One of the patterns in family and human systems is triangulation. It can at times be a healthy pattern, but in the way most family therapists use the term it refers to an unhealthy pattern in which there is an indirect coalescing of emotion, power and anxiety by one person and another in order to redirect or “fix” what another may have done or to hinder an action.
Transactional Analysis probably has done some of the most detailed illumination of how triangles can create toxic and harmful patterns of relationships. We have not spoken much (except in subtle ways) here about the problems of the victim, rescuer, persecutor vortex and how important it is to avoid attempting rescues, playing the victim or taking the role of critic/persecutor. This does not mean, of course, that we should not help others. Rescuing occurs when the individual being helped is acting helpless or refusing to take steps to help themselves. Friedman wrote about this in his fable about the first family. Sometimes, as Friedman points out in this fable, the authority sub-system (the parents in this case) can actually encourage or enable immature behavior of the perceived victim or persecutor.
What is unique about triangulation patterns is that they always happen over time and narratives and stories emerge and build, waxing and waning and often peaking in a “switching of roles” and finally coming to a point of pleasure or despair.