Natalie Hartney, LPC NCC
From Rescuer to Coach
In the role of rescuer, you may feel a strong desire to "help" by taking over for a person. And even though helping may feel like the right thing to do, the problem is that it conveys a message that isn't helpful at all! Taking over for another person basically reinforces a message, "You are not okay, but I am nice, so I will do it for you." To see how this could be pretty devastating, try to imagine a little league baseball game where the coach decides to just bat for the kids because they are having trouble hitting the ball! How's a kid ever gonna learn how to bat?
We often find ourselves stepping into the role rescuer begrudgingly, out of necessity. But is it really necessary? We may help because we feel compelled to in order to relieve feeling anxious or otherwise disturbed. But, then we resent the person that we are helping! This sets up a terrible habit where we feel like if we are not in this role of rescuer, then we feel like we aren't needed at all. We feel invisible if we aren't in the role of rescuer, and we feel capable only when rescuing. This terrible set up all plays out even while we know that ultimately our helping will result in failure. For an example of this, see the original Drama Triangle post.
The move from Rescuer to Coach transfers the emphasis of ability from us to them. My skills and abilities will no longer act as a stand in-the coach gives the bat back to the batter. In the role of Coach, we give clear support. We express that we have faith in their abilities. Because we have this faith in them, we don't do ANYTHING for them, that they can do for themselves. Distancing is an important strategy in this move away from rescuing. This means being willing to listen, while at the same time not making the other's issue our own. Many of the strategies that are useful in making this transition will undoubtedly trigger complex feelings, especially if you struggle with codependence. A counselor can help you process and resolve these conflicting feelings. This will be especially important for anyone who was raised in a home with addiction or untreated mental health issues.
Let's return to the ball field for a moment. Imagine the growth of the team that can happen when the Coach moves to the side lines and encourages, expresses confidence in, and builds up the skills and self confidence in the players. Imagine the relief of the Coach who can stop playing in a game that isn't his! As the Coach you get to view your role, and the other person from a place of appreciation, respect, and through a lens of individuality. Now that sounds like a home run!