The Drama Triangle, Empowerment Triangle, and Compassionate Embrace

Drama TriangleFigure 1: The Drama Triangle: Victim, Persecutor, Rescuer
The focus of Figure 1 is the Drama Triangle, consisting of three habitual roles of the separate self: Victim, Persecutor, and Rescuer. The Victim sees themselves as helpless and oppressed; the Persecutor uses control, criticism and blame; and the Rescuer comes to the rescue of the victim, thereby keeping them dependent. People typically unconsciously shift between all three of these roles, and find others to play the corresponding roles when we are adopting any one them. The Drama Triangle roles both result from and perpetuate separation, anxiety, energy loss, right/wrong thinking, blame, criticism, complaint, guilt, and shame. Looking only at the Drama Triangle offers a “problem orientation”, diagnosing “what is wrong” with the roles people unconsciously adopt.

Drama & Co-Empowerment TrianglesFigure 2: Contrasting the Drama Triangle and the Empowerment Triangle
Figure 2 contrasts the Empowerment Triangle with the Drama Triangle, consisting of the shift from the Victim to the Creator, the Persecutor to the Challenger, and the Rescuer to the Supporter. The Creator is self-responsible and takes creative action to care for their own needs; the Challenger uses discernment in supporting other people’s growth and highest good in ways that the person is able to receive at that time; the Supporter offers their compassionate presence to other people to support their self-discovery and self-empowerment. The Empowerment Triangle result from and contribute to a consciousness of presence, oneness, aliveness, authenticity, and empathy. Figure 2 distinguishes between “problem” and “solution”, or “unconscious” and “conscious” roles, offering a more expansive perspective on humanity than the Drama Triangle alone, though still rooted in a form of separation.

Circle of Compassion
Figure 3: Compassionate Embrace
Figure 3 places the roles of the Drama Triangle within a heart of Compassionate Embrace, surrounding them with compassion, empathy, and authenticity, and thereby supporting them to be healed and integrated. Here there is a realization of the oneness of “all that is” and the transformational power of compassionately embracing the separate self. We give compassion to and embrace our unconscious shadow/wounded parts as an essential step toward healing, integrating their gifts, and growing beyond their regressive limitations. At the same time, there is also ongoing discernment and occasional protective action in relation to destructive unconscious behaviors. Through Compassionate Embrace, we welcome all parts of ourselves and discover ways to make life more wonderful for each other. In our interactions, we ask ourselves: is my energy feeling vital = is this energizing = do I feel a natural impulse to contribute?

The Power of Vision

I find visioning an essential and hugely inspiring practice for living a healthy and full life. While I greatly value having my attention in the present moment, I spend at least some time each day visioning what I long to co-create and embody in the world, in little or big ways. Whether that means taking a minute as I wake up to remind myself of an intention to show up with each person I encounter with loving presence, or spending an hour journaling about a vision for a healthy, thriving planet Earth in the year 3,000, I find connecting to my vision for life offers both meaningful direction, and inspirational fuel for the journey. Below are some resources I’ve either gathered or created to support people in tapping into their own visions, for their lives, families, projects, communities, organizations, projects, the world, etc. May your visions serve you and serve life!

• Sustainability pioneer Donella Meadows wrote and gave a great talk in 1994 called Envisioning a Sustainable World, on the importance of visioning. In it, she explores how deep many people’s resistance can be to daring to envision a world we want to see and create. Watch a video of the talk here, or read the paper behind the talk.

• Ari Weinzweig, founder of a string of wildly successful small businesses, wrote a really clear and practical article for called Creating a Company Vision. It offers a simple step-by-step process for drafting your own vision. I find his article particularly useful if you’re already relatively clear about the general subject and direction of your vision. If you’re not so clear on what you even want to create a vision for, you might want to explore the somewhat more elaborated process and questions I created below. Here is Weinzweig’s article.

• One of the things I found particularly useful in Weinzweig’s article was reading his vision for a local farmer’s market. Reading the specificity of his vision really helped me step into the future world he was wanting to create. With the intention to offer other examples of visions, here are three draft visions I recently wrote envisioning a Transformational Learning Center.

• Finally, I want to offer a process I have developed to support people in developing a vision, and getting the support to realize that vision, even if you are not so clear what you want to envision. I suggest you set aside at least an hour for responding to the below questions in writing, allowing yourself to write your “stream of consciousness,” meaning without stopping or editing, timing at least 5 minutes for each question (or more if you can). And, if possible, enjoy yourself! Visioning can be a lot of fun — you are creating the world you want to live in!


1) Passions
What brings you joy? What do you love? What are you passionate about?

2) Gifts
What are your gifts? What are you good at? What are your strengths? Celebrate yourself!

3) Dreams
Dream big! Be unreasonable! What would you do if you could do anything? What if money and other resources were not a concern? What would be really exciting, and maybe a little scary, to do with your life?

4) Vision
Drawing on your dreams from above, draft a vision you are passionate to manifest in your life. (For this step you may want to refer back to Weinzweig’s article.)
• Identify a specific project focus: Are you creating a vision for your life as a whole, for a new organization or community, for a specific project, etc.?
• Identify a time frame for this vision: 6 months, 1 year, 5 years, 20 years? (5 years is often a good default)
• Write from the future perspective, get specific, and include what you personally are doing in this vision: “It’s 2020, it’s a spring morning, and I’m teaching yoga in the practice room at the community center. There are 20 people on yoga mats on the hardwood floors, and sunlight is streaming in through the skylights….”

5) Support Requests
What would abundant support for your vision look like? What specific requests can you make of others in your community, of the world, of yourself?

6) Practices
What personal practices will support you in manifesting your vision? What is a daily practice you will commit at least 10 minutes per day to?

7) Offerings
Reflecting on your passions, gifts, and vision, what would you joyfully like to offer to your community or to the world?

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this post! I am very grateful for any feedback, suggestions, encouragement, etc. you want to send from the Contact page.

Recent Draft Visions for a Transformational Learning Center

Below are three different draft visions I recently wrote envisioning a Transformational Learning Center. I’d love to receive any feedback, suggestions, encouragement, etc. you want to send from the Contact page. Thank you!


It is 2020 and we – the members of the Ecovillage and Transformational Learning Center (TLC) – are celebrating our 5 year anniversary. We are a smiling circle of 50 people of all ages gathered for our mid-summer festival, celebrating the vibrant community we are co-creating. It is twilight and we see bats circling among the fruit and nut trees in the community commons. A group of young women is lighting a bonfire in the center of the circle as we begin to tell stories of the founding of our community, when a core group of us bought a house, started a garden, and began offering a range of transformational learning groups. I look around at our community home and my heart bursts. There is green everywhere: a permaculture food forest, grape vines, sunflowers, and so much more. The budding ecovillage community consists of clusters of various sized dwellings, designed to support maximum flexibility and integration of individual and family privacy and solitude on the one hand, and plentiful and easy access to companionship, collaboration and social activity, on the other. Homemade whole food meals are available every day in the community dining hall, but people are also welcome to cook and/or eat at home, by themselves or with a partner or friend, when they are wanting more quiet or intimacy. There are dedicated meditation sanctuaries for silence indoors, as well as meditation gardens outside, all buffered from the more active areas for adults and children, where there is a constant hum of collaborative activity, laughter, play, building, and creative expression. A green builder with a team of young apprentices is working on another series of eco-efficient tiny homes, each elegant dwelling with its unique vibrant coloring and particular design. A master permaculture designer has her own team of apprentices and students learning from her as they prune the apple, plum, and pear trees in the food forest. A big display inside the community center announces an array of offerings for the week: yoga, meditation, co-counseling, nonviolent communication, empathic listening circle, restorative circles, open space marketplace, potluck, dance, co-working, child care, homeschooling circle, permaculture gardening, creative writing circle, aikido, improv, tantra, collaborative economics and more.


The permaculture gardens and fruit and nut trees are heavy with their late summer bounty, and there is a large Earth flag swaying gently in the breeze in front of the brightly painted TLC. It’s a sunny weekday evening and there are some younger children playing on, in, and around a large jungle gym/climbing structure/tree house, while other children of various ages are picking fruit from some plum and apple trees, collecting their harvest carefully in baskets, and pausing every so often to enjoy a snack on one of the fruit. A family rides by on their bicycles and calls out a warm greeting to the children. In a courtyard in the back of the TLC, a varied group of 12 or so teens and adults of all ethnicities and appearances are sitting in a circle in the meditation garden having a lively conversation about the transformation of a nearby road into a mixed use pedestrian zone/bicycle path/restored wetland. They are animatedly and fluidly inviting everyone’s voices, weaving together various perspectives into an integrated proposal they will be bringing to the neighborhood council. On a table in the circle are various snacks produced in the community kitchen in the TLC, or straight from the gardens – goat cheese, kimche, snap peas, peaches, kombucha. The TLC itself is a two-story building with a large front porch, where a few couples from the neighborhood are having heart-to-heart conversations with each other, or just enjoying the lively and varied scene all around them. Just in the front double-doors of the TLC is a large blackboard with a daily schedule of activities freely available to the public: 6am morning yoga, 7am morning meditation, empathy circle, empowerment & leadership skills, creative self-expression, deep democracy & collaborative decision-making, intimacy, fermentation, tree pruning, natural building workshop, improvisation, cooperative entrepreneurship. Certain services are available 6am-9pm every day, including co-working in the shared office, supervised children’s activity space, and emergency empathy & restorative circle facilitation.


We’re at the final weekend gathering of the year-long TLC program. There are smiles on the faces of all the men and women sitting in a circle in the courtyard. As I look around, I feel a glow in my heart as I look at the faces of people who have become dear friends over the past year. We are a lively, inspiring, and supportive family of friends and allies. We woke up this morning at 6am for yoga and meditation, and now we’re reflecting on all of our celebrations and accomplishments since we formed this circle a year ago. We’ve started two new community permaculture gardens, helped successfully launch the Beloved Café, and co-founded a new intentional community house. Two members of the circle have co-authored a book on Transformational Learning Communities. And half of the members of the circle have made substantial progress toward certification as Nonviolent Communication trainers. Over the course of the weekends we’ve had together, we’ve shared scary honesty, designed and planted Permaculture gardens, learned about and worked on natural buildings, facilitated Restorative Circles for ourselves and the wider community, practiced collaborative decision-making, and created our own local currency system. At our gatherings we have offered and received conscious feedback from one another, helping each other recognize both our current learning edges and our amazing gifts. We’ve written blogs, poems and songs, given public talks, and filmed inspiring YouTube videos. In the evenings we’ve danced and told stories, made music together, played games, and cuddled. Each member of the community has maintained a blog and/or a vlog, as well as a daily spiritual practice. We shared and read inspiring articles and books, and watched consciousness expanding films. Last gathering we did a street retreat, and for the spring gathering we went on a vision quest. Between our quarterly gatherings, we met in our own local weekly practice groups, and had monthly co-learning and mentoring calls. We’ve started and supported a variety of political campaigns and social environmental causes. As we reflect back on the year, there is a sense of joy and awe at the depths we have explored within and among ourselves, as well as in connection with our local communities and the wider world. Grace fills the circle.


Thank you so much for taking the time to read this draft visions! Again, I’d love to receive any feedback, suggestions, encouragement, etc. you want to send from the Contact page.