"I KNOW WHAT YOU NEED! I can take care of you, but not myself"

Growing up in dysfunctional families, ACoAs were not allowed to fully develop their own personality & identity, attend to their own needs, or have their own feelings – about anything.

We had no choice but to focus on our wounded parents and their needs, moods & demands. (see ‘Toxic rules’)
• we were expected to grow up too fast - but only so we could relieve them of the burden of caring for us AND so we could be there for them
• AND, any attention to our own tastes, opinions, & way of doing things was considered selfish, stubborn, overly sensitive, stupid and bad! (I was taught: S.P.S. – ‘Self Praise Stinks’ !!)

A result was that ACoAs developed a ‘false persona’, a common one being The RESCUER, whose purpose is to take care of others, instead of oneself.
a. for many of us, this is a very active role – doing, doing, doing for others OR using others to motive our actions.
b. for some ACoAs, who seem to do nothing for others – this role is passive. It’s ‘taking care of’ the family by asking for little, not trying for anything, not risking, not being a bother … which also obeys the toxic rule “Don’t Need”.
➼ The unspoken hope is that if we do a good enough job of rescuing (fixing them), they will, in turn, be able to take care of us. THIS NEVER WORKS.

Def: A way to seem like we’re helping others BUT with hidden motives:
a. from grandiosity
● Doing for others what they CAN & SHOULD be doing for themselves
● Being ‘one up’, giving the illusion of being powerful and benevolent, at the same time
● Assuming others need us (a not-always conscious belief that they’ll fall apart or even die – without us – based on our family experience)
● Assuming we know better what others need / want / should have, or not
● Preventing others from having to take responsibility for – & the consequences of – their own actions (to spare them pain)

b. from inferiority
● Using others to feel better about ourselves (to cover our self-hate & feeling of worthlessness)
● Trying to ‘fix’ a wounded person, so they can be there for us
● Trying to have an effect on the world, since no one listened to us as kids
● Wanting to use our talents, skills & abilities – but not allowed to use them for our own benefit
● Minding other people’s business rather than our own (not allowed to focus on ourselves)

• have to keep on helping, because they aren’t helping themselves/growing/improving their lives
• need to keep nagging someone to change – for their benefit, yes, BUT mainly because it’s pushing some button in us, from our past
• give advice – especially un-asked-for, assuming we know what best for them and our need to show off how much you know (about everything)
• assume others can't cope with their own pain AND it’s our life’s duty to protect & sooth them
• always insist on having an answer to everyone’s problems – to solve their difficulty or emotional discomfort
• use phrases like “You shouldn’t, you should…” as a way to tell someone how to be, how to feel, what actions to take
• not confront denial or challenge distorted thinking, when it hurts US, although this has to be done carefully & with great wisdom
• not letting others know when we’re angry – when they hurt us, crossed our boundaries, are disrespectful… to not ‘upset’ them or make them angry in return
• being afraid to say what we need, what we believe, what we don’t want… because we think it will hurt their feelings or burden them
• try to distract others from their emotional pain (because we can’t handle our own, so don;t want to hear theirs) by humor, changing the subject, telling them to DO something …etc.

➺ Trying to rescue others is NOT a successful way to accomplish our goals of wanting to CONNECT & to feel EMPOWERED.

a. IN US:
• Feel – frustrated, drained, powerless, hopeless, a failure and ultimately – abandoned again! – because they’re not improving &/or doing what we want
• Silently expect & eventually demand a return on our time, money, energy, attention… whether or not they asked for our efforts, or have any idea what we need (they’re supposed to know, automatically)
• Become increasingly resentful & then in a rage – because they’re NOT listening to us, not reciprocating, not making our life easier… AFTER ALL WE’VE DONE !
- In some cases, we stay & rescue – until we fall apart or die trying
- In some cases the rage become too great. First we beg, cajole, nag, THEN punish, verbally attack, maliciously gossip about them OR just cut them off without a word of explanation. Then they’re dead to us!
• they stay immature (rescuing infantilizes others), get psychologically weaker (stay dependent, on us or someone else)
• don’t learn to take responsibility for their own life
• don’t get the experience of learning what works & doesn’t – for them
• feel humiliated, by being one-down & eventually get angry, resenting us for our power-position
• don’t get a chance to find out what they’re actually capable of doing & being
• have a distorted view of us & themselves, and what is real

The goal of all personal healing is S & I – Separation & Individuation.
That means that we have to become our own person – the ‘self’ we were born to be, designed & created by our Higher Power. And that means -
• Identify & acknowledge our needs (not others’ needs)
• Having permission to have those needs
• Actively getting those needs met – by ourselves, & with the help of a loving support system

It is NOT selfish to take care of ourselves – it is a mark of mental health !
(Read pages on Recovery, New Rules, Boundaries & Healthy Families of www.acoarecovery.com) from the Site Map.

Author's Bio: 


DONNA M TORBICO is a psychotherapist in private practice for 24 yrs in New York City, specializing in ACoA RECOVERY (Adult-children of alcoholics & other narcissists).
She has appeared on radio, television & at New Life Expo, created & presented ACoA / Al-Anon intensive weekend workshops & ran an ACoA therapy group for 6 years & writes extensively on ACoA issues. Visit her BLOG on this site.
She was an instructor at the NY OPEN CENTER  for 9 yrs, presenting her 12-week interactive lecture course “KNOWLEDGE Is POWER:  What makes an ACoA” 

She works with individuals & couples/partners, in person, by phone or Skype.
FREE Intro Session - to see if there is compatibility.