Tuesday, January 26, 2010

How the Need to Rescue Prevents Inner Validation

A week ago an old friend from high school called and left me a few voicemails out of the blue. I was somewhat shocked to hear from her, seeing as how we haven't spoken since the beginning of 2005. At the same time, I knew she had called because she was in trouble somehow and needed help. It seems that I'm usually a magnet for these types of calls from family members, people I know, or those that I once knew. Perhaps this is yet another part of being an empath. People somehow sense that you have this need to rescue others. Although, sometimes we teach the people in our lives that we'll always attempt to do it, no matter what.

This old friend, we have quite the history, her and I. We became friends in high school, I think it was during my sophomore year. I often made friends with the class below me since I had been a year ahead of myself since kindergarten and found that sometimes it was easier to socially relate with those that were my exact age. When you're growing up, one or two years seems as vast as the distance between New York and Los Angeles. We ended up remaining friends through my undergrad years, even becoming roommates a few times. We went our separate ways here and there, but always circled back to becoming friends again. Looking back I think she was like a security blanket of sorts. We had known each other for what seemed like forever. There were no messy introductions, no need to play the "getting to know you" game, no need to wonder if the other person kind of understood you.

The entire time we knew each other, I think she felt this need to insult me to make up for the way she felt about herself. She would do it to others too, I eventually noticed, but for a long time I thought I was the only one. I let her get away with these insults because I didn't understand myself well enough yet, because a part of me believed they were true, because a part of me wanted to be someone else, and because a part of me wanted to remain open to feedback. Now that I reflect back on our relationship, it was usually surrounded by some sort of tension.

Tension over her expectations of who and what I should be, when our circumstances and personalities were completely different. Tension over how her opinion mattered more than mine. Tension over how she always seemed to have some life threatening problem or crisis and needed someone to save her. Those crises varied, but they were usually a result of her own bad choices and judgment that she didn't want to take the responsibility for. Of course we've all done that, myself included. We don't want to acknowledge the root cause of the problem because it begins with something internal we need to fix. It's much easier to throw out a display of pity, external blame and act frustrated at the world than take the long road towards self-evaluation and permanent change.

Regardless, her tactics of getting someone to rescue her came down to shame, guilt and manipulation. That shame, guilt and manipulation were guised in attacks on self-perceived weaknesses. Self-perceived because I allowed external opinions to internalize. The internalization occurred because I valued what someone else thought about me over what I thought about myself. Truthfully, I hadn't even taken the time to validate myself because it was always about making sure everyone else was happy and that everyone else had what they needed. The need to fix someone else's problems superseded the importance of my own existence, even if that meant putting up with bullying. For some reason, the idea of saving the world felt like an obligation, no matter what the costs.

I still think there's nothing wrong with wanting to save the world. Or at least trying to. The only difference is that I won't attempt to do it at the expense of my spirit. I won't allow someone else to control my actions through hurtful words that no longer have meaning, importance or validation. My inner self knows better. The inner self that knows who she truly is, with or without the opinions of others ringing in her ears.


  1. Thanks for this thoughtful article.

  2. Great article. Thank you. I consider myself a highly sensitive, yet highly confident male, and I recently realized that most of the very intense but short waves of pain, struggle and suffering during relationship problems are not due to any type of weakness or codependency, but the fact that I forgot that I'm very empathic, and tend to take responsibility for the WHOLE emotional situation, instead of only myself. I looked at her reaction, and immediately started to think about how I am responsible for that, what did I do wrong, how I wasn't "enough", and things like that.

    I blamed the living sht out of myself, until my friend and my mother told me that they think her behaviour wasn't fair, her points wasn't valid, and they think I am not the type of person who acts in ways that would deserve or provoke this reaction.

    At that moment, I realized that in interpersonal conflicts, I basically NEVER EVER think about the possibility, that the other person's opinion or reaction is simply wrong, invalid, or due to some imperfection, emotional reaction, or things like jealousy, envy, or even intention to abuse me.

    Because of my learning nature, I automatically started to attempt to "learn" from the situation, and rationalize the other person's negative reaction.

    I needed to understand that not every negative situation is my fault, and that regardless of how strong, advanced or empathic I am, I CAN NOT SAVE every person and situation. Because the other has the right to make a wrong decision too.