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Impersonal Triangulation

Uploaded 12/11/2022, approx. 5 minute read

Okay, Shoshanim, I'm sleepless in Zürich, Switzerland. It is drizzly, it is snowy, it is Sunday, and there's some event outside my window.

Bloody mess. Took out a long story short.

So today we are going to discuss triangulation, casting it in a new light, because triangulation is not only what you think it is.

My name is Sam Vaknin, I'm the author of Malignant Self-Love: Narcissism Revisited, and I'm a professor of psychology.

So triangulation revolves around relationship management.

People triangulate in order to manage a relationship, control the partner's behaviors and reactions, elicit emotions, and regulate moods.

Triangulation, therefore, seems to be a useful tool when you are having a relationship.

But actually, it's exceedingly destructive because it introduces insecurity, distrust, and fear into what otherwise should be an environment of intimacy and love.

Triangulation is managing or controlling a relationship dynamic by introducing a third party into the mix, emotionally or sexually. The third party could be a lover, third party could be a savior or a rescuer, for example, in the Karpman drama triangle. The third party could be a child, parents. That party could be anyone.

And this is the first mistake that self-styled experts online make when they discuss triangulation.

Triangulation is not limited to romantic situations. Triangulation is any introduction of a third party into what should have been a dyadic relationship, a relationship of two.

Triangulating partners choose any third party who is perceived in reality or in fantasy to be available.

When there is no specific third party, and I'm saying again, the third party can be available in reality, but it's enough if the third party is perceived as available, for example, in an elaborate fantasy or owing to misinformation or mistake.

So triangulating partners choose any third party who is perceived as available.

And when there's no specific party that is available to triangulate with, they resort to generalized triangulation statements.

And this is where my account of triangulation differs or diverges from the accounts of triangulation online by YouTubers and other wannabe experts.

Because triangulation is not necessarily with a real third party. Triangulation can occur with an imaginary third party in a paracosm, in a fantasy.

Triangulation can be based solely on speech acts, verbal triangulation.

So when there is no specific third party introduced into the dyad, into the relationship, then language can serve the role of a triangulation.

So for example, you could use sentences such as, "I always cheat." "I always cheat" is a form of triangulation because it creates uncertainty and fear and destroys intimacy.

You could say, "I can never be loyal. I can't resist my sex drive. Cheating is meaningless to me. I don't give a damn about my partner. I don't even remember my partner when I'm having sex with others. I always do as I please at the moment." And so on and so forth.

This is an example of triangulating within a romantic setting using language and language only.

So triangulation can be personal involving a person, but can be impersonal, abstract, theoretical, hypothetical.

Triangulation is used usually to get a rise out of someone, to secure an emotional reaction, a desired or desirable emotional reaction.

And in this sense, triangulation is a form of manipulation.

Some triangulation is intended to restore relationships.

The triangulation helps the parties find a new emotional equilibrium post-triangulation.

But most triangulation has far more insidious and pernicious motives.

For example, to punish someone for some transgression, real or imagined or anticipated.

For example, to sustain a fantasy or a shared fantasy to dissolve a relationship.

So triangulation is simply a tool. It's a blunt tool and it can be used in any number of ways.

And when the person who is triangulating sets out to triangulate, he or she has in mind a specific goal, specific target.

Triangulation therefore is usually short lived.

That is the difference between triangulation and cheating or triangulation and the love of her. That it is self-limiting or self-extinguishing.

Triangulation always involves a form of gaslighting because it's not real, it's not truthful. It's a representation of reality which deviates from what's really happening.

And again, I want to emphasize that two parents can triangulate with a child. A child can triangulate with a parent.

So I don't know, a boss can triangulate with some co-workers.

Triangulation is not limited to romantic relationships. It's when you leverage and use other people to obtain outcomes within relationships from other people.

And usually the triangulating party triangulates with someone who is insignificant, someone who is temporary, a stranger for example, in order to secure outcomes with a partner who is meaningful, who is important.

And so personal versus impersonal triangulation, you have been edified.

Thank you.

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