The Rescuer role is the shadow mother principle. It’s the typically co-dependent response we think of as “smothering”. It’s a twisted version of the feminine aspect that desires to nurture and protect. The Rescuer is the enabler, protector, mediator; the one who wants to “fix” the problem. Of course, before a Rescuer can remedy a problem there needs to be one.
Part of the problem of rescuing is that it comes from an unconscious need to feel important or establish oneself as the savior. Taking care of others is the only way a Rescuer knows how to connect or feel worthwhile. Rescuers usually grow up in families where they were put down or shamed for having needs. They therefore learn to deny those needs, turning instead to taking care of others. This makes having someone who needs them essential.
Very often, Rescuers operate out of the hope that if they just take care of others well enough they will get their turn, too. Unfortunately this rarely happens. Often the resulting disappointment sends them spiraling into depression. Martyrdom and depression earmark the victim phase of a Rescuer’s dance around the triangle. This is when you hear them say things such as, “This is what I get, after all I’ve done for you” or, “No matter how much I do, it’s never enough”, or “If you loved me, you would be more supportive.”
A Rescuer’s greatest fear is that there will be nobody there for them. They compensate for that anxiety by making it a point to be there for others, thus encouraging dependency. Making themselves indispensable becomes a primary way of avoiding abandonment and it provides the validation they long for, as well.
Rescuers are oblivious to the crippling dependency they foster when they enable or take care of those they are fixated on. Through these tactics, they send disabling messages. Everyone involved becomes convinced that the Victim is incapable, inadequate or defective, thus reinforcing the need for constant rescue. It becomes the job of the Rescuer to keep the other propped up, “for their own good”, of course.
Having a Victim to care-take is essential in order for the Rescuer to maintain an illusion of being one-up and needless. This means then, that there will always be at least one person in every core Rescuers life who is sick, fragile, inept and in need of their care.
Beatrice grew up seeing her mother as helpless and impotent. From an early age, she felt a huge responsibility to take care of her frail parent. Her own well-being depended on it! Else how was she, a small child, going to make it? As the years went by, however, she could scarcely contain the inner rage she felt towards her mother for being so needy and weak. As a starting-gate Rescuer, she would do all she could to bolster her mother, only to come away again and again, feeling defeated (victim) because nothing she tried worked. Inevitably the resentment would take over leading her to resort to treating her mother with scorn (persecutor). This became her primary interactive pattern, not only with her mother, but in all of her relationships. By the time I met her she was emotionally, physically and spiritually exhausted from having spent her life taking care of one sick and dependent person after another.