The last few essays we have expanded on what we call the “many faces of the Rescuer” in the Dreaded Drama Triangle (DDT) ™. As recovering Rescuers, we are familiar with the Rescuing role and the unintended harm that rescuing behavior can cause in relationships. We are grateful to our friend and colleague Carmen Renee Berry, whose amazing book, When Helping You Hurts Me, has guided many of our insights.
The Protector is a unique “face” of the Rescuer in that the protecting behavior may come across as persecuting. However the underlying unmet need of the person who is protecting is consistent with the Rescuing profile. Those unmet needs are; (1) a sense of obligation to fix or change the person or situation and if the Rescuer doesn’t fix it, they tell themselves, then it won’t get done and, (2) fulfilling a personal sense of unworthiness and shrinking from asking for what they want, by overly focusing on the needs of others over their own.
The Protector lives up to these qualities by keeping information from the one they say they are trying to help. Donna discovered this trait in herself when she noticed David was working too hard (in her opinion). Therefore, in order to help him she needed to protect him from troubling information. At times she would not tell him about phone messages or requests for his time so not to overload him.
When David learned about the phone messages and even important mail that was not shared in a timely manner, he was justifiably angry about Donna’s protecting behavior. In the drama that ensued, Donna didn’t understand why he was so mad. “I was only trying to help,” she said.
In a worst case situation, Protectors will build walls or barriers that may insulate others, all in the name of trying to help. The Protector may break promises, hide information or even lie to protect loved ones or colleagues. Bosses or business owners may not share “bad news” on the fear that others will not be able to handle the truth. As a result, suspicion develops and people begin to wonder what other information is being kept from them. Trust erodes rapidly in these situations.
If you see a hint of yourself in the Rescuer-as-Protector role, we encourage you to observe your need to feel responsible for other people’s welfare. Are you over-stepping your bounds and unknowingly creating disempowered relationships?