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Communication and Conflict Newsletter, Issue #009, - Speaking for ourselves and the Rescuer Syndrome
October 19, 2008
Newsletter - Rescuer Syndrome
(....or, 'Let's sort ourselves out first before we think we can or should sort everyone else out'..... )
Welcome to Newsletter no.9
This month I want to look at the 'Rescuer Syndrome', which is a frequent cause of difficult situations escalating, or even of starting them. This is so, even though the Rescuer's intention is to help.
This seems to happen for various reasons:
Someone who is showing 'Rescuer Syndrome' thinks that someone who is in a dispute needs their 'support'. Or, they believe they need their help, even if the person doesn't think so themselves.
For example, situations where parents help their young adult children in ways that are not invited can often lead to family rifts.
The arising of Rescue Syndrome is often due to an assumption that the person is somehow 'not capable' of resolving their difficulties through their own efforts, although the reason given for the one sided support is often one of 'solidarity' or 'unity'. Acknowledgement of how this escalates the problem is rare in such situations.
Someone joining in a dispute 'on the side' of another can only escalate the situation because they are adding to the numbers of people in dispute.
Their presence is likely to lead others to start to 'support' the other disputant to try to 'even the score'.
And so, the process continues until, 10's, 100's, 1000's and even millions of people become involved, taking 'sides' in the situation.
This isn't to say we should ignore situations where two or more people are having difficulty with each other, it's a question of how we involve ourselves in the situation, if our intention is to help.
I wouldn't disagree that something can be done, but when the only option considered is to 'take sides' then it can only escalate the situation, perpetuating a competitive approach to the dispute which I have discussed in previous newsletters and on the website.
An option that does not escalate the situation, if held to with discipline and commitment, is to offer support to both / all of those in dispute to help them find an effective way forward that minimises the chances of violence whether physical or emotional.
We don't have to be mediators to provide this. We just need to understand:
a) the pointlessness of taking sides and how destructive it can be, and..
b) how much more effective being impartial can be in supporting a constructive and less violent outcome.
To help us understand the reasons for trying to stay impartial we can ask ourselves the following question....
If I see a friend or relative involved in a dispute, am I really helping by 'taking their side' against the other person?
Look at the consequences:
The Rescuer Syndrome can be seen occurring in all areas of life, including on an international level between countries. It never helps. It only escalates.
But the only question that matters is:
If we see someone having some kind of problem, or if we presume they are having a problem, based on our own judgements and assumptions about their situation, do we step in 'on their behalf', take their side, take up their cause, speak for them, back them up, show 'solidarity' etc.?
If so, are we really helping?
Or are we just making it worse for everyone?
Including for the person or people we claim to be helping?
Supporting both or all of the people involved is the only way in which we can avoid escalating the situation, and instead of taking ownership of the situation from them, we can try to help them all respond more constructively to the situation, by leaving our own judgements, opinions, advice and interventions out of the support we provide.
Even if we are only able to interact with one of those involved.
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Everyone Can Win: Responding to Conflict Constructively is a great book for understanding more about how we can respond to conflict more effectively. It's written by people from the Conflict Resolution Network in Australia. Their website is also full of useful resources and information to help understand and respond to conflict as an opportunity for learning, connection and insight.
Would you like:
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Some links that you may find interesting......Mediate.com is an excellent resource of information relating to mediation. There are articles, links to websites and blogs as well as the possibility of locating mediators in your area.
SelfGrowth.com- - SelfGrowth.com is a comprehensive guide to information about Self Improvement, Personal Growth and Self Help on the Internet. It is designed to be an organized directory, with articles and references to thousands of other Web Sites on the World Wide Web.
Oh Wow This Changes Everything is a great site with an enormous number of links to articles about different aspects of effective communication and conflict resolution. Definitely worth a visit......you could be there for hours!
Kalavati.org helps people, like yourself, create change in their life and business.
They share fun stress management strategies and personal development articles.
This site is sooo full of great links and resources relating to Co-operative Communication skills - I would very much recommend it.
Transforming Conflict is an excellent organisation which works with young people, and adults, in educational settings, promoting restorative approaches to conflict.
Aik Saath This is an amazing and interesting website, quite besides the work of Aik Saath that it promotes. Aik Saath works to promote conflict resolution skills in young people and the development of peace and racial harmony in Slough, UK and its surrounding areas.
So, how did you like it?
If you have any comments or feedback you would like to give about the Newsletter, including any requests for future content, please reply to this email or go to the Questions/Comments page on the Communication and Conflict website to tell me what you thought.
I would welcome your views.
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