There’s a Fine Line Between Giving Support and Attempting to ‘Rescue’ Someone—Have You Crossed It?
An armor-clad rescuer fighting off fire-breathing beasts in an effort to save the princess trapped at the top of tower might be the tropiest of all tropes. Outside the realm of fairy tales, there's a fine line between being supportive and stepping in to solve someone else's problems, says psychotherapist Sarah Jane Crosby, MA. Before taking action to help a friend in crisis, consider whether your intended action is slipping into white knight territory. After all, it's the 21st century and we're all perfectly capable of slaying our own dragons (with our friends cheering us on from the sidelines).
"We rescue by taking on the responsibilities of another," writes Crosby in an Instagram post. "Supporting involves actively listening to someone, without betraying ourselves or our boundaries." While the urge to help others is in itself human and empathetic, it often comes at the expense of sweeping our own feelings aside. "We attempt to rescue someone from feeling distressed when we provide solutions without being asked, or tell them what we think they 'should' do. Support asks what is needed and doesn’t say, 'I told you so'," explains the psychotherapist.
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💭T H E R E S C U E R [p a r t 3] [art/words: @themindgeek] —— 📘In this series, we’ve been looking at the role of the Rescuer; signs we may play this part in relationships + reasons we do so. But how can we be there for others in true support, without rescuing + sacrificing ourselves? —— 💭Rescuing Vs Support: 🌿We rescue by taking on the responsibilities of another. Supporting involves actively listening to someone, without betraying ourselves or our boundaries 🌿We rescue others when we make excuses or take the blame for their actions. Support acknowledges what we have control over, allowing the other the opportunity to learn from mistakes 🌿We attempt to rescue someone from feeling distressed when we provide solutions without being asked, or tell them what we think they “should” do. Support asks what is needed + doesn’t say “I told you so” 🌿When we play the rescuer in relationships, we put our own needs to the side. It’s important we ask ourselves: 🌱What do we need? 🌱What feeling is this triggering? How might we be attempting to avoid it? 🌱Are we taking on something which isn’t ours to hold? 🌱What are our limits here? 🌱How can we mind our mental health while supporting another? —— 💌Putting down the role of the Rescuer can feel pretty uncomfortable, particularly if family or friends are accustomed to us saving them✨ 💌Working on the transition from Rescuer to Support involves creating boundaries + identifying our reasons for wanting to rescue. These take time + additional support with a Therapist can help. If you feel comfortable doing so, share below how you’ve navigated this change in roles✨ 💌Allowing ourselves space to notice our patterns + our core beliefs attached to each, is integral for change to occur. And remember, true support shouldn’t involve self-sacrifice✨ —— #supportyourfriends #empower #selfhealing #innerwork #psychotherapy #mentalhealthawareness #empath #highestself
A post shared by Sarah Jane Crosby (@themindgeek) on Sep 7, 2019 at 12:31pm PDT
When a friend confides in you and you catch yourself strategizing about how to banish their current conundrum, Crosby recommends asking yourself a series of questions to figure out the root cause of your knee-jerk desire to play the hero:
- What do I need?
- What feeling is this triggering?
- How might I be attempting to avoid it?
- Am I taking on something that isn't mine to hold?
- What are my limits here?
- How can I mind my mental health while supporting another?
Stow your cape (for now), because what your friend really needs is a cheer squad. That means actively listening—not hijacking the responsibility of a given situation. That means taking a backseat when someone wants to work through an issue all on their own. But most of all, that means focusing your attention on yourself rather than funneling your own inner turmoil into working on your friends. You've got your own journey to consider, right?
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