Susan Dunlop

From Drama to Empowerment: Oh! That TED*®

The first time I came across Dr Stephen Karpman’s Drama Triangle (of 1960) was in 2005.

I’d just turned 40 and was in the 5th year of growing my health care company, RNS Nursing.

I could see immediately that the 3 roles of the drama triangle (victim, persecutor and rescuer) were what we human beings operate like. It’s in our personal relationships and seeps into our day-to-day interaction and behaviour in the workplace too.

The Dreaded Drama Triangle Roles of Victim Persecutor and Rescuer.
Susan Dunlop Outcomes Coach

I could easily see how we play all 3 roles of the drama triangle, all by ourselves, within seconds.

It’s an exhausting way to operate if that’s how you operate in relating to others, your experience and with yourself.

It’s an exhausting show to watch once you become aware that’s what’s being played out in front of you. I’d see the drama in people even before I’d made it across the office to my desk, with a hope to start the day as I’d planned!

Back then, in 2005, I was crazy busy, with 3 young daughters, the company was growing geographically; as well as in capacity to serve. I was very much living and learning to be a leader ‘on the fly’.

I put the new learning of the drama triangle back on the shelf for another time.

In 2014, in my 15th year as CEO of that small-turned-large company, I successfully achieved my desired outcome to sell through acquisition to a national competitor.

Two years later, I finally got to put my office door keys on the reception desk. My exit from an interesting, sometimes shocking, other times enlightening, drama-filled 24 months of earn-out under the new corporate boys and girls from Brisbane and Sydney was over.

In those 24 months I weathered and witnessed more kinds of drama triangle storms, played out by the head office blue-striped shirts, than I had in all 15 years prior, of owning the company.

Sue and Tom Take A Gap Year

On exit, with husband, Tom, I took a gap year of travel, started my recovery from burnout and formalised all of my experience with certification as a coach to help other leaders and human-beings get what they dreamed of.

Reframe from the problem to outcome orientation. As an NLP practitioner reframing what you don't want to what you do want is part of being an outcomes-coach


In the course of years after that gap year, I came across David Emerald and Donna Zajonc of Bainbridge Leadership Center in the USA. On becoming a member of the International Coaching Federation, I attended a webinar David and Donna hosted about TED*. At first there was that quick realisation it was not actually a TED kind of talk I was zooming into. Then that was quickly replaced with curiosity and delight that I was being introduced to the antidote to the drama triangle! The Empowerment Dynamic (TED*)®.

TED* (*The Empowerment Dynamic) Roles of Creator Challenger and Coach

I knew in my heart that it was time, the right time, for me to do something with it now.

I read both of David’s books and have since written a memoir, of my personal recovery from childhood sexual abuse.

The healing journey of writing included reading professional texts and scouring research papers. That permitted me to accept family dysfunction that surrounds a childhood tainted by the kind of abused I’d endured.

An exciting awareness dawned on me! Taking the learnings into my heart, together with adopting TED* into my life, I found that I had the wisdom in me to do something about it.

We can choose to continue living within the drama triangle roles. We can also become aware of when we need to drop into those roles, because we all do need them from time-to-time. It’s just that staying there shorter term with awareness is a far healthier alternative.

The Power of TED* and 3 Vital Questions: Coach to outcomes
The Power of TED* I listened to on Audible – a very easy listen in the form of a parable; and 3 Vital Questions is only in print, also written as a parable. Both are relatable to life and to workplace relationships.

I listened on Audible to The Power of TED*® three or four times and began practicing The Empowerment Dynamic. I undertook the 3 stages of training offered by David and Donna, so I am now certified to deliver this work within my coaching practice. Doing it for me first, required me to become incredibly honest with myself. I wanted to understand how I had participated in the drama triangle, see the reality, and choose what’s next. To see that the choices and change work is possible and it is.

I chose to take the steps forward to what I truly wanted to achieve and what’s most important to me.

I learnt that my default drama triangle role was that of rescuer, so I’m consciously working at being a recovering rescuer! One important lesson in that was, I’d entered my coaching career initially in rescuer-mode, and rescuing helps nobody.

With that awareness, I changed and practiced the healthier way of practicing with mentor support. I’ve grown and continue to grow as the lifelong learner that I am.

As a coach and 3VQ® certified trainer, I choose to lead, believe and create, 3 words that have been an often-repeated mantra since 2011; and are also my business tagline.

Susan Dunlop lead believe create

3 words that somehow perfectly fit with the creator orientation of The Empowerment Dynamic®, something I couldn’t miss noting.

You Are Always At Choice: Creator Coach Challenger roles of TED

As an outcomes-focused coach, I choose to inspire others to be, do and have what they choose. I support them in their decision of how they will show up; and what kind of person they still might aspire to be, if not quite there, already.

Evolving my coaching practice over these past few years has been an inspired eye-opening journey.

The strengthened base of bringing the Power of TED*® and the 3 Vital Questions® framework as a 3VQ® certified trainers, that has been one very exciting milestone to reach.

As an additional bonus, I’ve joined their peer community of like-minded international trainers and mentors in this work. Meeting with them monthly, after midnight my time, is both incredibly humbling and inspiring.

The work I do is transformational outcomes-focused coaching and training to brave leaders choosing to grow and to empower their people.

Put first things first: the work begins with YOU and the work is always from the INSIDE out.

I’m here for you!

Book a Discovery Call and let’s get started!

Take care,

Susan Dunlop

Professional Coach ICF NLP & 3VQ® Certified Trainer