Being a rescuer of others in emotional distress is a popular gig. As children, many of us learnt that fulfilling this role afforded us a modicum of immunity within our often volatile family ecosystems. Being the emotional support of a sick, depressed mother, or alcoholic personality disordered father may have brought a degree of proximity with the largely absent parent, it made one feel important, needed and provided at least some form of emotional nourishment to our emaciated emotional bodies. We learnt to stifle our own needs in service of the beloved, damaged other, we developed an almost supernatural attunement for signs of distress in others honed by years of hyper-vigilance.
Slowly as adults we drifted often into toxic codependent relationships where we tormented ourselves with guilt and anguish if we dared peek at our own unlived lives. At times, there were breaks in the powerful repetitions, moments when our soul beckoned, imploring to be freed from servitude to the Other. Many flee from the call, too afraid, or unskilled to take their own helm, choosing rather to be steered by the life of another, or drift aimlessly until they can attach themselves limpet like to someone else’s distress. There is no shortage of wounded others and a painful but necessary truth is that rescuers are doomed to wander as hungry ghosts if they continue to attempt to heal their own primal wounds through ‘rescuing’ others.
But now and again, some of us emerge from this unconscious default.
Midlife is ruthless in the interrogation of our internal operating system, it demands that we re examine our relationships and our roles within them. Change, whether it be brought about by illness, divorce, retrenchment or the death of a loved one can be violent catalysts for the disintegration of rescuers perpetual codependence…
Those of us who escape are often blinded by the brilliance of having to take the reins of our own lives. Huge surges of repressed libidinal creative energy can bring intense and often disconcerting feelings to the numb parts of our disregarded selves. It can be a confusing, disorientating rebirth to find oneself responsible only for ones self.
I’d like to share a poem with you, kindly submitted by a client of mine who is going through this awakening, with his permission.
You get used to the quiet
When you live underwater
Your fingernails rust
Your eyes cloud with
They released me for a day
Allowed me to play in the sun
I felt the wind on my face
Watched leaves tumble
And felt the joy of love
They took me back
To the forest of kelp and coral
And wrapped my hands
I made my bed on mussel shells.
I lay in the dark
And understood the language
They speak deep below
Where there is no moon.
We Rescuers, we too deserve the care and love we bestow on others without a second thought. Learning to discover our own inner terrain, to forage and nourish our own needs without crucifying ourselves with guilt becomes what one may argue is the single greatest personal challenge a Rescuer can encounter.
love and courage,