Author offers escape from ‘drama triangle’

In college, when the available majors didn’t suit him, David Womeldorff improvised.

The result was the first, and likely only, “Community and Communications” degree ever awarded by his Dayton, Ohio, college.

“I found an obscure paragraph in the rules that no one had used before,” Womeldorff said. “I was the first student in the history of Wright State University to design my own degree.”

Now, after almost 20 years as an executive coach, Womeldorff is teaching others how to build a fulfilling life in his self-published, debut book, “The Power of TED (The Empowerment Dynamic).”

The Bainbridge author will read from his book at 7:30 p.m. April 20 at Eagle Harbor Book Co.

For Womeldorff, the book marks the start of several new chapters in his life.

He married fellow author and former Oregon legislator Donna Zajonc last September, and the couple founded the Bainbridge Leadership Center the following month.

“My wife and I joke that our wedding wasn’t just a marriage, it was a business merger,” Womeldorff said.

That same month, he released “The Power of TED” under the pen name David Emerald.” The name change had dual meaning.

“Womeldorff is a mouthful,” he said. “I’m new to the area and already feel such a connection that I wanted to choose a pen name that reflected that. My wife suggested Emerald.”

Womeldorff grew up in Ohio and also lived in California before moving to Seattle three years ago; he moved to Bainbridge Island two years ago this month.

He met Zajonc at a leadership workshop and their “shared passion” for leadership connected them.

Womeldorff says he’s been in leadership roles his whole life.

“I’ve always been the guy that volunteers to do something first,” he said. “I’m constantly working to help people increase their collaborative capabilities. ‘The Power of TED’ is a reflection of that.”

When he was younger, Womeldorff says, he often made excuses when he faced hardship. Then, about 10 years ago, he was introduced to the work of Stephen Karpman, a psychiatrist who developed a popular model of human dynamics in the late 1960s.

The Karpman “drama triangle” posits that people in conflicts assume one of three roles; victim, persecutor or rescuer. The negative interactions among the three roles perpetuate the conflict.

Womeldorff’s book aims to reverse the tendency of people to accept the role of victim; the model he presents in “The Power of TED” introduces new roles that works as an “antidote” to the destructive roles identified by Karpman.

“I had seen those negative roles played out for years in my own life,” he said. “I knew there had to be an alternative.”

Womeldorff spent the next decade developing that alternative, which the book explains in the form of a fable.

“There are a lot of real ‘a-ha’ moments in there,” Womeldorff said. “The goal of writing it as a fable was to make it more of a teaching experience than a left-brain academic book.”

Womeldorff’s model was developed over several years, but the book itself was written in just four months.

Though “The Power of TED” preaches accountability, it makes a clear distinction between “victimization” and “victimhood.”

“Victimization does happen,” Womeldorff said. “TED is not a Pollyana-ish denial of the existence of negative events. It’s about overcoming the situational and the external. It’s a way of being.”

Womeldorff said the response from readers has been positive and that Karpman himself, who hadn’t endorsed a book in more than 30 years, did so for this work because it was the first effort that “offered an escape from the drama triangle.”

Womeldorff said he will continue writing and speaking about his concepts and plans to release a series of books that teach readers how to apply TED to different areas of their life.

“A lot of people live with a victim mentality,” Womeldorff said. “The solution to that is to establish goals and get clear about what it is you really want.

“Then you can transform the victim mentality into that of a creator.”

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