So I read a Veronica Valli post about recovery red flags recently that really resonated. And then as happens I was watching a video series from Ruth Buczynski looking at shame, anger and conflict and suddenly I found myself taking a very sharp breath in as the two subjects collided in a way that caused a psychological shift in my thinking.
The expression that Veronica used that has been rattling around my brain ever since I read it is this:
If I’m okay with me, I don’t have to make you not okay
Ouch. The above image explains it all really well I think.
And then Ruth’s video’s were talking about the Karpman Drama Triangle that Jean over at Unpickled has discussed before here and which I knew about from my time working with families as a school nurse. And as is the way with the magical internet rabbit hole one thing led to another and I found myself looking at this image.
So much of recovery from addiction is about moving from fear to love and I am very aware that the Karpman Triangle is alive and well in my way of interacting with others close to me! So like recovery from booze and reading sober bloggers ahead of me on the path I wanted to know what a healthy way of relating looked like and in my quest I found the work of Tina Tessina 🙂
This is what she has to say:
One profound way to intervene in the Drama Triangle is for family members to learn not to rescue each other. The other is to stop allowing others to rescue you.
Recognize a Rescue While You Are Participating In It
Learn to recognize that you are rescuing when you:
– Do something that you do not want to do because you believe you have to, and feel resentful later.
– Do not ask for what you want.
– Inappropriately parent another adult (giving unsolicited advice, giving orders, nagging, or criticizing)
– Don’t tell your partner when there’s a problem, or when you feel resentful, ripped off, rejected, cheated, depressed, disappointed, or otherwise dissatisfied.
– Contribute more than 50% of the effort to any project or activity that is supposed to be mutual, (including housework, earning income, making dates and social plans, initiating sex, carrying the conversations, giving comfort and support) without a clear agreement between you.
– Feel your role is to fix, protect, control, feel for, worry about, ignore the expressed wants of, or manipulate your partner.
– Habitually feel tired, anxious, fearful, responsible, overworked and/or resentful in your relationship.
– Focus more on your partner’s feelings, problems, circumstances, performance, satisfaction or happiness than on your own.
Whenever you realize you are rescuing, tell the other person what you’re tempted to do or not do for them, (how you want to rescue them) and ask them if they would like you to do that or not. Once you’ve offered and the offer has been accepted or rejected, (even if your partner is not honest about what he or she wants, or makes a mistake) it is no longer a rescue, it is an open agreement, and can be renegotiated if necessary.
Learn to recognize that you are being rescued if you:
– Think you are not as capable, grown up, or self-sufficient as your partner.
– Find that your partner is doing things “for you” that you haven’t requested or acknowledged
– Feel guilty because your partner frequently seems to work harder, do more, or want more than you do.
– Don’t ask for what you want, because your needs are anticipated by someone, or because your partner will not say “no” if he or she doesn’t want to do it.
– Act or feel incapable, childish, irresponsible, paralyzed, nagged, criticized, powerless, smothered, or manipulated in your relationship.
– Act or feel demanding, greedy, selfish, out of control, overemotional, lazy, worthless, pampered, spoiled, helpless, or hopeless in your relationship.
– Contribute less than 50% of the effort to any project or activity that is supposed to be mutual, (including housework, earning income, making dates and social plans, initiating sex, carrying the conversations, giving comfort and support) without a clear agreement.
– Feel your role is to be fixed, protected, controlled, told what you feel, worried about, ignored, or manipulated by another adult.
– Habitually feel guilty, numb, turned off, overwhelmed, irresponsible, overlooked, misunderstood and/or hopeless in your relationships.
– Focus more on your partner’s approval, criticism, faults, anger, responsibility, and power than on your own opinion of yourself.
– Feel controlled, used, manipulated, victimized, abused, oppressed, stifled, limited or otherwise dissatisfied by your partner.
The more familiar these feelings or actions are, the more frequently they occur, the bigger the habit you have of being rescued in your relationship. Rescuing is a habit that you learned early in life that seems “normal” and is habitual, so it is often difficult to be aware of it. Rescues depend on secrecy or ignorance. The antidote to being rescued is making an open agreement. So, if you suspect you are being rescued, suggest negotiating or talking about it, or just say thank you, if the help is truly OK with you.
How to Avoid Rescues
1. Recognize that what’s going on doesn’t feel good. It’s the best indicator of dysfunctional interaction.
2. Stop and Think. Don’t react automatically. If you have a dysfunctional habit pattern, you’ll need to make a different choice than your automatic behavior. Use the following checklist:
a) Does the situation feel fair?
b) Are you reluctant to say what you want?
c) Do you know what the other person wants?
d) Do you feel uncomfortable?
e) Are you resentful, angry, scared or upset?
f) Are you trying to control someone else’s reaction or feelings?
g) Does this feel similar to other interactions that ended badly?
3. After you’ve taken a moment to think about whether you’re rescuing or being rescued, and what clues you are aware of, either ask for what you want, or ask the other person what he or she wants.
4. Offer to work toward a mutual decision.
Taking the rescues out of your relationship removes the drama. Learning to talk about what you want and don’t want, and to offer help instead of just stepping in can make a really big difference in the happiness level of your relationship
Source: Tina B. Tessina, PhD, (aka “Dr. Romance”) psychotherapist and author of The Real 13th Step: Discovering Confidence, Self-Reliance and Independence Beyond the 12-Step Programs
Wow is all I can say. If I feel like I’m about to say something that I might later regret I now find myself uttering Veronica’s words to establish if it is indeed me who is struggling with something, and therefore not feeling okay, and looking to off-load it onto somebody else to make me feel better and in the process make them not feel okay. I have said a great deal less and taken responsibility for an awful lot more as part of that process in the few weeks since I made the realisation.
Maybe this work will help you too? 🙂