how to stop being the rescuer
How can you save someone who doesn’t want to be saved?
You don’t. You learn to love them.
Have you ever asked that question?
I have many times in my efforts to run to the rescue for the people I loved.
Sometimes the people we love reach a point where we need to learn how to back off.
They may reach a deep place of brokenness.
And it may be incredibly gut wrenching to witness.
It may be natural for us to be caregivers and want to help people.
However sometimes this very act of “help” can do more harm than good.
I’ve learned some powerful lessons about the anguish of trying to save someone from themselves.
Why do we try to fix damaged people?
Sometimes we do it because it is painful to see the person we love suffering.
Caregivers and empaths have innate tendency to want to be of service.
Other times we expend our efforts in trying to save people because it makes us feel good.
We unconsciously take on the “rescuer identity” and don our superhero capes at the site of another person’s distress.
This white knight act may be doing more harm than good.
According to counselor Andrea Mathews, rescuers need to be needed.
“The Rescuer not only depends on her role to give her a sense of self… In other words she needs the Rescuer role just as much, probably more, than the rescued needs rescuing,” says Mathews.
It is possible that in childhood rescuers had to save family members and hence carried this into adult relationships.
While it may give us a sense of purpose it takes away from the other person’s autonomy.
Broken people only need one thing, love.
Sometimes it means loving them from a distance.
Sometimes it means giving them space to learn and grow.
It is too great of a burden to bear being the savior in your relationships.
Loving unconditionally is very different from trying to save someone from their brokenness.
Loving unconditionally is having a sense of respect for that person’s autonomy.
When we play the role of the rescuer we become the enabler.
We disrupt the person’s power to decide and think for themselves.
Have you ever noticed that once you fall into the cycle of saving people you tend to create relationships where you play the rescuer?
We can change this.
It starts with remembering our needs first and respecting ourselves enough to create boundaries.
Find purpose in surrender.
Being the rescuer may be a learned way of being out of circumstance but it doesn’t mean we can’t change.
Personally I remember thinking when I was a kid I could save my mom from my abusive father.
The reality is I couldn’t and still can’t.
We all have our own lessons to learn.
This is where we get to learn how to lean back and surrender.
When we fall into this cycle of the rescuer we will seek out relationships that will give us a false sense of purpose and power.
It is up to us to start rescuing ourselves from being the rescuer.
Ultimately it comes down realizing that no one can be saved regardless of our efforts.
We must learn how to step back from being the “white knight” and trust in the universe.
Keep an open heart.
We can’t save each other but we can learn to love each other through our circumstances.
While a part of me loves to be of service I also know when I have gone too far to “save” someone.
Know your place in being of service versus exhausting your needs to help someone.
This takes time to learn but you will start to notice when your boundaries.
Know your role in the relationship is key to creating sustainable long-term healthy relationships.
We don’t need to be the rescuer for people to love us.
We simply need to show up for ourselves first.
How to Stop Being the Rescuer.
- Rather than try to offer advice, practice asking “How” or “What” questions, i.e. How do you feel about that? or What do you think your next step is?
- Practice talking about yourself rather than being the therapist in your relationships; share the latest news in your life
- Take healthy space from the broken people in your life; allot time for conversations with them and limit it to what feels good not exhausting.
- Practice exercising your boundaries and what you need.
- Reconnect to your sense of spirituality.
- Start listening to your intuition and gut reactions.
- Expand your network and connect with people who inspire & uplift you.
- Start building a deep relationship with your patterns of behavior and becoming conscious of them.
We all have stories and scars.
We find beauty through the broken times.
And if we are lucky enough like the art of kintsugi we will find the gold to fill in the cracks.