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Victim, Persecutor or Rescuer. Which one are you? (part 3- The Rescuer Role)

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Relationships, can’t live with them, can’t live without them.

We are all aware when something is not functioning right in our interactions with the others, but very few of us are aware of the role that we play in it.

 Victims, dominators, saviors 

According to scientist Stephan Karpman’s Drama Triangle Theory, unless we act consciously, we always play the same roles in our relationships, roles that we have created early in our lives and that stick with us and affect the way we are handling human interaction.

The three main roles are:

  • The Victim,
  • The Persecutor-the person who forces the victim and pressures her and
  • The Rescuer-the seemingly good person, the hero who saves the victim

This should help one easier understand the classic story of the abusive man and the woman that endures physical and psychological violence without getting out of the destructive relationship; or even encourages it by keeping on coming back to the same abusive, self-degrading relationship dynamic.


The Rescuer

I have been a rescuer for most of my life. I feel good in helping others and I feel that life has more meaning if you live not just for yourself but also support the others.  Apparently,  nothing seems to be wrong with this statement but if you go deeper into the motivations and escalations of this role you will find that being a rescuer is as unhealthy as being a persecutor or a victim.

What is a rescuer?

A rescuer is a person who:

  • Helps unconditionally, even if sometimes their help was not requested
  • Surrounds himself/herself by people that are worse off then he/she is and whom he/she permanently needs to assist.
  • Gets others in a state of dependency by always being there for them
  • Finds that without helping his or her life would have less, or no meaning
  • Puts others’ happiness above his/her own

Rescuer characteristics

Rescuers like to surround themselves with people that are worse off then them and thrive on giving advices and have them prove to be right. Through this, they feel that they get an important role in the life of the person that they are helping and that ends up ‘needing’ them.

Rescuers often fail to really save their victim, but they keep at it with passion.  They sometimes even let the victims become their persecutors just so that they can show how much they understand.

Rescuer handling

Well the rescuer is one of the patterns that we as a society are the most familiar with; “the knight in shining armor”, the “die-hard” hero that gathers millions at the box office.

In the pop culture this role is usually played by a male character that has the duty to save the ‘dames in distress’ and in the process get himself in the most life threatening, self-inflicting situations that let him at the same time embrace the martyrdom, at least until the happy ending comes in. In real life, a few things are different from the script. The knight in shining armor can also be a knightess and the happy ending is not as sure as it is in the movies.

To be a rescuer is no less hard than being a victim. Your victim will never be completely rescued and you will use this in order to avoid facing your own daemons. Taking in account that, in the best case scenario, the rescuer manages to save the victim he or she is still far away from saving themselves. They usually are going to go out and look for the next disaster that is coming their way, just to be able to turn down the inner voice that is tormenting them and reminding them of their own existence. Once you have dedicated your life to everyone else but yourself the most painful thing that someone can do is to give you your life back, and this is exactly what the rescuer fears more than anything and also what he is trying to avoid at all cost.

Rescuer motivation

The causes for taking up a rescuer role can be multiple and they are not always for the right reasons. A childhood trauma like constantly trying to help one or both of your parents; any form of very early responsibility, like taking care of your siblings when your parents passed away or just weren’t there to take care of you. In some cases the rescuer role can be just a sense that you want to give back because you feel you yourself have received even too much or even the opposite it can make you feel that you have something to hold on to when your life is not going as you would like it to go or as it should.

Threats and escalations

  • losing your own identity
  • permanent inner strain and tension
  • energy drain
  • unhealthy relationships based on (co)dependency
  • emotional (self) abuse and denial of your own needs
  • constant disappointment and fear to disappoint
  • taken for granted and ending up in the role of the victim.

Are you a rescuer? When should you stop?

·         If you are receiving  less than you are giving

·         If you feel that your needs are less important than of those around you

·         If you feel that you are there for everyone but still so alone

·         If you feel responsible for the happiness and wellbeing of others but not yourself

·         If you are avoiding to actually leave your own life under the pretext that the others need your help

If you recognize yourself in any of above mentioned points, just know that the first one that you have to help is yourself and know as well that there will be persons to love you even when you are less than perfect.

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