a victim when you do that. You’re afraid they’re going to think poorly of you for challenging in that way.


David: What I would say the key question, the essential question to ask yourself before you issue whatever the challenging statement or the challenge is, what is my intention? Is my intention a learning intent? Then I’m quite likely going to be to show up as a challenger. If it’s to be right, to be the hero, to look good, again, I run the risk of showing up as a persecutor.


Jim: Really well said. Really well said.


Steve: One way that I frame the role of challenger, is requesting that someone step up to their own highest potential, and holding that vision for the person. That could be the role of challenger. When we come back, the third of the three interdependent empowerment dynamic roles, the role of coach. It’s The Boss Show.


Speaker 5: KOMO News. The Boss Show is back on our Northwest Lifestyle Weekend. Here’s Jim Hessler and Steve Motenko.


Steve: Welcome back to The Boss Show. Thanks for staying with us. I’m Steve Motenko, I’m the Psychology Guy.


Jim: I’m Jim Hessler, The Business Guy. We’re talking to David Emerald today, the author of a really life changing book. It’s called “The Power of TED,” and we would like to just point out that your work life can be much better if you embrace The Power of TED. If you read the book, and it really can change a lot of things for you that’ll make your work experience a lot more vital, and engaging, and positive.


Steve: And productive, as well.


Jim: And productive. Yeah. David, we’re finishing out now the last point on The Empowerment Dynamic, which is, what was formerly called, the rescuer, in Karpman’s Drama Triangle. What are we going to call that in The Empowerment Dynamic?


David: It’s still a helping role, because the rescuer very often comes from the intention of being helpful, so the anecdote to the role of rescuer is the role of coach.


Speaker 1: As we mentioned in the last episode, the problem with the rescuer, the helpful rescuer role, is that quite often it disempowers the individual being rescued, and keeps them as victim. In order to turn that on it’s head, what does the coach do?


David: The coach really holds the person that they’re supporting as a creator in their own right. Meaning that they are, ultimately, ultimately capable and resourceful, and that the person that they’re supporting, is also ultimately responsible for the choices that they make, and the consequences of those choices. As a coach, I support a creator by frankly asking questions. You know this as an executive coach yourself.


Steve: As do you as an executive coach yourself.


David: But to ask questions around, for instance, what is the outcome that you want to create, and if you had it, how would you know it, and let’s spend some time envisioning, or to me there are three major areas. The second might be, let’s step back and look at the current reality that you’re facing, and what’s going on in current reality that supports what you want to create, and what’s going on in current reality that’s inhibiting or getting in the way of what you want to create. What kinds of problems do you need to solve in service to outcome?


Then third, very importantly, area of inquiry, is what in “The Power of TED” we call baby steps, but what are some small steps that you can take to really begin to move toward and to bring to fruition what you want to create. What do you want? What’s your current reality? Where do you want to go? What are you committed to doing next? Really is the frame within in which the coach asks good, powerful self-reflective questions.


Steve: It’s a familiar process to me.


Jim: I’ll talk from the perspective of a person who doesn’t have the official coach certification, and I’ve actually had coaches that I’ve worked with in the past.


Steve: And you’ve also done a tremendous amount of kind of unofficial coaching or mentoring yourself with executives.


Jim: Yeah. At the core, there’s this, what can you do about it question. This kind of thing that I think, I’m pretty proud that I think we taught our children at an early age, so what are you going to do about it? I remember one time our daughter came home, and said “My teacher hates me.” Total victim statement, and me and my wife said, “Well, let’s talk about your behavior in the classroom. Let’s talk about what you might be doing that might be frustrating her. Why do you think she seems angry to you?


David: Those are current reality questions.


Jim: Those are current reality questions, and it’s so much better than, “Okay, we’re going to have a conference with the teacher and tell her what for.”


Steve: Of course, in changing, it might be so obvious that it goes without saying, but in changing from rescuer to coach, you are changing the victim to creator or at least empowering the victim to become a creator by asking that question, what are you going to do?


Jim: Absolutely.


Steve: How will you take responsibility? How will you explore what’s possible for you?


David: Right. What choices do you have? Are we really helping people look at the range of choices, is to me a very important contribution of the coach, and yet, very importantly, once it’s all said and done, the coach has to have a level of non-attachment to whether or not the creator that they’re supporting, in fact, follows through. Again, if they see the person they’re supporting is a creator in their own right, then they have the responsibility for their choices.


Steve: Right, and if they don’t hold that as true, then they turn the creator back into a victim.


David: You got it.


Steve: It’s all interdependent and all complicated. We’ll talk about how to move out of the victim role into the creator role when we come back. You’re listing to The Boss Show.


Speaker 1: It’s a Northwest Lifestyle Weekend on KOMO News. The Boss Show continues.


Steve: Welcome back. I’m Steve Motenko, the Psychology Guy.


Jim: I’m Jim Hessler, the Business Guy. We’re talking to David Emerald today.  “The Power of TED” is his book. It’s a game changer. It’s not a business book, per se, but we put it on our list of highly recommended books to our clients, because it overlaps really nicely into what you experience in your work life. David, I know you do work with a lot of organizations around this concept, as well, don’t you?


David: Absolutely. What I’d say, it’s a fable on self-leadership and the notion that I know is consistent with your work, is that how we lead our own lives has everything to do with the quality of leadership we bring to our organizations.


Steve: Yeah, that’s another one you could easily repeat. Listen to that. Play it back in your head. It’s critically important. Organizational effectiveness is a product of how we all lead our own lives. Let’s get to the move from the Drama Triangle to the Empowerment Dynamic Triangle or obviously the place to start, is the move from victim to creator. Clearly, you ask the question, what’s possible now or what outcome do I want, but give us some specific techniques or tricks for making this important mind shift.


David: First of all, that shift is both first and foremost a bind set shift, like I talked about in previous segment, and it is a role shift. Really the core question is, the being able to ask and answer the question, what do I want, but that is often easier asked than answered in that, ask me what I don’t want, and I can give you the list. Really taking the time to get clear about what outcomes have heart and meaning for me.  What outcomes are fulfilling that I really want to have come to fruition in my life?


Steve: I prefer a different question. I prefer, because if I ask myself what I want, it can still keep me in victim mode, because what I want may be so far out of my circle of influence, so I prefer a question something like, “What is possible within my ability to influence?”


Jim: Or how do I want to be in this moment, might be a companion question.


David: Picking up on your question Jim, that is the question, Jim. That is the question of how do I choose to respond to the situation. Then you’re very right Steve, in that, what’s possible, it is about possibility thinking, and sometimes, and here’s the caveat that really sticks in some peoples craws, is that I say, the answer to the question of what I want, can’t be just to make the problem go away.


Jim: Well said.


David: The work, whether you’re working with a coach or you’re working through this in your own mind, is to ask a question like, “If my problem suddenly went away, what would it allows us in the organization to have, do, or be? What’s the problem standing in the way of that I really care about as a creator?


Steve: Right. An example of how to move from persecutor to challenger.


David: Again, there’s two levels to that. The first level is being able to engage with life from the standpoint of a creator, and when stuff happens in our life, being able to say, “What’s here for me to learn.” That’s a big part of the shift. In showing up to others as a challenger, and this is very relevant to a boss, is again, this intention around learning and the enhancement of the other person’s capacity and capabilities.


Steve: Right. Well said. When we come back, an extension of “The Power of TED” work is the cutting edge for David, it’s called “The Three Vital Questions.” You’ll find out what they are when we come back. You’re listening to The Boss Show.


Speaker 1: Now back to Jim Hessler and Steve Motenko. This is The Boss Show on KOMO News.


Jim: I’m Jim Hessler. I’m the “Business Guy.”


Steve: I’m Steve Motenko. I’m the “Psychology Guy.” The third voice you’re about to hear is David Emerald, actual name David Womeldorff, who is the author of “The Power of TED,” and this is the end of our part 2 of 2 part series on this critically important work. David, we’re talking about shifting from the Drama Triangle, which is all centered around a victim, to The Empowerment Dynamic that you put forth in your book. What are the three vital questions?


David: The three vital questions that this book really helps answer is, the first vital question is, where are you putting your focus. Are you focusing on problems or are you focusing on outcomes, so are you a victim or you a creator? The second vital question is, how are you relating? How are you relating to others? How are you relating to your life experience? How are you relating, frankly, to yourself? Are you relating in ways that produce or perpetuate drama, or are you relating in ways that empower others and yourself to be more innovative, resourceful, and innovative.


Steve: The third vital question, is what actions are you taking?


David: That’s right. In taking generative creative action.


Steve: For more on David’s work, go to the


Jim: The Boss Show is produced by Boss Media Productions, and our sound engineer is Kevin [inaudible 00:25:02].


Steve: Thanks so much for listening.


Jim: Don’t forget. Rule number 6.


Steve: Rule number 6.



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