A few months ago, Donna returned from the grocery store with several bags of groceries in her car. David came out of their home to help her with the bags and she immediately declared, “Nope, I don’t need any help.” David went back into the house.
Over the next few days Donna reflected upon why she rejected David’s offer (because there were a lot of bags) and realized there was a lot more going on behind that statement than she had first realized. She discovered that her identity, both consciously and unconsciously, was that she is a capable human being and allowing David to help her meant she was weak and insufficient.
And then something even more puzzling happened.
Donna was at her daughter’s house and a similar situation occurred. Her daughter had returned from the grocery store. Donna came out of her daughter’s home and declared, “Here, let me help you.”
Her daughter replied, “It is okay, Mom. It is only one bag.” Donna insisted and took the bag from her daughter’s hands. That is when the flashback with David hit her. “Hmmm….I don’t allow others to help me, but then I insist on helping others,” she said to herself. Donna realized in that moment that this is the thinking that drives the Rescuer role in the Dreaded Drama Triangle (DDT). (She has long proclaimed to be a “recovering Rescuer” – not a recovered Rescuer!)
When in the Rescuer role, you experience a compulsion to help others while not acknowledging your own needs. Rescuers believe that if you need help, then there is a flaw in your being, because our job in life is to be helpful to other people and fix situations… and Victims.
As a Rescuer, your focus is outward, scanning the environment, looking for how you can please and be helpful to others. The hope is that if others see you as useful and helpful, they will bestow their love and undying gratitude upon you. They may even see you as a “hero.”
Society reinforces “helping” behavior, and there are times and places where it is reasonable and very appropriate. It is when “helping” becomes a compulsion that an imbalance occurs. The paradox is that you may intervene in other’s lives without being asked, while not allowing others to support you. This way of living eventually causes exhaustion and burnout.
Donna’s Rescuer story may not resonate with you. However, after 15 years of learning to shift from drama to empowerment, it is the Rescuer role that many people identify with. It seems to be the most common way to enter the DDT.
But here’s the surprise. We Rescuer’s eventually become Victims when other people reject our good ideas and support. If they decline our help, we may unconsciously react to them as Persecutors for rejecting our good intentions, thereby perpetuating the DDT.
If a part of you identifies with the, “I don’t need help” mantra, you might try one Baby Step that has supported Donna. She now simply says: “Yes, thank you. I could use a hand.” With this small step, your life identity as a helpful and supportive person will not vanish.
Eventually you might be willing to step into a more collaborative way of relating to others, at home or on your work team. In that case you may be surprised to hear yourself say: “I’ve got something coming up next week. I’d sure appreciate your help and support.”