Last week we wrote about shifting from the Victim role that is central to the Dreaded Drama Triangle (DDT) toward embracing the role of a Creator, that is at the heart of TED* (*The Empowerment Dynamic)®. This week we want to consider the shift from Rescuer to Coach.
Let’s begin by understanding how the DDT roles get started in the first place. Whether it is the Victim, Persecutor or Rescuer role, all three have their origins in childhood. Even if you grew up in a positive and loving family, it did not stop you from developing ingenious ways to get your needs met. Psychologists (in particular, Karen Horney, M.D.) have identified three broad categories that describe how young children do this. Simply put, they are:
- Moving away from others
- Moving against others, and
- Moving toward others
The Victim role is aligned with “moving away,” disengaging, staying aloof and not taking responsibility for their life. The “moving against” aligns with the Persecutor role that has a need to control, be one-up, dominate and win. The third clearly aligns with the Rescuer role that “moves toward” with pleasing and accommodating behavior, seeking approval and affirmation.
Well-adjusted individuals utilize all three roles from time to time, moving back and forth according to various situations. It is when you over-use one of these roles that you magnify its effects and limit your ability to effectively respond to life’s challenges.
Of the three roles in the DDT, it is the Rescuer role that may be the most difficult to transform because of the positive social rewards that are heaped upon “helpers.”
If the Rescuer role is your “go to” role in the DDT, you may already know the effects of being pre-occupied with how you can help and please others. You may also not be able to see your pattern because you are too close to it. Nor are you able to see how your intervening stops others from learning and growing in their own way. If you do for others what they can do for themselves (at least eventually), you train people to rely on you, which ultimately disempowers them and creates dependency upon you.
Here are a few examples of how the Rescuer can show-up:
- A boss who delegates a job to their team and then intervenes and does the task anyway, so as to not overload the team;
- A parent who interferes in their adult children’s lives, without permission, hoping to prevent their children from suffering; or
- An executive who can’t say “no,” so they say yes to more projects that the business plan allows, causing their staff to be overloaded and exhausted.
To get unstuck from the Rescuer’s obsession with pleasing, we recommend the following steps that will support the Coach in you to emerge:
- Tell the truth to yourself about your desire to increase your self-worth by keeping others happy.
- Let go of your need to control situations. Rescuers believe that those in the Persecutor role try to control situations. The truth is Rescuers also justify their controlling behavior under the cloak of “I am only trying to help.”
- Ask others what they need. A Coach encourages others to clarify and declare what they want and the Baby Steps they will take.
- Deeply listen. Others will tell you what they want or need once you show your ability to listen – especially in response to #3, as they clarify the situation for themselves.
- Learn to wait, holding the tension of not knowing, as others reflect and gain insight into their needs and how to move forward. (This is so hard for Rescuers!)
- Let others know you are practicing the Rescuer-to-Coach shift so you won’t surprise them with your new behavior.