As I noted, if someone comes to you with a complaint about someone else, you’re in a triangle. How do you get out of it? The short answer is, you can’t. And the good news is, you don’t have to. We all live in triangles all the time. You were born into a triangle with your mother and father (no matter how traditional or non-traditional your family was, and even if you never knew either parent).
To repeat, the key is not getting out of triangles, but how we manage ourselves in the triangles we’re already in. Sometimes when we’re anxious, we create new triangles, or intensify the ones we’re in. You may automatically call your sister when you learn your mother is ill, to share the anxiety. Or go to the pastoral relations committee when a particular church member or staff member is driving you crazy.
We’ll do better if we act thoughtfully rather than reactively in the triangles we’re in. Talking to a sister can be a way to maintain relationship rather than simply raising the anxiety in the family. Working with a church committee on how to manage challenging personalities can lead to more maturity in the congregation. But only if we are managing ourselves in the way we relate to others.
It takes time to learn to do this, and we all get emotionally hooked sometimes by intense triangles. The least mature people are masters at triangling in others to help with their problems. Most of the time we’ll do better if we can stop and think through what our next steps should be, rather than automatically responding to someone’s anxious appeal.