Are you a 'Rescuer'?

conflict relationships rescuer the drama triangle Jun 30, 2023

Are you a ‘Rescuer’?

Do you often find yourself always trying to solve other people's problems? Jumping in to help them?

Wanting to help and support, sometimes at the expense of your own self?

Do you hear yourself saying things like ‘Don’t worry, I will do it for you’ or ‘I’ll sort it’, often?

If so, you may be what is known as a ‘rescuer’. This is a role that we tap into within our social relationships.

What it’s like living as a ‘rescuer’

The long and short of it is, you really want to help people. Save them perhaps. It’s almost instinctive to you. It feels natural.

Do you find yourself telling others what to do? Or constantly stepping in to help people out in your life? Do you feel a sense of rejection when people don’t need or want your help? Deep down, do you fear you might not be needed? Do you find yourself feeling really sorry for others and wanting to help, fix or save them?

If any of these sentences sound like you, then you may have a ‘rescuer’ mentality and living like this can be hard work at times. You take on other peoples stresses and emotions as your own, and as a result you can feel responsible for them.

Before you know it you’re spinning so many plates, many of which aren’t actually yours and you can start to feel burnt out. You begin to feel unsure about where ‘your stuff’ actually fits in anymore.

This is what it feels like when you take on the role as ‘rescuer’ as part of The Drama Triangle.

What is ‘The Drama Triangle’?

As humans, a lot of us spend a lot of our time communicating while at work, or with our families/friends as well as within our relationships within something called ‘The Drama Triangle’.

Have you heard of this?

It is a concept that first got introduced to me many years ago by a psychotherapist. I had been describing a situation to her in relation to my (then) partner. We were going round in circles with this same unhelpful pattern that was difficult for us both, be we seemed stuck in a negative cycle that we couldn’t seem to get out of. This was causing the same old cycle of conflict to keep coming up between us.
The therapist I was speaking to, noticed this pattern and began to reflect it back to me. She began by drawing out ‘The Drama Triangle’, and explained how it worked. Quickly, I was able to understand these different roles that were being played out and relate them to my own situation. I could see in a much clearer way that the way we were operating was destructive. It seemed obvious when you see it written in black and white, however, day to day we were completely unaware of how we were feeding into this. I was blown away. Seeing this so clearly on paper and realising how we could choose a different response was liberating. It provided me with the awareness and shift that I really needed to go on to make consistent change.

Since that moment many, many years ago, I have come across ‘The Drama Triangle’ a lot more within my own education and self-development journey. There have been specific modules on ‘The Drama Triangle’ within my Transactional Analysis, NLP and Coaching training and as a result it’s something powerful I often reflect on with my clients. It is at the core of most problematic situations that we face with other people. 

How ‘The Drama Triangle’ Works

‘The Drama Triangle’ was first identified in the 1960’s by Stephen Karpman. It is a model of human and social interactions - what I mean by this, is that it demonstrates patterns people fall into when they are communicating. The triangle maps and identifies a type of destructive interaction that can occur around people during conflict.

Think of Drama as:

Defensiveness &
Wanting to be right.

Often, this stems from a place of fear. When these things come up within our relationships, often we are feeding into the Drama Triangle. |

The Drama Triangle is made up of three roles - Rescuer, Persecutor and Victim. Think of it as a Hero, a Villain and a Victim. Each role represents a common and ineffective response to conflict.

We all fall into this trap at different times. Both consciously as well as unconsciously. Some of our programming also results in us responding in this particular way. Not all of our programming is helpful, and sometimes these automatic behaviours and responses cause us more harm than good and don’t provide us with the response and situation that we want. Instead we can be caught up in unhelpful or toxic environments.

By improving our own self-awareness and nothing these patterns and behaviours come into play, means we can re-program ourselves and our responses and reactions to create a different, healthier and happier situation.

What it really means to be a ‘Rescuer’

Now, back to the ‘rescuer’…also known as the ‘hero’. 

The ‘rescuer’ is

- The one who often sweeps in and wants to save the day instead of teaching or helping someone with the tools and techniques to save themselves.

- ‘Rescuers’ seek relief, and yet this relief is often only temporary.  Rescuers want to take someones immediate pain to go away, however this can mean that sometimes the actual core issue is avoided.

- You can be a ‘rescuer’ to yourself as well as others and often the base drive behind these actions are because the ‘rescuer’ doesn’t want anyone to feel bad.

- As a ‘rescuer’ who is rescuing themselves, this can often be in the form of a ‘quick fix’. Because rescuers typically look for immediate relief, quick fixes such as drinking alcohol or comfort eating can be enticing to them.

- Rescuers constantly intervene on behalf of the Victims and try to save Victims from perceived harm. They feel guilty of standing by and ‘watching people drown’.  

- Rescuers may have all the good intention and strive to ‘help’ other people as they see necessary. They fail to realise that by offering short-term fixes to Victims, they keep Victims dependent and neglect their own needs. This is why Rescuers often find themselves pressured, tired, and may not have time to finish their own tasks, as they are busy fire-fighting for the Victims as they arise! 

- As a ‘rescuer’ who is rescuing others it can sound like
‘Let me help you’,
’It will be ok”, or
Don’t worry, I will do it for you’.

Do any of these phrases sound like something you would say?

Often rescuers are seeking value by being needed by others. This core need, is a huge driver behind sometimes doing too much or taking on an excessive amount for other people at a detriment to themselves.

How to make effective change away from rescuing tendencies

Once you spot yourself on ‘The Drama Triangle’ you have the choice as to whether you want to make a change. If you feel stuck in dysfunctional conflict, then we want to create a way that you can easily move on from this.

This is where we introduce ‘The Winner’s Triangle’. A term used within NLP which demonstrates the changes that need to be made within ourselves so that our social interactions have less conflict and more purpose and presence.

For a ‘rescuer’, to move over to ‘The Winner’s Triangle’ they need to become the coach - a way to empower others rather than save others.

As the coach, they don’t try to fix anyone, and instead they see everyone as fully empowered and owners of their own destiny.

They support and facilitate clarity in others by asking questions that drive others to take responsibility to create the life that they really want.

This decreases the weight on their shoulders, and allows them space for themselves again, while still caring and supporting those around them.

So, if you are a renewed rescuer, try these three tips to help you move in to more of a coaching role:

1) Start believing that everyone has what they need within themselves to make change and live to their potential

2) Instead of ‘Let me help you’, change this to ‘What could you try?’

3) Ask others what they need, and deeply listen to their response.

When people work within ‘The Winners Triangle’ they find they are more engaged, creative and productive. By working from a place of purpose and presence we can improve our relationships and interactions with those who live and work alongside us. By increasing our own self-awareness and incorporating small changes, we can create healthier and happier environments.

During my next blogs, I will focus on the Victim and the Persecutor aspects of ‘The Drama Triangle’.