Sanctuary and Serenity

What is a Rescue?

Posted on: March 27, 2010


Rescuing and caretaking mean almost what they sound like.  We rescue people from their responsibilities.  We take care of people’s responsibilities for them.  Later we get mad at them for what we’ve done.  Then we feel used and sorry for ourselves.  That is the pattern, the triangle.
Rescuing and caretaking are synonymous.  Their definitions are closely connected to enabling.  Enabling is therapeutic jargon that means a destructive form of helping.  Any acts that help an alcoholic continue drinking, prevent the alcoholic from suffering consequences, or in any way make it easier for an alcoholic to continue drinking are considered enabling behaviours.
As counselor Scott Egleston says, we rescue anytime we take responsibility for another human being – for that person’s thoughts, feelings, decisions, behaviours, growth, well-being, problems, or destiny.  The following acts constitute a rescuing or caretaking move:
  • Doing something we don’t really want to do.
  • Saying yes when we mean no.
  • Doing something for someone although that person is capable of and should be doing it for him – or her – self.
  • Meeting people’s needs without being asked and before we’ve agreed to do so.
  • Doing more than a fair share of work after our help is requested.
  • Fixing people’s feelings.
  • Doing people’s thinking for them.
  • Speaking for another person.
  • Suffering people’s consequences for them.
  • Solving people’s problems for them.
  • Putting more interest and activity into a joint effort than the other person does.
  • Not asking for what we want, need, and desire.

We rescue whenever we take care of other people.

At the time we rescue or caretake we may feel one or more of the following feeings: discomfort and awdwardness about the other person’s dilemma; urgency to do something; pity; guilt; saintliness; anxiety; extreme responsibility for that person or problem; fear; a sense of being forced or compelled to do something; mild or severe reluctance to do anything; more competency than the person we are “helping”; or occasional resentment at being put in this position.  We also think the person we are taking care of is helpless and unable to do what we are doing for him or her.  We feel needed temporarily.

I am not referring to acts of love, kindness, compassion, and true helping – situations where our assistance is legitimately wanted and needed and we want to give that assistance.  These acts are the good stuff of life.  Rescuing or caretaking isn’t.

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