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Exhausted from Rescuing? Becoming a Coach

Last in the drama triangle is the rescuer. The rescuer isn't always a person - it is anything or anyone that removes the pain or pressure from the victim, without actually asking the victim to be accountable. This can be alcohol, drugs, sex, shopping, exercise, complaining, venting, or any other activity that doesn't solve the problem, but provides temporarily relief from the suffering. When it is a person is in the rescuer role, it sounds like this:

  • X is being so unfair to Y - I will intervene on your behalf.

  • I'm sorry that is happening to you. Here is what I will do to help make it better for you and you don't have to change anything.

  • You are so overworked. I will take that on for you, even though I am already overwhelmed.

  • This isn't my fault, but I will fix it, so you don't have to.

  • I will do all the thinking for you, even if you can think for yourself.

  • I will do all the hard work for everyone to be helpful and feel resentful later because I am doing all the hard work for everyone (martyr).

  • I know you can do better, but I won't hold you to a higher standard because I don't want you to feel bad.

  • I know this isn't my job to do, but I do it because I don't want confrontation.

  • I know what you are doing is harmful, but I don't want to upset you, so I will keep it to myself and support (or just ignore), your bad behavior.

  • I will listen to your problems and make them mine to solve for you.

  • I will give you all the advice you aren't asking me for.

The rescuer mindset stems from the desire to help, problem solve, move on, and to save people and situations from hardship. You are probably wondering - what's wrong with wanting to help? Being helpful is a good thing, as long as you aren't taking accountability that belongs to someone else. Being a rescuer is very much being an enabler, where you clean up the messes, but never solve the actual problem, and therefore, creating more drama. The rescuer takes accountability and saves the day (which makes them feel needed/important) but what they are really doing is keeping the victim a victim, and solidifying the position of the persecutor, thus perpetuating the drama cycle. The rescuer isn't allowing the persecutor or the victim to share in the accountability and chances are, that situation will happen again and again. Basically, we recycle the same drama over and over.

If you find yourself in the rescuer role, you have a choice! Instead of jumping in to fix and solve the problem, you can be curious and ask how the victim can solve the problem with their own resources and actions. Rescuers must adopt the mindset, "I will listen to your problem without making it mine!" This doesn't mean that rescuers aren't helpful. As a matter of fact, by not doing the work, the rescuer helps the victim grow and build capacity (versus dependency). Think of teaching a child how to tie their shoes. In the beginning, they struggle, and it may be easier and faster to do it for them, but if that child isn't allowed to practice and learn, you will be tying their shoes forever. The same is true with rescuing adults. Relieving from the struggle very rarely leads to learning and wisdom.

To move from a rescuer to a coach, you have to be willing to let go of your need for controlling the situation or being the hero. You have to be willing to be curious and do less telling and more asking of important questions.

Here are some examples:

Rescuer: "I see you aren't going to finish this task by the deadline. Let me just do it for you really quickly." (does the task for the victim for the 35th time)

Coach: "I see you aren't going to fix this task by the deadline. This seems to be a pattern. What is getting in the way of this task?"

The goal of the coach is to be curious and spark thinking and action from the victim, versus the rescuer jumping into action. The goal is to empower the victim to not rely on the rescuer to fix everything and relieve the victim of accountability, but to support the victim into problem solving (and thus making them a creator). The coach isn't responsible for the outcome. That accountability belongs to the victim. This means the coach has to be unattached to what happens next.

Here are some self-reflection questions you can use to move from rescuer to coach.

  • Is this my problem to solve?

  • What resources/tools/skills might I be assuming the victim has to solve their problem?

  • What is the victim's goal?

  • What do I gain from always rescuing others?

  • What will I gain from letting others solve their own problems?

  • What responsibilities have I taken on that don't belong to me?

  • What am I willing to let go of?

  • When I see someone I care about struggling, how can I support them without creating a victim mindset?

  • What will happen if I don't rescue them?

  • What is their responsibility in this situation?

  • What emotions are coming up for me? How might I be responding based on those emotions?

  • How can this be resolved without my direct actions?

  • What will happen if I intervene? Short and long term.

If you are struggling with letting go of control and letting others handle their own issues and find yourself stuck as a rescuer, schedule a free consultation to see if coaching can help you through the process.

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