Episode 06-Intro to the Fear Triangle

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little boy hiding in pillows afraid

People often find themselves stuck in negative patterns in their relationships. Why does that happen over and over again? Is there something deeper going on behind it? How can we stop this cycle and grow away from the negative reactions we struggle with?

In this episode, Nathan and Aaron begin to unpack these questions and introduce the concept of The Fear Triangle, as the first of part of this Shrink Think Podcast series.

In This Podcast


  • We introduce the idea that at the root of most emotional reactions, like anger or sadness, is fear
  • There are three basic roles we may play in the fear triangle once triggered
  • By not acknowledging these roles are based in fear, we will continue the cycle
  • Having the courage to acknowledge and then risk expressing that fear can break the cycle

Fear is a common root issue

  • Many people experience fear as the result of painful childhood emotions
  • Four main types of experiences are abandonment, betrayal, rejection, unacceptance

The Fear Triangle Roles

  • People with abandonment or betrayal experiences tend to become “Persecutor” types on the Fear Triangle
  • People with rejection or unacceptance experiences tend to become “Rescuer” types
  • People with multiple of these or a combination of many of them can become “Victim” types
  • Each “type” on the Fear Triangle is a type of victim (Persecutor-victim, Rescuer-victim, Victim-victim)

Going around the triangle

  • Fear causes you to protect against it using defense mechanisms. These defenses often produce a self-fulfilling prophecy; that is, you create the very thing you don’t want and are afraid of.
  • People often switch roles in relationships, going around the Triangle from one role/type to another
  • The conflict ends in the relationship when one person agrees to be the Victim (making the other person a Persecutor or Rescuer)
  • When you acknowledge your fear you can take responsibility for it and make changes to get off the Fear Triangle

Useful Links

  • Sign up for our free email course that will guide you through our process of facing fears and insecurities so that you can feel more comfortable in your own skin
  • Lynne Namka has some great writing on the Drama Triangle (we call it the Fear Triangle) on her website
  • Stephen Karpman’s Dreaded Drama Triangle Wikipedia page
  • PDF Overview of the Fear Triangle we created

Thanks for Listening!

Feel free to leave a comment below or share this podcast on social media by clicking on one of the icons below. If you enjoyed this episode, please leave us a review on iTunes and subscribe to our podcast!

aaron potratz and nathan hawkins therapists standing smiling

Meet Nathan & Aaron

Nathan Hawkins and Aaron Potratz are both licensed therapists and clinical supervisors in the state of Oregon. They each own their own private group counseling practices and co-own a third group practice together. Nathan and Aaron have been in the field since 2004 and 2007, respectively, and have over 100,000 hours of therapy experience each. On their show, they discuss facing fears and common challenges from a therapist’s point of view, imparting wisdom and humanity to their viewers. Along the way, they hope to not only share their insights but bring some light-hearted entertainment to make the journey easier.

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