The Rescuer Personality (The White Knight)

I have been doing a personality column for Natural Health, where each month I provide some insight into different personalities. Here is some insight into The Rescuer or ‘The White Knight.’ Does this sound like anyone you know?

doctor on white background. Isolated 3D image

Rescuers are compulsive, often uninvited, helpers who cannot resist the temptation to jump in and try to fix other people’s problems. Also known as “Fixers” or “White Knights,” they come from diverse backgrounds, but they all have the desire or need to save others. These well-meaning people generally pursue careers in the helping professions, such as doctors, nurses, psychologists, teachers, or social workers.

Rescuers believe they have the necessary influence, charm, or persuasive powers to help change people or situations for the better. Their identifying traits include:

 

  • The needs of others are treated as more important than their own.

  • They will persist in helping even when it has been made clear that their help is not needed.

  • They think they know best about what works and what doesn’t for others.

  • They want other people to need them, and will go from one person to the next offering assistance in order to gain this sense of being needed.

  • When others ask for their assistance and they are unable to help they are overcome with guilt.

  • They exhaust themselves in taking care of other people’s needs.

  • They feel utterly rejected when their assistance is not welcome.

 

 

Positives:

Since childhood the Rescuer has had the desire to save someone, usually a family member, such as an alcoholic father, depressed mother, or ill sibling. They carry this nurturing trait into adulthood, along with many other positive characteristics, including:

Since childhood the Rescuer has had the desire to save someone, usually a family member, such as an alcoholic father, depressed mother, or ill sibling. They carry this nurturing trait into adulthood, along with many other positive characteristics, including:

 

  • It’s encouraging and convenient to have someone around who is ready and willing to help.

  • Rescuers can intuitively spot another person’s vulnerabilities, or identify when someone is in trouble.

  • They are skilled at making others feel less isolated in their emotional pain.

  • Although they are not consciously aware of this, saving others is often an attempt at saving the self from past or present emotional pain; their rescuing behaviour can be seen as symbolic self-healing.

  • Their persistence when tackling a problem, even though it belongs to someone else, can be encouraging.

 

Negatives:

 

You might think that we could all benefit from having a Rescuer close by. However, there are some negatives to this personality:

 

  • Rescuers have the tendency to neglect themselves due to their neurotic obsession to look after others.

  • People need to learn to solve their own problems and face their own challenges, which is not easy with a Rescuer around.

  • Outside the lives of others, the Rescuer hardly has a life of their own; their hopes and goals are tied up with those of others.

  • Getting absorbed by other people’s problems can be a way to escape taking responsibility for their own.

  • Rescuers are never really content because they don’t pay attention to their own needs and often feel burned-out.

 

How do I Deal with a Rescuer?

At some point the Rescuer does need to be told that they aren’t always helping, despite their good intentions. From the Rescuer’s perspective, others are inadequate and therefore in need of help, so make them aware of this underlying message they are giving to others. This will help them recognise why some people don’t appreciate their efforts.

 

Inform the Rescuer that obsessive rescuing is a way of projecting their own real or imagined weaknesses and vulnerabilities onto others. They need to hear the same message repeatedly, in particular that they cannot take care of others if they cannot take care of themselves. In addition, show them that there are alternative, healthier ways in which to invest empathy and altruistic behaviours. For example, encourage them to ask people if they want or need assistance before giving it.

 

 

Am I a Rescuer?

You are playing the role of Rescuer if you:

 

  • Often help others without them asking you.

  • Don’t take the time to find out how you can help others, but instead help them in the way you believe they need helping.

  • Hope your rescuing actions will get others to admire you.

  • Struggle to focus on or complete your own work because you are too drained from running errands for others.

  • Don’t ask others for feedback when helping them.

  • Hate it when people reject your assistance and feel ecstatic when they accept it.

  • Feel totally powerless and worthless when you cannot help someone.

  • Cannot tolerate conflict and jump in to try and make matters right for others.

  • Help others primarily because it feels like the best way for you to gain positive attention.

 

 

 



Categories: Psychology

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9 replies

  1. this is another fabulous post. thanks for sharing this. there are many, like me, who were trained as children to be disgarding of their own needs and meet the needs, rescue, fix what others need. there can be various reasons for becoming/being a rescuer of others. thanks again, love you stuff🙂 Merry Christmas!!!

    • How illuminating,insightful,and.clear this post is with lots of juicy points to reflect upon ,work with and hold in ones awareness.Thanks a million I.found this very helpful and encouraging.I am able to see thing more clearly and identity where I’ve been at and a way forward to navigate myself out of it .This made perfection sense to me .Being in the caring profession there is such a thing as overcharging I.do.believe Any way I’ve come to realize that caring too much for a person when it’s not invited or agreed to can put an individual in a state of overdependancy on the particular person or well meaning organisation.Real. food for thought as getting caught up in a role is a death temptation and locks us into who we “think” we are not allowing.g ourselves to receive as over giving can act as a compensation to off set unresolved conflicts and emotional pain.

  2. Okay this is great…but I dont’ want to be a rescuer anymore. I’m sick of not getting to eat dinner because people always bring their problems to me. How do I stop!!!

  3. Jane, I UNDERSTAND !!! people SEEK ME OUT because they know I can help them some how. They just come out of nowhere.

    I’ve rescued cocain heads, a hand-to-mouth couple, 2 retirees and more. They found ME, I did not go looking for them.

    I am a technical support guy. I fix things for a living. I have been “Fixing” things since high school. REALLY! For instance, a very lost wealthy son of a doctor.

    I have given thousands of dollars to needy people to rescue them from disaster. Does that sound familiar?

    I feel like a magnet for needy people. They just seem to come out of the woodwork and find ME.

    What ever their need, I have no problem finding a fix for them and then they are saved. aarrgghh Why me?

    When I needed to be saved on occasion, I have found only myself to rely on. For instance, I had an accident. I broke 7 ribs, a punctured and collapsed lung. I drove myself to the hospital. No one helped rescue me. I was in critical condition. WTF

    I have worked in soup kitchens. Fed street people. Bought hundreds of dollars of turkeys for the soup kitchens. I have counseled street people while sitting on a curb with them.

    I love cats. I have 2 female Maine Coon. They are MY girls. I like cats because they are independent and take care of them selves. I feed them and they come to me when they want. As cats do. They do seem to care for me. They are very gentile and loving. They are my family. As I write, my Sasha cat is laying next to me preening herself.

    Any way. I am tired of being a FIXER.

  4. Really read your post back to yourself. You appear to be enabling your own ‘fixer’ mindset in so many ways. Learn to say ‘No’. Not easy, but necessary. And don’t always be a Robin Hood. If you set up an expectation of helping others without boundaries, the saga continues.🙂 Best of luck.

  5. Hello Nicola, I found this post from a couple of years ago whilst finally searching about ME. I have over the past few years had a hideous problem with a mentally troubled wife. I am fortunate in that I have a successful business that allows me to indulge my white knight personality type. My wife has suffered from anxiety, panic attacks, depression, alcohol problems, and more, her response is to run away from me and our four young children when she is overwhelmed, during her absences she binges on alcohol. I always find her (having chased her down via credit card transaction details or similar) I then try to get her back to the house ASAP to reduce the trauma on my kids. If my wife drinks more than two glasses of wine she becomes “weird ” and mean to our children and me. I have tried to get a diagnosis from psychiatrists, doctors, gynae specialists (hormone imbalance ) etc etc etc but without success. In amongst this distressing time I have bought my sister a house due to her divorce, I have donated 100’s of 1000’s to my old parents during their retirement, I have helped friends in financial need etc etc, I am tired of all this. I am tired of doing the hunting for a solution to my wife’s problems, I’m worried about divorcing her because you never know if the court might grant her custody of our children in spite of the fact that she has been reported to the police many many times and has some diagnosis of alcoholism even though I don’t think that is the base problem (she self medicates but isn’t addicted physically ) Should I kick her out and let her sink into a pit or should I keep repeating the same failed routine? Any thoughts appreciated. Oh, please also see my charity website, white knight or crazy fool, I’m beginning to wonder who is crazy. Regards Adrian

  6. Hello Nicola, I found this post from a couple of years ago whilst finally searching about ME. I have over the past few years had a hideous problem with a mentally troubled wife. I am fortunate in that I have a successful business that allows me to indulge my white knight personality type. My wife has suffered from anxiety, panic attacks, depression, alcohol problems, and more, her response is to run away from me and our four young children when she is overwhelmed, during her absences she binges on alcohol. I always find her (having chased her down via credit card transaction details or similar) I then try to get her back to the house ASAP to reduce the trauma on my kids. If my wife drinks more than two glasses of wine she becomes “weird ” and mean to our children and me. I have tried to get a diagnosis from psychiatrists, doctors, gynae specialists (hormone imbalance ) etc etc etc but without success. In amongst this distressing time I have bought my sister a house due to her divorce, I have donated 100’s of 1000’s to my old parents during their retirement, I have helped friends in financial need etc etc, I am tired of all this. I am tired of doing the hunting for a solution to my wife’s problems, I’m worried about divorcing her because you never know if the court might grant her custody of our children in spite of the fact that she has been reported to the police many many times and has some diagnosis of alcoholism even though I don’t think that is the base problem (she self medicates but isn’t addicted physically ) Should I kick her out and let her sink into a pit or should I keep repeating the same failed routine? Any thoughts appreciated. Oh, please also see my charity website, white knight or crazy fool, I’m beginning to wonder who is crazy. Regards Adrian

  7. Almost hit the nail on the head with this for me. Except I feel like I don’t do it to make people like me. I couldnt care less if people liked me. I just want to make people happy.

  8. Hi, doctor Davies, I’ve just got into your blog looking to find out if I’m “Rescuer” or not. I’ve read it very careful but I still have some questions about it. Recently I’ve noticed that there was a “pattern” in women that I was atrracted to, so I’ve tried to find out more about it, and guess what: I was into Borderline Personality “business”. I’ve projected myself onto my mother and I think that I’ve been “trying” to fix my father who was certainly a borderline, whom I mirrored in my romantic relationships! Can you help me to find out more about me, please?

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