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No good deed goes unpunished

Helping people is always a good thing, right? Then why do your good deeds keep blowing up in your face? Read on to discover why your 'help' might not always be well-received...



In order to explain, I need to introduce you to the Drama Triangle. Stephen Karpman published this social model of human interaction in 1968 and it is regularly used in Transactional Analysis psychotherapy as a way to explore destructive interactions between people.


Stephen Karpman's Drama Triangle

There are three 'dramatic roles' on the triangle, the Rescuer, the Victim and the Persecutor and if the title of this blog post caught your eye then I'm going to hazard a guess that you might identify with the former. A Rescuer is the kind of person who takes responsibility for problems that don't belong to them. Someone who can't say no, and who perceives others as needing a helping hand, or to have their lives 'fixed'. You might feel guilty at the very thought of turning down a request for assistance, no matter how inconvenient it may be for you: by your very nature, you feel compelled to help.

Apart from the fact that this sort of selfless behaviour leaves little time for the self-care that is essential for your own well-being, you may find that you feel strangely dissatisfied when you're stuck in the helping trap. You may have thought to yourself 'it would be nice to be acknowledged once in a while'...




It would be nice to be acknowledged once in a while

So why do you rescue? Well, this role likely gives you a sense of self: the chances are, you NEED to be NEEDED in order to feel as though you have earned your right to have relationships and to take up space on this earth. Perhaps you were praised for being a selfless, helpful child and made an unconscious decision that, in order to get on in life, you must always put others first. You learned to get your needs met vicariously through meeting the needs of other people. A rescuer's greatest fear is that they will end up alone; it is difficult for them to see their worth beyond what they can offer to others. They believe 'if you need me, then you wont leave me.'

And WHY is your 'helping' a problem? The simple answer is this: By rescuing, you are enabling others to be unable. You are, at best, feeding in to a cycle of disempowerment and at worst, making Victims out of those you repeatedly Rescue. The latter usually turns sour; no one wants to be made a victim, however well-intentioned the rescue attempt. This game of 'here, let me do it' usually ends when the person you try to help snaps at you and you end up feeling like a victim or a martyr.

A rescuer's greatest fear is that they will end up alone; it is difficult for them to see their worth beyond what they can offer to others. They believe 'if you need me, then you wont leave me.'

When you eventually end up at the therapist's office, it's probably because your authentic inner voice has begun to scream at you; you feel stressed, harassed, exhausted and unseen. Your authentic self is finally forcing you to acknowledge your own needs for love and support. You see that the only one in need of Rescue is YOU.


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