When Is Helping Others A Bad Thing?
Why Do We Rescue?
We look for being needed rather than being loved, since we believe that we can *never* be loved. So we try to prove how GOOD we are, in order to receive. The solution is to rescue people. All other people are capable of carrying the responsibility of being themselves, but we treat them like they are too damaged, too ill, or too young to do so. (And a person may act in a helpless manner even when they do have the means and tools to help themselves.)
With a rescue, similar to the buzz from an illegal substance, you get a ‘hit’ of
1. feeling good about yourself,
2. feeling you are worth something
It’s a temporary feeling of absolute bliss. But when the high ends, there’s a crash. That’s a clue to you that you have just been a co-dependent rescuer.
Other Reasons Besides The Feeling
Sometimes it’s just easier to help. That’s why we are eager to jump in and do things for people who ask. Because it’s less awkward than facing up to their problems and teaching them how to solve it. It’s easier to just get it done.
Culture and family background can make a person more codependent. Women are often told their value lies in the relationships that they maintain, whereas men are taught to look for self-worth in their career. To be a good wife and mother, you must become a complete caretaker. Sometimes we teach that a good husband has to take on and solve the problems of everyone in the family.
A person might be taught that their religion commands us to always be kind, always help, never say no, don’t be selfish, and don’t ask for anything for yourself. But in Islam, and most religions, God tells us that the middle way is best. He asks us not to spend too little or too much. This applies to spending our money, our time, and our attention. In His Guidance there is MUCH wisdom. The believer who is always rescuing becomes weak. We get detached from our spiritual lives, when we attach to another person. Then we go through the cycle below where we end up angry and frustrated. Then there is nothing left “to bring to the table” for any other part of our lives; no energy or positivity.
Good Feelings Fade In The Cycle of Rescue, Resentment and Regret
The rescue cycle has three stages. It begins when one person takes care of another’s responsibilities. This can also be called ‘caretaking’ and ‘enabling’. Traditionally, enabling has been described in spouses and partners of alcoholics. Anything that makes it easy for them to keep drinking is a rescue. This is the part of the cycle that feels good. This is when the rescuer feels the “high” of helping, and the one who asked for help thinks everything is going well in life.
Then both the one who rescues and the one who is being rescued fall into resentment to be followed by ‘regret’. But typically it is the one who rescues who moves to the resentment stage first. After having given beyond their limits, the exhausted rescuer starts to show an attitude toward the hapless one. Somewhere along the line, we, as the rescuer, crossed a line between what was OK to do and what was too much. Our own needs got ignored. The sacrifice became too great. We start to expect and ask for appreciation, meekness, and other ways they “should” behave. When it doesn’t come, we release the force of our anger, either passively or, if it’s a family member, aggressively.
At some point, the helpless person finds their feet. Suddenly they are standing on their own, and they have moved from to this corner of the triangle as well. It can happen as soon as they are helped, because by accepting that help, they know we feel they are helpless. And they resent that. No one likes to have their weakness shown back to them, no matter how often they talk about it themselves.
Now the rescuer is suddenly the victim of someone else’s anger. Now the rescuer goes to the third stage which I’ve called ‘regret’. But it is many things — shame, hurt, sorrow, self-pity. In this stage of wallowing in negativity, the rescuer will say “Why am I being used? Why am I being hurt again?” But how many of us will admit that this is something we have done to ourselves? Even if another person is involved, we decided to step into the cycle with them. We hate ourselves so much that we induce another person to hate us too. Perhaps it is a habit, that is learned from a time when we really were hated and abused by someone. But after that abuser is gone, what need is there to repeat this cycle? None, except that it is all we know how to do.
Skipping Straight To Anger
At the time of giving help, a rescuer may feel the anger right away. We have helped so much in the past that we cannot access the pity anymore. So we live in anger, towards people we have helped, and toward people who may still come to ask for help. That’s because we cannot help feeling that we HAVE to do something. It’s that idea that gets us in trouble.
A caretaker may look like the most responsible person on earth, but in reality, they have neglected the most important responsibility, themselves. That is why they end up in bad health, severe depression, addicted, and/or having a disorder.
Giving Up The Rescue
When we see the following going on, we should step back and let things happen naturally. We should allow people:
To work through their feelings
To suffer the consequence of their own choices
To feel disappointed by hearing us say “no”
To be asked to respond to our needs and wants
To be held responsible and accountable for himself or herself
To do what they are capable of doing and should be doing
To think for themselves
To speak for themselves
Here is my advice for the one who always rescues:
Only do something if you want to.
Only say yes if you want to.
Only help if ASKED to help.
Only do your fair share.
Only give what you receive.
And final words — Always ask for what you want, what you need, and what you desire!
Jehan founded this magazine and site to help Muslim women and men learn to stay away from abusers, to strengthen their relationship with Allah SWT and to find better healthier relationships.
ALSO IN THIS WEEK’S ISSUE
* Love Tip from Zabrinah
* Book Recommendation of the Week
* Inspirational Story from IslamCan
* Wise Words by Dalia Mogahed
* Latest Offer from Amazon.com
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