Don't be a hero!

Let’s face it, we all like to feel needed. There is nothing quite like helping someone, receiving their gratitude and experiencing that warm and fuzzy feeling when you know you have made a difference in their situation.


Why rescuing never works in relationships...

Helping others is great, but what happens when we start to notice a pattern in our relationships where we always seem to be ‘coming to the rescue’? It may be one particular friend or family member who is constantly struggling to get by, despite being physically able to help themselves they always seem to be calling on you to lend a hand, be a listening ear or do them a favour and of course, you help because it feels good and that’s what just what you do right?!

The problem with this dynamic is that over time it develops a pattern, a cycle of victim and rescuer, they call out for help, you jump in and because you jumped in they call out for help again and so on and so on… resulting in more reliance on you over time. Not only can this begin to feel tiring but it can feel like you are stuck, never able to say no or set boundaries in the relationship, resulting in things feeling toxic.

Over time this ‘rescuing tendency’ creates two issues. One being for yourself, where you feel as though you are only worth anything in this relationship if you are helping, you begin to feel selfish when you say no or do anything that may benefit you, even asking them for help feels strange and the relationship remains very one-sided.

The second being for the person you are jumping in to help. For them, having someone to always rely on means that they don’t really need to consider how they can rely on themselves, how they can meet their own needs and become more independent. They may even feel worthless, aware that they can't manage without other people and it can feel like life is incredibly hard to navigate solo. 

By rescuing them there is a reinforcement from yourself that they can’t survive without you , almost like you are saying; “No, you can’t manage without me, you need me to get through life, you wouldn’t manage on your own’. The question is, do you trust that they could survive without you?

If this resonates maybe ask yourself why you feel this way, why is ‘being needed’ by someone so important for you? It may be that it is part of your sense of self, you may have been an older sibling or had to care for a parent in some way as a child, over time the message is reinforced that you are only worth something if you are helping. This could be something to explore further in counselling.

Ultimately, being a hero really doesn’t help the other person or yourself, so consider how you can break the cycle, set some boundaries and provide some space for you both to work on your relationship with yourselves, now THAT’S helping!

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, MK16 9PY
Written by Amy Fokkens, Dip.Couns. MBACP Therapeutic Counsellor
Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, MK16 9PY

Amy is a Therapeutic Counsellor and registered member of the BACP with a passion for helping those with low self esteem and anxiety. She has experience of working with the charity 'Mind' and a local refuge for women who have survived domestic abuse. Her practice is called 'Crown Counselling' and she is based in Milton Keynes

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