Although relationships are often seen as two people sharing who they are with the other each and with both of them being on the same level; this doesn’t always take place. And when this doesn’t happen, one of the reasons can be due to one person trying to rescue the other.
Now, in order for one to be a rescuer, there needs to be someone who needs rescuing. There can’t be one without the other. And while it may seem that the rescuer possesses a lot more power than the person that they are rescuing; these are ultimately two sides of the same coin.
The difference is that each person is expressing themselves in a different way; with one person appearing to be stronger than the other. And this is not limited to intimate relationships either, it can also relate to relationships with: family, friends and colleagues for instance.
And while the rescuer is trying to save another person, this can take on, many different forms. This could be to do with finances and to propping another person up financially. It can also include trying to rescue another: emotionally, mentally and physically.
So perhaps the other person is in debt or never seems to have any money; which leads to the rescuer always being there with money. Or it could be that the other person is suffering mentally and emotionally and therefore the rescuer seeks to fix them in some way.
And it may be that the other person is putting themselves in danger, through some form of self harm or violence and needs to be continually monitored or saved.
What is clear here is that one person is putting in more effort than the other person is. One person is the continual saviour and the other person is perpetually helpless. For some, this may be a way of life and for others; this will be a role that they take on during certain circumstances.
And if we take a step back from these roles, what it starts to look like is a relationship between a parent and a child. One person is the strong parental figure and the other is the dependent child. And there will be some relationships that are extreme examples of this and some that have certain elements of this.
However, as we are human and therefore not perfect or meant to be perfect; to have moments of feeling dependent or hopeless is normal. To embody this behaviour on a consistent basis is likely to lead to problems.
So while one person is taking on the identity of the rescuer and that all is well; they are also negating their own needs in the process. It’s as if they have no needs and are needless.
And for the person who needs rescuing and is showing that they need help; it’s as if they are powerless and can’t help themselves.
So then, the rescuer is not comfortable showing that they have needs. Their primary focus is being there for the other person and to take care of their needs. And their own needs are denied and ignored.
On the surface, this doesn’t make any sense. However, this is how the rescuer gains approval and feels worthy. For, it’s not that they don’t have needs; what it comes down to, is that they feel that their own needs are not important. And if they were to show them, they fear that they would be abandoned.
The reasoning is – ‘if I am there enough for them, then maybe they will be there for me and I won’t be abandoned or rejected.’
At an unconscious level, there is often the fear of another person getting too close. Consciously this is what they long for, but this is in conflict with what is going on within them. So by keeping the focus on the other person, it enables them to stay at a comfortable distance.
And the person who needs to be rescued has no problem in showing that they have needs. This person has no concern about the needs of the other person. If they were to act another way and to hide their needs; they question if the other person would notice them.
So while the rescuer feels that they need to hide their needs to avoid being abandoned; the person that needs to be rescued shows their needs due to the fear of being abandoned if they don’t.
The reasoning is – ‘if I show how needy I am, then someone will always be there for me and I won’t be abandoned or rejected’.
At an unconscious level, there is also the fear of another person getting too close. Consciously this is clearly what they seek, but this is in conflict with what is going on at a deeper level. So by them being so needy, it often leads to the other person leaving them. Here they can return to what they are comfortable with.
This means that both have challenges when it comes to trusting that another person will be there for them. The need to be constantly validated by the other is something that is needed by both people. One achieves this by being at another’s beck and call and the other one person does this by showing how needy they are.
In the short term this may well create a sense of satisfaction between the two people or should I say a sense of familiarity. But when it comes to long term happiness and the chance of a healthy relationship: it is unlikely to be beneficial.
Sooner of latter, the person who is rescuing the other is going to become frustrated and angry that their needs are being ignored. One may look for another person to rescue for example; with the belief that they will finally take care of their needs.
And for the person that is being rescued, their fears about being abandoned and not having someone there is likely to arise. And while the conscious intention is to bring the other person closer; it could lead to them being pushed further away.
To see this kind of behaviour can be confusing to say the least, but through taking a look at childhood development, this can become a lot clearer. As children, we are completely dependent on our caregivers to take care of our needs.
Now, although we can have these needs, it doesn’t mean that they will be consistently taken care of, or taken care of at all. And this can lead to two things occurring. It can be that one is forced to be there for their caregivers needs and to ignore their own. And another option is that one’s needs are ignored and that they are not used to fulfil their caregiver’s needs either.
For the person whose needs are ignored as a child, and has to be there for the parents needs; there are going to be certain associations formed about their needs. And these could be that one’s needs are not important and one may feel ashamed and guilty for having them.
Here one is learning at an early age that other people’s needs matter and their needs do not. And that to be close to another means being smothered and engulfed. Due to being overwhelmed by their caregivers needs.
And for someone whose needs are ignored and who is not used to take care of their parents needs; they will have different associations. They will also feel that their needs are not important.
They are learning at an early age that their needs do not matter and no one is there for them. Learning in the process that they can’t just be themselves and have their needs met; something extreme has to happen to gain another’s attention. And yet to have someone become to close may lead to the fear of being smothered or engulfed, because one is not used to another person being there.
These things may well have happened many years ago, but they remain due to them being familiar. At the time of the experiences; the ego mind associated them as familiar and therefore safe.
We all have needs and they are nothing to be ashamed of or to feel guilty about. And in order to let go of the minds associations and to feel comfortable with having needs; one may need to seek some kind of assistance.
This could be a therapist or a healer, or it could be a trusted friend or a book.
Oliver JR Cooper
Author of 26 books, Transformational Writer, Teacher & Consultant.
To book your free 15-minute consultation, click here.
That which is contained within these articles is based on my own empirical understanding and is true for me at the time they were written. However, as I continue to grow, what I perceive as the truth will inevitably change and as a result of this - parts of these articles may not reflect my current outlook.