The Rescuer’s Dark Legacy

Rescuer Dark Legacy“Sometimes the Hero unwittingly ends up the Villain” – Simon Thatcher

Do you know someone who is a Compulsive Rescuer? Do you know someone who gets their thrills by helping people escape their (often self-inflicted) first world problems? If you took a good look at their inner circle of friends, are they the most stable and successful person?

Could that ‘someone you know’, really also be you at times?

If you answered “yes” to any of the above then read onwards my friend, for this should be of interest…

Welcome to ‘Compulsive Rescuers Anonymous’! The place where compulsive rescuers can get a step-by-step guide to ‘give up’ the need to compulsively help others in order to make themselves feel good. The place where compulsive rescuers can learn to channel their desires into leaving a positive legacy on the world instead of the Dark Legacy they often unwittingly create. I have been a long time member of this club and am now well on the road to recovery albeit with a few relapses along the way…

What’s wrong with being a Rescuer I hear you say? Well it depends on how compulsive your addiction is. Don’t get me wrong, the world sincerely needs more selfless and giving people ready to lend a hand, offer help, provide a supportive ear, offer some wise counsel, sacrifice their own needs for the greater good HOWEVER if this is done for the wrong motive, or in the wrong way, then we may not leave a positive legacy and instead create a Dark Legacy ultimately doing more harm than good.

The Dark Legacy

Helping others simply to make yourself feel good or helping others in a way where the other person doesn’t have to face the consequences of their actions can be a disaster!

Instead of helping people become more resilient and responsible we can accidently create:

(1) Dependency – when people over rely on us to meet their needs;

(2) Hostility and Anger – people becoming angry at us when we withdraw support after the crisis is over;

(3) Disempowerment – people passively waiting on being rescued instead of problem solving, innovating or adjusting to their circumstances; and

(4) Laziness and Entitlement – when people simply become accustomed to complaining and blaming, and believing they should not have to solve their problems as the government, society or others ‘should’ sort it out for them…

In these circumstances, whilst you may be initially seen as a “Hero” in the eyes of the people you help, as time passes a darker legacy emerges and you unwittingly become the “Villain” as they begin to blame you for the recurrence of problems or failure to meet their demands for help when future problems strike.

The Cause of The Dark Legacy

When it comes to rescuing people we clearly need to continue to help those who are in need and require help – but why would seemingly well-intentioned, hard working, kind, good-natured people end up accidently creating such a Dark Legacy?

“You can give a man a fish and feed him for a day or teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime” (Unknown)

The cause of the Dark Legacy is well summed up in the famous quote above. That is, we often end up giving people fish rather than teaching them to fish – and this can happen for a range of hidden, yet entirely understandable reasons:

3 Reasons Compulsive Rescuers Give Instead of Teach:

1. Being Criticized or Accused of Being Uncaring. Rescuers hate it when people accuse them of being ‘uncaring’. Let’s face it, people hate having to learn when stressed and will always like someone more if they simply give them what they want. They may indeed dislike, or even hate, the person who attempts to teach them how to help themselves, which is a sure fire guilt trip to the Rescuer, causing the Dark Legacy of giving instead of teaching to emerge.

2. The Effort of Teaching Versus Giving. It is harder to teach someone something than simply do it for them. Compulsive Rescuers want the immediate ‘feel good’ hit they get from instant results rather than putting in the effort of working out the best way to teach someone something important to help them be more resilient and responsible.

3. The Risk of ‘Not Being Needed’ if People are Not Dependent on You. Compulsive Rescuers need to have a group of people around them who they can help, otherwise when socializing among equals they fear being disliked or having no special talents that are desirable to their peers.

Preventing The Dark Legacy

So let’s not ‘throw the baby out with the bathwater’ but rather find a way to put a stop to unhealthy Compulsive Rescuing and instead become a powerful helper and supporter – helping people to be more responsible and resilient in the circumstances of their lives. To prevent the Dark Legacy and indeed ensure that your Rescuing and Helping will leave a positive legacy take a moment to consider the following points of self-reflection:

  1. Does my self-esteem depend on whether other people find me helpful and useful? If I was able to help people and they never knew, or worse, got frustrated or annoyed with me, would that bother me?
  2. When I help someone, do I consider how far my help will go so there is room for them to also solve the problem or do I prefer to be the ‘Hero’ and solve all their problems for them?
  3. Am I a patient and effective teacher and listener or do I get easily frustrated when I have to teach others how to do things – especially if they are somewhat resistant or confused?
  4. Do I believe more in a person’s potential and future than their current situation and ability, and am I prepared to push the boundaries to help them grow?

Your answers to these questions will tell you how effective you will be at “Rescuing” other people in a way that prevents the Dark Legacy and instead builds a Positive Legacy of helping them become more resilient and responsible when facing the Challenging Waves of Life!

Ride the Waves of Life

Dr Pete

The Stress Surfer

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