Would your friends describe you as someone who “would do anything for anybody”? Or as someone who “goes way out of his way to help people”? Maybe your spouse complains because you volunteer too much at the church or that you’ll “go help a neighbor re-roof his house, but you won’t do anything around our house?” These are all symptoms of rescuing – a pesky little compulsion that on the surface, appears very noble and good, but underneath may be causing a great deal of stress in your life!
Rescuing is when you go way out of your way to help other people. As a recovering rescuer, I sometimes jokingly referred to myself as a “compulsive helper”. I have rescued physically, emotionally, given directions when they weren’t asked for, sometimes I even finish people’s sentences for them. Now I’m not knocking helping others, in fact, I am a big believer that serving others is how we find our greatest joys in life. However, it can cross the line.
Here are 8 signs of rescuers . . .
- They do not feel their life is their own (because another person’s problem can become theirs at any moment!)
- They are constantly exhausted and not getting their own needs met.
- Feel they can’t say “No” or bad things will happen to the other person and it will be their fault.
- Can’t stop thinking/worrying about another person’s distress.
- They use the words “have to” a lot (don’t feel they have a choice).
- Feel chronically under-appreciated and taken advantage of.
- Inability to let the other person suffer, even a little.
- Angry and resentful (eventually) that the other person doesn’t seem to be getting their life together so they won’t need rescued all the time.
I had a friend once whose 17 year old called from school because he had forgotten his lunch money. She left work in the middle of the day to take him lunch money. Oh, I have kids and I love them to death, but what do you think would have happened if the kid had gone hungry that day? Yep. He would most certainly remember the next day because he didn’t want to go hungry again! I can assure you that he will keep getting in jams if she keeps bailing him out!
Rescuing is a really painful habit. People who don’t want to take responsibility for their own lives gravitate towards rescuers. And why wouldn’t they? The rescuer makes the problem their own so the responsible party no longer feels the pain of it. Problem solved!
If you are a rescuer, I feel for you. It is extremely painful to say no to your friends and loved ones when they are in crisis, but there is hope. You can turn it around and help people when it is appropriate and let them fend for themselves at times, too. You can begin to have more balanced relationships, where you also get your needs met. First, however, you’ve got to understand your own distorted thinking and begin to see the bigger picture.
Keep these things in mind:
Rescuing another person actually hurts them. When you see someone in distress, consider what good could come out of not helping them. A good parent/friend/spouse/family member is not one who will swoop in and take the problems away, but one who will understand that allowing our loved ones to suffer the natural consequences of their own actions is the single best and most effective teacher in life. Give the reins of their life back to them and let them learn how to drive it in their own way. Yes, it will be hard to watch, but when they finally learn how to do it themselves, you will both feel amazing!!