Rescuing Posted July 15, 2013 by Heal for Life

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How to avoid burn out…

Rescuing others is not only unhelpful, it can be disastrous. Rescuing (fixing for or doing for others) can disempower people leaving them feeling worthless, powerless or hopeless. It may also lead them to believe they are not capable or responsible for changes or choices they make in their own lives. A life time of rescuing others can also lead to burn-out and a less enjoyable quality of life.

The current mental health system encourages ‘fixing’ and ‘rescuing’. When working with others, asking ourselves the question, “Whose problem is it?” can assist us in defining our boundaries and prevent us from rescuing. Our role in helping others is to empower them to create the changes they want. As much as it may seem like the person wants or needs rescuing or fixing they will rarely be pleased about it when they are back on their feet.

Regardless of how ‘broken’ or ‘unfixable’ a person’s behaviour may seem at any given time, they are usually aware of what they need and want. Sometimes, we can get caught up in our own need to have all the answers. This comes from our own ‘stuff’ and after we ‘de-trigger’, it is often good to admit that we don’t have all the answers. This can actually be helpful both to us and the other person:

“What I found helpful, was staff who would admit when they didn’t know things, like they didn’t know if my medication would work or whether I would get better. I could respect them for telling the truth.” (HFL guest, 2011)

In terms of Transactional Analysis, people who are attracted to counseling and social welfare work often have a strong Parent Ego State, that is, they enjoy helping and giving love and support to others. There is nothing wrong with this except if the person wants to help others as a way of getting their own needs for love and recognition met. People who are ‘rescuers’ usually give until they find themselves burnt-out. They may also feel unappreciated as when they are helping others so much they are often doing the work they need to be doing for themselves. This is disempowering for the person being helped and causes overwork and frustration for the person doing the helping.

It is possible to come from a position of nurturing in the Parent Ego state and this can be beneficial to people who have had little nurturing in their lives. However, it is important to make a conscious decision about being in the Nurturing Parent Ego state. A Nurturing Parent state is usually only appropriate when counselling clients and is usually not appropriate outside of the counselling arena. People who are unaware of their ego states and feel they must spend hours nurturing another are also susceptible to burn-out and may breach their own time boundaries by giving extra time to those who are outwardly needy and less to those who may also be as needy but who are less vocal. If we are aware of our own ego states and make conscious decisions about them, we are more likely to be effective and less likely to burn-out and enjoy life.

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