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Are You Always Playing The ‘Rescuer’ In Relationships?

rescuer personalities thrive on helping people

Helping others is, of course, an admirable quality. But, for those who thrive on the drama of playing the rescuer, it can be extremely detrimental. It can be a damaging dynamic in relationships, for both the rescuer themselves and their partner.

What is the rescuer personality type?

Someone with the rescuer personality type is driven to help other people, even at the expense of their own wellbeing.

What do rescuers thrive on?

People with a rescuer personality type thrive on the stress of drama but also the close connections and bonds created through helping another person. They want to feel needed and essential to another’s wellbeing. The feeling of caring for another person to this extent often replaces something they have been missing themselves, or distracts from a larger issue.

What are the signs of a rescuer personality?

  • Giving more than you take
  • A sense of self that depends on helping others
  • A strong desire to ‘fix’ people
  • Feeling you understand people’s issues and how to resolve them
  • Low self esteem
  • Being drawn to people who really need you
  • A pattern of toxic or destructive relationships
  • A possible history of abandonment or toxic caretakers such as abusive or alcoholic parents
  • Tending to become unhealthily obsessed with other people and their troubles
  • Idealising people in need
  • A tendency to be overly controlling
  • Often taking the role of ‘parent’ in a relationship
  • Partners often becoming overly dependent
  • Relationships can become co-dependant

What is rescuer syndrome (or white knight syndrome)?

Rescuer or ‘white knight’ syndrome can be seen in both males and females but might present a little differently. Many males feel the desire to rescue a ‘damsel in distress’ and may tend to seek out women who they perceive as vulnerable or in distress. This can be destructive for a relationship. Often, the person does not need or want rescuing.

If they do, what happens once they have been ‘rescued’? Does the rescuer lose interest in the relationship once they feel their task has been achieved? Or do they constantly try and invent new ways to rescue the other person?

What causes the desire to rescue others?

There are many things which can cause someone to fixate on the need to rescue others over their own wellbeing. Finding the cause of the rescuer syndrome is key in releasing yourself from it. For many people early childhood experiences can cultivate a strong desire to help people. For others, it can be a reaction to trauma or feelings of low self-worth.

What drives the rescuer personality?

Rescuers are often driven by the desire to be needed. They seem to give without ever asking for anything in return. It is true that helping others can be beneficial to our own health. Many people volunteer or throw themselves into charity work if they feel depressed. It can be a great source of happiness.

Other people may help others as a way of avoiding unhappiness within themselves or because they themselves wish to be rescued. Rescuers want to be rewarded for their efforts. To be loved and appreciated, but because of the type of people they tend to try and rescue their efforts can go unrewarded.

What are the dangers of being a rescuer?

Although helping others is, of course, an admirable trait, when this desire dominates a person’s existence to the extent that it interferes with their own health and happiness it can be unhelpful.

There is a danger that rescuing behaviour in a relationship can turn into overly controlling or manipulative behaviour. You may be overly attracted to troubled people who may need more help than you can give such as people with significant trauma, addictions or a history of abuse or infidelity. It can be stressful to want to help someone who does not want your help or cannot make the changes you want. There’s a danger of an unhealthy dynamic forming in a relationship when one person has a rescuer personality. Sometimes it can lead to traits of a co-dependent relationship developing.

Sometimes the ‘rescued’ person is unable to reciprocate with the love and appreciation that the rescuer wants. Or, the ‘rescuer’ is in denial about the extent of control the other person has over their destructive behaviour. They may forgive undesirable behaviours too easily.  

What can I do to stop rescuing people?

It depends what’s causing your rescuing behaviour. Do you need to heal your abandonment issues or past trauma? Or take a look at your relationship patterns and learn to thrive in a new type of partnership. Alternatively, you might need to build your self-esteem or find a purpose in life that doesn’t depend so much on the behaviour of others. Take back control of your own health and happiness and rescue the one person you can truly help –yourself.

If you’d like to learn more about how hypnotherapy can help with any of the issues outlined above please do get in touch. Sessions can take place in my London hypnotherapy clinic or online. I’m happy to offer a no-obligation initial consultation to answer any questions you might have.

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rescuer personality in relationships can be detrimental
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