Rescuing...sounds so altruistic, doesn't it? It's the stuff of goodness, kindheartedness and humanity. It's actually the kiss of death. It kills the self and the self in others in subtle ways because we stop focusing on ourselves. In focusing on others, we do not let them own their stuff. In her book, Codependent No More, Melody Beattie devotes an entire chapter to this beast in relationships. She talks about an unhealthy need in us to be needed by others and the ensuing dependency this can create. We try to control others and their behaviors and outcomes, telling ourselves that "we are only trying to help."
Rescuing is when we do for others what they can do for themselves. When I think about rescuing, I think of how we sometimes want more for someone than we believe they should want for themselves. We may even think we know what they should want and when they should want it. We cajole, convince, trick, persuade and otherwise push the other into accepting our help--often before they have even asked for it. What makes this so dangerous for us in relationships? It's that when we help a drowning person, we risk being pulled under as well. We may forget to save ourselves.
Whenever I find myself focusing on someone else's problem and trying to make it my own by thinking and worrying about it, I now ask myself the question: "What is it that am I not focusing on in my own life that currently needs my attention?" The list is endless! Then I get to the important work of making that phone call I've put off or doing that task I've left aside. And I trust that the other person will get to whatever task will help them along their journey. I rescue myself from rescuing another.