Helping a Chronic Rescuer

Do you ever feel that if you don’t do things they won’t get done? Do you ever feel like you have to do everything and no one can help you? Either they don’t see that they are necessary or won’t/don’t do it the way that you want?  Do you ever find that when you do for one person to try to make them happy that you end up being resented by someone else? Do you ever feel overworked and underappreciated? Do you often feel frantic, stressed, and without peace of mind? If you do, you may be a Rescuer, like Sabene.


A Rescuer is a role in the Drama Triangle. Rescuers jump to other’s rescue without waiting for a request for help. They don’t ask first, and if they do, they don’t take “no” for an answer. Rescuers don’t check to see if the help they are giving is appropriate because they are sure they know what’s best for them. Rescuers keep on keeping on. They don’t stop when the job is done and wait for the next request.  Rescuers end up feeling overworked and under-appreciated.


Worse than all that, Rescuers are seen as Persecutors by those they are trying to help. This is because they are treating the other person as a dependent child that doesn’t know what is best for themselves. They are depriving the other person of the opportunity to make their own decisions and to learn from their consequences. When other people respond to Rescuers in an ungrateful way, Rescuers feel victimized. They switch into the role of Victim in the Drama Triangle.


When a person chooses to play the Rescuer they will sooner or later be seen as a Persecutor and experience themselves as a Victim. All this fills life with plenty of drama but very little authenticity, freedom, or peace.  The good news is that there is an alternative. We can learn to live outside of the Drama Triangle. This interview points the way. After the interview we will comment on it and suggest ways that you too can start moving yourself out of the needless drama in your life.

What are three fundamental life issues that you are dealing with now in your life?

1 My daughters – that they will be happy and go their ways.

2 Relationship to Tony – that it will work in the future and he will understand better about why Isabel doesn’t like him…

3 Have enough money to save for a house.

Which issue brings up the strongest feelings for you?

Relationship to Tony: We are very different. I hope we can find a common way. I feel always that I have to decide between my children and him – torn.


If those feelings had a color (or colors), what would it be?



Imagine that color filling the space in front of you so that it has depth, height, width, and aliveness.

Now watch that color swirl, congeal, and condense into a shape. Don’t make it take a shape, just watch it and say the first thing that you see or that comes to your mind: An animal? Object? Plant? What?

A black horse!


Now remember how as a child you liked to pretend you were a teacher or a doctor?  It’s easy and fun for you to imagine that you are the shape that took form from your color and answer some questions I ask, saying the first thing that comes to your mind.  If you wait too long to answer, that’s not the character answering – that’s YOU trying to figure out the right thing to say!

Black Horse, would you please tell me about yourself and what you are doing?

I’m standing between Sabene’s daughters and her.  I dislike being there because I want to belong to someone.  I am galloping, rearing, and racing back and forth because I can’t find any peace!


What do you like most about yourself? What are your strengths?

My strength, temperament, activities, beauty!


What do you dislike most about yourself? Do you have weaknesses?  What are they?

My indecisiveness.  My inability to formulate clearly what I want to do. I want too much from others and from myself.


What aspect of Sabene do you represent or most closely personify?

Her fear!  To not be able to satisfy everybody!


Black Horse, if you could be anywhere you wanted to be and take any form you desired, would you change?  If so, how?

I want to be around other black horses!

Imagine that, black horse. How is that for you?


I don’t know. They are very foreign to me. I have to be part of the herd. Should I instead be alone or go back? I miss my friends and my daughters.


(Continue, answering as the transformed object, if it chose to change.)

Black Horse, how would you score yourself 0-10, in each of the following six qualities:  confidence, compassion, wisdom, acceptance, inner peace, and witnessing?  Why?

Confidence: 5 Because I do not have enough self-confidence.

If you had more, what would you do differently, Black Horse?

I would ask myself what I really want to do!

What would your answer be, Black Horse?

To take better care of myself and not feel guilty or take responsibility for what other people feel.  I would have to say more often, “It’s not my problem.”

Compassion: 2 Because I am very hard on myself and therefore very hard on others.

Wisdom: 3 Because I know I do things that are not right! I could do them better, but I don’t.

Acceptance: 6 I think I am accepted by other horses. I accept others too.

Inner Peace: 2! Because I’m always nervous. I always have something to do and I need a break but I don’t allow myself to have one!

How come, black horse?

Because I think I have to do everything and no one can help me. No one else can do them. So I have to.

Do you think you are the only horse that can do things?

No, but others don’t! They have no time or they don’t see that they are necessary or don’t do it the way that I want.

Black horse, does that cause you to end up feeling resentful that you end up having to do it all?


Witnessing: 0! Because I am always involved!!!

Black Horse, if you scored tens in all six of these qualities, would you be different?  If so, how?

A ten in wisdom – I would have to say nothing and look at how others react. Not tell them my opinion…Don’t feel responsible for what they do or say or how they have to organize their lives…It would feel good!


How would Sabene’s life be different if she naturally scored like you do in all six of these qualities all the time?

Her life would be more peaceful!  More feeling for other people, for her children. More patience.


If you could live Sabene’s life for him, how would you live it differently?

I would be Sabene; I would not need to gallop between people. I would know that being part of Sabene is my place and that I belong to her. I’m not confused any more.  I will arrive at a point where it is OK to be.


If you could live Sabene’s waking life for her today, would you handle Sabene’s three life issues differently?  If so, how?

1 My daughters – that they will be happy and go their ways.

I would worry less! I would be without stress or pressure!  There would be more laughter and compassion. More interest in them.


2 Relationship to Tony – that it will work in the future and he will understand better about why Isabel doesn’t like him…


I would not feel responsible for him. He has to go his own way.  I would have more trust in him than Sabene does that he will manage it.


3 Have enough money to save for a house.


Perhaps I would change jobs.


What three life issues would you focus on if you were in charge of Sabene’s life?


1. Freedom! Meadows!

2. Enough food!

3. Fun! Nice other horses!

Would you feel guilty if you stopped galloping back and forth between Sabene and her kids and instead took care of yourself?

No! Because I’m a horse!  It’s not my problem!!!

In what life situations would it be most beneficial for Sabene to imagine that she is you and act as you would?

When she is fighting with her girls!

If she became you when she was fighting with her girls what difference would that make?

She wouldn’t get so angry!

Why not?

I would think, It’s not my problem!

Humans feel guilty when they think that way. Why don’t you?

Because I’m a horse! I don’t need to feel guilty!

So Sabene could become you when she doesn’t want to feel guilty?


Black Horse, do you do drama?  If not, why not?

No! There’s no need! It’s nice!


What is your secret for staying out of drama?

To stay by myself.

But you’re with other horses…

I don’t care what they think. I don’t care if they think I’m selfish or not.

Why do you think that you are in Sabene’s life?

Because Sabene likes black horses!

How is Sabene most likely to ignore what you are saying to her?

I don’t know. She will ignore me sometimes.


What would you recommend that she do about that?

I can go to Sabene and rear up and whinny to say, “Hey! I’m here!”

Sabene, what have you heard yourself say?

I need more self-confidence, patient, listen to myself and not to feel responsible for others’ actions. They can solve their problems without me.  I have to listen to my daughters and hear what they say to me.


If this experience were a wake-up call from your inner compass, what do you think it would be saying to you?

The same!

Is there anything you want to take away from this interview to apply in your everyday life?

Listen to my inner voice! To trust it!  Not be in a conflict between my heart and my head.



Because this was Sabene’s first interview she picked an image she could identify with. It sometimes seemed as if Sabene was speaking instead of letting the “horse,” her personification of her anger at being stuck between her boyfriend and her girls, speak. This is typical not only for first interviews but also for those who have low self-confidence. They do not trust themselves; therefore, why should they trust an imaginary horse? In addition, most people are used to being rewarded for being in control of their lives. Are we to expect people to immediately and completely drop that conditioning when asked to let some imaginary figure speak?


What we are hearing is some mixture of Sabene and her emerging potential, since her Black Horse is a part of her.  Her challenge is, “How much am I willing to get out of my own way and let another authentic perspective on my life be heard?”


Like Sabene, people stay Rescuers out of a fear that they will be unable to satisfy others, whether children, partners, or bosses.  If they do not, it means that they should punish themselves and feel guilty. But notice that when Sabene attempts to satisfy Tony her daughters are unhappy; when she attempts to satisfy her daughters then Tony is unhappy. In any case, Sabene ends up unhappy because she is living in fear of rejection regardless of whom she chooses to help.


Sabene finds herself resenting her daughters because she often feels that they pull her away from Tony and from living her own life. The problem, however, is not her daughters, but her fear of not being able to satisfy either herself or the needs of either Tony or her daughters. We know this because Black Horse says, “I’m standing between Sabene’s daughters and her.  I dislike being there because I want to belong to someone.”

Many people spend their lives searching for someone to belong to. That person is, of course, oneself. Because we disown our own ability to love and satisfy ourselves we project that need onto others, guaranteeing that we will be unhappy when others do not, because they cannot, be the person we truly belong to.


Rescuers tend to be very self-critical and then to project that criticism onto others. This is certainly the case for Sabene. Her Black Horse says, “I want too much from others and from myself.” “ Because I am very hard on myself (I am) therefore very hard on others.”


Sabene’s indecisiveness causes her to be very self-critical. She wants to be herself but wouldn’t that mean being alone? She doesn’t want to be alone because then she would “miss my friends and my daughters.” Consequently, Sabene’s fear that she can never be her best friend, can never come to satisfy her needs for peace and happiness, cause her to direct her search for happiness into a world and relationships that can finally only reflect the emptiness that she feels inside.


The Black Horse’s low scores reflect Sabene’s low self-esteem.  In her own self-estimation she lacks self-confidence, compassion, wisdom, inner peace, and the ability to step outside of the drama of her life.


The things that Sabene does that she knows are not right include telling her kids to go live with their father if they don’t like her, to blame her children’s father to them, to see her children as the source of her unhappiness. Notice that Sabene knows what she needs to do: “To take better care of myself and not feel guilty or take responsibility for what other people feel.  I would have to say more often, ‘It’s not my problem.’ Most of us do already know what we hear in interviews. So why do them?


When you do an IDL interview you are reminding yourself of who you are and who you were meant to be. If you do that enough you will grow that vision. You will become your innate emerging potentials.


What keeps us from doing what we know to do?


There are many reasons. Many of them boil down to habit, inertia, and the comfort of a dysfunctional balance. Think of a smoker: they know what they are doing is harmful; why don’t they stop? Generally it is because they have achieved a very strong, very stable, dysfunctional physical and psychological balance. Their body craves nicotine and they like the way they feel when they get it. So it is with rescuers.  They crave the validation that comes from rescuing and can’t imagine living without it. It seems their life would be empty, when of course it wouldn’t be at all.


Notice also that Sabene knows that she is being unwise when she reacts to what her children say and gives them her opinions. She also knows it is not wise to hold herself responsible for what her daughters do or say or how they organize their lives.  She knows that fundamentally, those are their choices and they have their lives to live. This is reflected when the Black Horse says, “It’s not my problem.”


Our training was that such thinking is selfish.  If we care about people we care about their problems. We then feel guilty if we do not make their problems our problems, which is what rescuers like Sabene do.


Sabene’s imaginary Black Horse is basically saying, “I personify part of your own inner compass! Listen to me to find yourself! Become me if you want your life to be more peaceful and centered! I would be Sabene; I would not need to gallop between people. I would know that being part of Sabene is my place and that I belong to her. I’m not confused any more (then).  I will arrive at a point where it is OK to be.”


Sabene’s Black Horse is very different from Sabene, although it is part of her. It can think, “It’s not my problem” and back out of both rescuing and conflict where Sabene can not and does not. It can do so without feeling guilty, which Sabene cannot do or will not allow herself to do. Black Horse, unlike Sabene, can say, “I don’t care what they think. I don’t care if they think I’m selfish or not” without then feeling guilty or irresponsible.


Sabene is not going to change her life overnight. More likely, she will ignore or forget all about her Black Horse as she finds herself pulled into old dysfunctional ways of thinking, feeling, and interacting again and again. What can she do about this?


One thing would be to share her interview with her daughters and Tony and ask for their help.  When she is into drama, she could give them permission to say something like, “Black Horse, where are you right now?” “What are you doing?” “What would you do if you were in charge right now?”


Another thing Sabene can do is to read this interview over before sleep from time to time. The purpose is to break up reinforcing old drama narratives in dreams, whether or not they are recalled. The result will be less anxiety, less indecisiveness, more confidence in the morning. It should help her become less a rescuer and more like her Black Horse in her waking life.


The challenge for Sabene is that, in relation to the intense drama of her waking life, her Black Horse is a dream delusion and its recommendations are too far from reality to be useful. Consequently, like most people who do IDL Interviews, Sabene is most likely to roll over and go back to sleep, immersed in the self-created misery of her life dream.


Sabene does not have to stay stuck in drama and you don’t either. If you spend a tenth of the time listening to your inner compass that you instead spend listening to and following the advice of your inner parent and your family members, you will change your life. It won’t happen overnight, but slowly and surely, like learning to walk or talk, you will grow into a happier person.


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