Trying to Rescue People

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Trying to rescue people

When Tammy came to me for healing work, she talked about how she was always taking care of other people.  Not only that, but she believed she “should” either solve or carry the other person’s issues and/or emotions. 

When someone suggested that she really didn’t need to do this, she felt guilty just for thinking that it might not be her job to take on others’ “stuff.”  Most often this starts very early.  

When you’re taught to take care of others

In families with abuse or trauma, like Tammy’s, the child has to grow up much too soon. From a very young age, they are taught in many different ways that they are to care for their siblings – and often their parents too.  When one learns to care-take this young, it becomes a “given.” If you’re the oldest, you’re told you must take care of your younger siblings; sometimes parents inappropriately tell the child things the child should never have to bear. 

Tammy, for example, was the person who carried all the family secrets.  Her grandmother would share something that was going on with her and tell her not to tell anyone else.  Likewise, her father told her things about his work that no one else knew and told her not to tell anyone.

When these sorts of things happen routinely early in life, like Tammy, you learn that you are supposed to carry others’ burdens. You are supposed to be the responsible one. 

 It affects all your relationships

This form of obligation and duty then extends into other relationships and work situations.  You become the rescuer, the fixer, the one who steps in to take care of any situation. 

Often people end up in Tammy’s situation, where she felt a compulsion to help anyone in need, and at that same time, felt guilty if she took care of herself. It comes as a revelation to learn that it truly is not your responsibility to take on someone else’s “stuff.” 

It’s not your job

The other day I shared the following post to my Facebook business page:

 You can’t heal the people you love.

You can’t make choices for them.

You can’t rescue them.

You can’t promise that they won’t journey alone.

You can loan them your map.

But this trip is theirs.

I was astounded at the response – both on Facebook in comments and shares, and from clients who had seen it.  It really struck a chord. 

I posted it because it’s been my own experience. For me, a lifelong “helper,” and one who thought that it was truly my “job” to take care of others, these sentiments really hit home! Moreover, I see this dynamic over and over again in my clients. 

We can’t do someone else’s work for them

We can’t do someone else’s work for them. And yet, those of us who are helpers often find ourselves trying to do that with no thought that we might have choice.  Or we believe it’s the “right” thing to do. 

What would it be like if you simply gave up this  idea? What would open up for you?

The theft

One of my teachers said that when we try to take on other people’s “stuff,” it’s actually a theft. It robs that person of their personal and spiritual growth. 

Whoa!  When I first heard that,  it was like a punch in the gut. When I share this with a client, their experience is often the same. 

Beyond rescuing and taking on others’ emotions

What would your life be like if you simply accepted that you can’t rescue, save, manage, or heal anyone else?  How would things shift for you if you truly took this in? How would your life be different? Please let me know!

With love and gratitude,

PS:  One of my joys is working with people who are dealing with this dynamic in their life.  If this was a revelation for you, or if you know this is a big theme in your life, and you would like support, please reach out and schedule a discovery call.  I have a couple spots open for new clients. Read more about how my individual sessions work here.

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Showing 2 comments
  • Priscilla Potts

    Sometimes I want somebody to be fixed…not necessarily by me…but fixed in a way that I’m no longer having to deal with their behavior or be impacted by it. I guess I just wish they would disappear out of my life. They often do …for a while. I realize that if “they” do get fixed, another will pop right up. Wanting an issue to go it my own or others isn’t really solving anything. Healing me thru growth by seeing my unhealthy learned, or inherited false belief systems is where I need to be. My ego does try to drag me into enabling both myself and the other.

    • Mary Shields

      Phyllis, this is so common — and so human! I’ve learned that when someone triggers me, it’s actually a gift, as it’s highlighting some place in me that isn’t yet healed. Focusing on your own growth and healing is definitely the place to be! We can only work on ourselves. And when we do, then all our relationships shift. From my Mending Webs work I’ve learned that if you focus on your own healing, often the whole family or group system also begins to get healthier. Thanks so much for your comment!

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