Strong Series Part II: The Righteous Rescuer
I, I will be king
And you, you will be queen
Though nothing will drive them away
We can be heroes, just for one day
-“Heroes” by David Bowie
Just as victim hurts so good like three too many helpings of apple a la mode, rescuer soars on wings of eagles complete with the cape and mask of a superhero. Ahh, the Righteous Rescuer, a role I have often worn proudly, like a pair of killer Louboutins or something. This role is a double threat in that it temporarily feels loving on both sides of the table; from where the rescued sits as well as the rescuer. However, Strong Series part II zeros in on the rest of the story: how this role temporarily flies high, yet falls short…really fast.
The Enneagram Two
If you know me in this life you are most likely familiar with the Enneagram because I’ve been a huge fan, no, evangelist of it for a while. Clients, friends, family, husband, stranger in the starbucks line alike: I most likely pointed you to the online indicator at my first opportunity in order share its wisdom and selfishly know if I was correct in my personal hunch as to what your number (or type) was. Yeah, sorry if it was over the top. I’m working on that.
I mention this because I firmly believe the rescuer looks very much like the quintessential Enneagram type Two in its point of stress or disintegration, finding inherent motivation in life rooted in the need to be needed, especially in relationships. “Help me!” is the mating call of the two and rescuer alike. A savior is a worthy thing to be after all, yes? Hmm, look again. The business of saving people is fragile if not futile work. Rescuers and victims are like two peas in a pod and in a blissfully ignorant world they make dynamic partners. That is, until one or both wakes up to the truth of their essential selves, using Enneagram rhetoric, and can no longer do that dysfunctional, enabling dance. What was once a slow and sexy samba now feels like four left feet.
Rescuers are the folks in your neighborhood with a constant overflow of foster pets oozing out the front yard. They are the people you call when you need to feel the sugary saccharine of sweet consolation that says, “Honey, it’s not your fault. I can’t believe she would say that to you” or, “You were the best possible candidate for that job, it will all come back around and bite them in the ass. Come over; we’ll get toasty and talk smack about the whole situation” when you don’t get the promotion you were hoping for. Perhaps, instead of rescuing, the gift to give is a listening ear and a tall glass of empathy.
Interestingly, the rescuer needs that heroic role more than the object of her rescuing. It is the dysfunctional umbilical cord sustaining his/her existence.
Early on, the rescuer encountered great helplessness around them, maybe from parents or siblings, hearing a steady drip of “I can’t” that ushered forth those initial glimpses into their powerful and purposeful “I can” destiny. This is the learned way of connection with others; a cycle that repeats over and over again throughout life even subconsciously.
There are blatant payoffs for the rescuer as you can imagine. They are perhaps the most glaring of all, seeming helpful at first glance. Here we go:
- As our title suggests, rescuers get to be “self-righteous” forcing the persecutor into the doghouse.
- Temporary boost in self-esteem, distracting from deep existing pain
- Receive attention for being “right”
- Feel useful
- Get to be the “good guy”
The Way Out
The rescuer has absolutely no awareness of personal needs as identity was gradually built on meeting the needs of others. Most likely, therapy or recovery starts when he/she finally acknowledges that anger and resentment that’s been stuffed for so long now wreaks havoc on overall health, functioning, and relationships. Or, a loved one gives the old ultimatum. Real healing starts when the rescuer a) sets some boundaries and b) becomes aware and accepting of their needs. The way out for the rescuer is simple yet initially very wobbly: self-rescue. All of those heroic, well-meaning attempts to save another must now point back to them. Discovering true identity and voice unlocks a whole new world for the rescuer; one of vibrancy and presence.
We are two-thirds through our Strong Series and I know this stuff can be heavy. Thanks for hanging in with me. My hope is that you will use this in your awareness this week as an experiment, observing the possible ruts you may fall into that look like rescuer. Ask yourself this: What boundaries do I need to have in place to love honestly and fully in this moment? Man, I can think of several in my life right now. Perhaps I’m not alone. We will be back next week with a sneak peak into the persecutor. I know the suspense must be killing you….