Are You a Loving Empath or a Deeply Wounded Rescuer?
Empaths and rescuers are two terms that are often used in the context of interpersonal dynamics, often people love calling themselves "empaths" and even carry pride about it, however very few are brave enough to look deeper and see that actually what they thought of themselves as being empath...is a deeply rooted and wounded rescuer! Despite they might seem like similar things, they actually refer to different aspects of behaviour.
In a few words, an empath is someone who has a heightened ability to understand and share the feelings of others. Empaths can sense the emotions of those around them, often to an intense degree.
Here are some of the characteristics of an empath:
they are highly attuned to the emotions of others
they may absorb or take on the emotions of people around them
empaths often have a deep sense of compassion and may feel compelled to help or support others emotionally and in other ways, too.
Empathy is considered a normal and natural human trait. It plays a crucial role in social interactions, relationships, and overall emotional intelligence.
A rescuer is someone who habitually takes on the responsibility of solving or alleviating the problems of others. Rescuers often feel a strong need to assist and may go to great lengths to fix issues for those around them.
Rescuer pattern is not inherently negative, and helping others can be a positive and fulfilling aspect of all kinds of relationships. However, when it becomes a compulsive and unhealthy pattern, it may lead to imbalances and challenges in personal well-being and relationships.
How do we develop this pattern?
Just like many other behaviour traits, rescuer pattern also comes from childhood. It could be growing up in a family where there was a need for someone to take on a caregiving or rescuing role can contribute to the development of this pattern. For example, a child might take on a parental role in a family with absent or struggling caregivers.
Or it could be a strong cultural and/or societal belief that one should always prioritise others' needs over their own.
It also could come from witnessing or experiencing challenging situations. This can shape an individual's coping mechanisms. The need to step in and help may be a learned response to difficult circumstances and even train our mind to feel "loved" that way.
For example, in my case the seed for my rescuer pattern was planted during one summer day at my grandparent's farm. My grandfather was begging me to bring him some food as he was starving for a few days. My grandmother kicked him out of the house because he got back home drunk again. He was an alcoholic and that was happening on a regular basis, so my granny had no patience with him anymore. So once I brought him some bread, salami and some sweets - he kissed me on a forehead and praised me how great grandaughter I was and how much he loved me and that I will always have a great life for as long as I help others.
And guess what, sometimes, when you really crave for love - that's all what you need - a bit of praise and love for a new pattern to get developed.
Little did I know that me rescuing my grandad that summer day will lead to attracting people and partners into my life with their own dramas and addictions!
Out of a pool of great guys I would pick one that is depressed, with three young children and just got separated from his ex-wife - "because he needs my help"!
Or instead of going on a second date with a guy that is a successful doctor from London and is ready to settle and have a family, I chose to date someone that just got let down by their business partner and were not paid for their last deal and their visa was expiring as well as his wife needed money for his daughter and eventually I got sucked into £40k debt (!!!) because he "constantly needed help".
These are only two examples out of hundreds of my own as well as my clients where they would be eventually trapped in a prison of that rescuer pattern, that's why it is important for me to write about that.
I want to help others to raise the awareness of this and start shifting their behaviour and actions from unhealthy rescuer to a heathy empath.
Warning: it won't happen overnight! But knowing the signs and what to do instead will help you to navigate through this journey!
Here is an extensive list of signs that someone may be in a subconscious rescuer mode:
1. Overextending Themselves: Constantly taking on more than they can handle in an attempt to rescue others.
Tip: Learn to prioritise your own well-being. Set realistic boundaries on the amount of time and energy you invest in helping others.
2. Difficulty Saying No: Feeling compelled to say yes to requests, even if it inconveniences them.
Tip: Practice saying no in a respectful and assertive manner. Understand that it's okay to decline requests when it's in your best interest.
3. Constantly Offering Advice: Having a tendency to offer advice, whether it's solicited or not, in an effort to help others.
Tip: Focus on active listening rather than immediately providing solutions. Allow others the space to explore their own solutions and perspectives.
4. Avoiding Conflict: Going to great lengths to avoid conflict or difficult conversations, often to prevent others from feeling upset.
Tip: Embrace healthy conflict as an opportunity for growth. Learn constructive communication skills to navigate difficult conversations effectively.
5. Feeling Guilty for Others’ Struggles: Experiencing a deep sense of guilt when others around them are facing challenges or difficulties.
Tip: Acknowledge that everyone faces challenges, and it's not your responsibility to carry the burden of others' struggles. Offer support without shouldering the guilt.
6. Taking on Others’ Emotions: Absorbing and internalizing the emotions of others, feeling responsible for their well-being.
Tip: Develop emotional boundaries. Recognize that you can empathize without absorbing others' emotions. Encourage open communication about feelings.
7. Neglecting Personal Needs: Ignoring or neglecting their own needs and well-being in favor of helping others.
Tip: Prioritise self-care. Regularly assess your own needs and take intentional steps to meet them. Remember, you cannot pour from an empty cup.
8. Constantly Available: Being overly available to others, even at the expense of their own personal time and priorities.
Tip: Set specific times for availability. Communicate clearly about your schedule and commitments. Encourage others to respect your boundaries.
9. Difficulty Setting Boundaries: Struggling to establish and maintain healthy boundaries with others.
Tip: Practice asserting boundaries in small situations. Gradually build the skill of setting and maintaining healthy limits with others.
10. Chronic Rescuing Patterns: Demonstrating a consistent pattern of rescuing others from their problems, without allowing them to navigate their challenges independently.
Tip: Allow others to take responsibility for their own actions and decisions. Resist the urge to swoop in and fix everything. Offer guidance, not a rescue mission.
11. Fear of Rejection: Experiencing a fear of rejection or abandonment, which drives the need to rescue others to maintain (often unhealthy) relationships.
Tip: Work on building your self-esteem independently of others' opinions. Recognise that healthy relationships allow for individual growth and independence.
12. Seeking Validation Through Helping: Relying on the positive feedback they receive from helping others as a primary source of validation.
Tip: Seek validation from within. Recognise your worth outside of the role of the rescuer. Engage in activities that bring you joy and fulfilment.
13. Ignoring Red Flags in Relationships: Overlooking warning signs or problematic behaviour in relationships due to a desire to rescue or fix the other person (ohhhh this one was a huuuuge one for me!!!)
Tip: Prioritise your own well-being. Address and confront red flags rather than attempting to rescue someone from problematic behaviour. You are not their coach or therapist. Send them to me, haha! On a serious note - despite you wanting to help them - they often don't want to change. So save your time, efforts, money and most importantly - your lifetime by saying "your choices and not my problems" and signpost them without trying to fix them.
14. Difficulty Expressing Needs: Struggling to communicate their own needs or seeking help from others.
Tip: Practice assertiveness in expressing your needs. Understand that your needs are valid, and communicating them is essential for healthy relationships. Start with small things: "I prefer this instead of that" or "no, I don't like it". One of the best places to practise is restaurants:
15. Martyr Complex: Adopting a martyr complex, where they sacrifice their own well-being for the benefit of others.
Tip: Shift your perspective from being a martyr to being a partner in relationships. Aim for mutual support and shared responsibilities.
16. Codependent Relationships: Engaging in codependent dynamics where their self-worth is tied to their ability to rescue or fix others.
Tip: Foster independence in your relationships. Encourage each person to have their own interests and pursuits.
17. Feeling Obligated to Save Others: Believing it is their duty or obligation to save others from their problems.
Tip: Reflect on your motivations. Recognize that everyone has the capacity to navigate their challenges, and it's not solely your responsibility to save them.
18. Fear of Confrontation: Avoiding confrontation or difficult conversations to prevent others from feeling hurt or upset.
Tip: Develop healthy confrontation skills. Understand that addressing issues directly can lead to stronger, more authentic relationships.
19. Becoming Drained or Exhausted: Frequently feeling emotionally drained or physically exhausted due to their constant efforts to rescue others.
Tip: Practice self-awareness. Monitor your energy levels and take breaks when needed. Delegate tasks and responsibilities to avoid burnout.
20. Lack of Personal Growth: Stagnating in personal growth because much of their energy is directed towards helping others instead of focusing on their own development.
Tip: Invest time and energy into personal development. Set goals for yourself, both within and outside of relationships. Focus on continuous growth and learning.
What happens if you don't work on the rescuer pattern because you keep thinking that you are an empath?
If you don't work on the rescuer pattern, several challenges and negative consequences may arise, from developing low self-esteem, self-neglect, feeling emotionally drained physical and emotional exhaustion, resulting in burnout to loss of identity. Eventually you may lose a sense of your own identity as you become defined by your role as a helper or fixer. And surely that will lead to even deeper and darker consequences.
Going back to whether you are an empath or rescuer, here are the key differences for you:
While empaths are primarily characterised by their heightened sensitivity to the emotions of others, rescuers are characterised by a pattern of taking on responsibility for solving problems.
Empathy is more about understanding and sharing feelings, while the rescuer dynamic involves taking action to alleviate difficulties.
Empaths may naturally sense the emotional states of others, whereas rescuers may actively involve themselves in problem-solving.
It's important to note that you can exhibit both empathic and rescuer traits, and these patterns may sometimes overlap.
Remember that recognising these traits can be valuable for your own personal growth, expansion and creating healthier relationship dynamics.
Striking a balance between empathy and setting healthy boundaries is key for fostering positive and sustainable connections. The question is: are you ready for it?
Reach out when you are ready to liberate yourself and step into your full power, just book a call with me here: https://calendly.com/olgageidane/quickchat or email me to Olga@newlifekickstart.com