There's this pattern....
that shows up a lot a lot a lot in relationships. I’ve seen it in my myself, in my clients, in my friends. It’s largely unconscious, and like most of our dysfunctional behavior and motives-- stems from deep, generational trauma, and our caregivers not having gotten the healing they needed to prevent themselves from modeling certain unhealthy behaviors and patterns to us. Not their fault, as they were doing their best. AND. Once we become conscious, it is our responsibility to heal so that the dysfunction ends with us.
I call it the Damsel / Rescuer dynamic. Which is another way of describing codependency.
It looks like this:
Person A is feeling uncomfortable or insecure about themselves (a natural and recurring situation for most of us), and feels like the solution to that discomfort is in receiving validation and comfort from someone else. If in a romantic dynamic, the partner or love interest is often coined as the one who holds all the power to make them feel okay about themselves again. If this craving for external validation is unable to be met (often for reasons that aren’t personal to Person A), the inner turmoil and anxiety builds and builds and builds. If left unchecked, this can lead to full-blown panic, maybe even rage, depending on your personal disposition and trauma history. Either way, it’s a total fear and pain attack pulsing through the body.
When in this state, one can’t do their life well. It’s impossible to focus, make sound decisions, and communicate clearly and rationally. Asking for what you think you need from someone else when in this state puts the other person in a precarious and highly pressured situation. It feels scary and bad all around.
Person A is unconsciously acting out a “Damsel” role. Desiring someone to save them from themselves.
And then there’s the “Rescuer”, Person B.
Person B feels responsible for making sure Person A doesn’t lose it. Or hurt too much. Or feel too insecure about themselves. Or create drama and strife in their day. And so they swoop in to give Person A what they think Person A needs. Often times this comes at the expense of their own needs. They may cancel plans that they were looking forward to, to make sure Person A is pacified. They tend to have really mushy boundaries. They tend to feel overburdened with feelings of responsibility. They also may feel a shit ton of hidden resentment toward Person A.
Some of us tend toward Damsel, and others toward Rescuer. I’ve been caught in both, depending on the dynamic of who I’ve been with. And what I have learned from my own personal experience in both roles is that as long as one is caught in an unconscious pattern of needing to be rescued or needing to be a rescuer, you’re just not in a position to build a healthy, empowered, respectful, nourishing relationship.
Because feeling the need to be rescued or a rescuer is never permanently resolved by the “rescue."
And, when the “Rescuer” is unavailable, it’s a recipe for a deep, dark spiral into unworthiness, feeling dropped, feeling unloved, and blaming the other.
So, how do we know when we are in a “Damsel” mode? One such way is that we feel an extreme sense of URGENCY triggered by an extreme feeling of ANXIETY.
“I need to talk to this person right now”
“I need to send this text immediately”
“I think I might die if I don’t hear from this person soon”
There is no, “lemme take good care of myself right now, and sit on this for the night” when in the Damsel zone.
It's really freaking important to know that what that urgency is actually calling us toward is to reparent ourselves.
That tortured, anxious feeling of “If I don’t hear from this person soon I might die” is coming from a very terrified and in some cases, abused inner child. It is not coming from your adult self who is in an adult relationship with another adult. Which is why the solution isn’t to be sought in the other person showing up for you immediately.
It’s to be sought in YOU showing up for you immediately. Or more accurately, in your adult self showing up for your terrified inner child.
Seeking validation from the significant other is a temporary band aid that will fall off sooner or later, and that wound will inevitably start bleeding again, and then you’ll get a new band aid that will fall off again, and again and again, as long as you’re seeking another to make your pain go away.
This doesn’t mean that you don’t talk about your feelings with your person. Or show them your woundedness. But you’re going to be more effective, more empowered, and feeling a lot less shame in the aftermath if you do so after you’ve done some reparenting on yourself and can speak from your conscious adult self that has acknowledged and tended to your hurting little one.
This is also important for Person B who (unconsciously) finds value and self-worth in saving someone from their crisis. First of all, you can’t really save anyone who is operating from their wounded child state. Because they don’t need you, even if they say and think they do. They need their parent(s) that they couldn’t get enough of, or get in the right ways, way back when. And you aren’t them. And you can’t be them. When you try and be them, you block them from doing their actual healing work. You can let them know you care, and send blessings to their healing. And when they are able to speak rationally and take personal responsibility for their own emotions, and in some cases, seek professional support for their healing process, then you can hold good space and have a healthy exchange.
To take reparenting out of the abstract, here are some good tips that I gleaned from @the.holistic.psychologist (a great one to follow on insta for healthy being’ness).
TIPS FOR REPARENTING:
-fulfilling promises to self
As always, I’m available for sessions (in-person and from afar) on all matters of the heart. If you find yourself struggling with either of these roles, I’d love to support you in coming up with an action plan for your healing, so that you can love in a way that empowers yourself and others.