Are you a Rescuer?

If you’re a helping professional there’s a good chance you tend towards being a rescuer. I certainly was. I was an expert. I had it down to a tee and I’m continuing to deepen my unlearning of it.

Helen Amery
5 min readApr 15, 2024
Life ring on the rocks next to the sea
Photo by Janosch Diggelmann on Unsplash

What is rescuing?

From the outside it looks like helping. You’ll tell yourself it’s helping, or being helpful, or kind. Someone else looking on may well say ‘how lovely of you.’

Rescuing is what you do when it looks like the other person isn’t capable, or like they’re struggling in some way and you don’t think they can get out of it, or when you know you have the solution for them, or some great advice from your own experience.

It’s what you do to save someone from a conflict, or difficulty, or challenge.

And from the outside, it looks helpful, or kind.

But on the inside, you have an ulterior motive. They can feel it. Whether they know that or not. And you can feel it. Whether you’re honest about that or not. They pick up on the rescuing vibe and instantly, unconsciously assume the role of victim — seemingly now even more in need of your help.

But it’s not really helping anyone.

How do you spot rescuing on the inside?

Fundamentally you notice it by how it feels.

Rescuing comes with stickiness. Ickiness. Yuckiness. (As do all actions that are laced with whirlpools*.) You notice it in the resentment when you don’t get help back. You notice it in the giving, giving, giving… endless giving! You notice it in the bitterness or disappointment when someone ignores your advice, or disregards your help. You notice it in the underlying energy of need — I need to help you in order to be OK.

My version was — if I help you then I’ll be OK because then I’ll be seen as a good girl. Look how kind and helpful I’m being!

A community member’s version is — if I help you then I’ll be OK because then I’ll stop feeling the discomfort of witnessing you in your emotions.

And another has — if I help you then I’ll be OK because I’ll be in control of what you’re doing, to make sure what you’re doing is safe, which will then make me feel safe.

Do you recognise any of these 3 for yourself?

There are many variations. Check for your own. Whatever that is, the only solution is to resolve whatever you’re afraid of in your own experience.

Then you see if helping happens or not.

Indeed you might discover that ‘helping’ now takes on a whole variety of different forms in all sorts of different contexts.

Not at all what the mind had classified as ‘helping’ and yet it turns out to be profoundly helpful. In fact, way more helpful than the mind’s limited definition and rules of ‘this is what helpful people do’.

I recommend it.

It’s way more helpful for everyone involved.

Why does this rescuing happen?

Because we’re afraid of our own emotions and feelings.

Growing up, we were surrounded by people who couldn’t handle their own emotions. People who’d been taught that children should be seen and not heard. People who thought controlling kids and how they felt (and therefore behaved) was good parenting.

People who were doing their best based on the unresolved conditioning in their own system at the time. Same as how I was when my kids were younger.

And in the presence of this, as kids, we learnt to shut down, suppress and dissociate to avoid these apparently scary emotions at all costs.

It literally looks like they’re life threatening.

Indeed that’s why we often don’t realise what we’ve suppressed and dissociated from till it returns. It’s that well covered over. And yet it’s also still driving every single ‘unhelpful dressed up as helping’ behaviour we know.

What do we do about it?

One way I’ve discovered recently, to support unravelling this pattern, is TRE — Tension and Trauma Release Exercises. Last week Steph Hodgson introduced us to this self-facilitated practice, as a way to help the body do what it naturally does after a time of tension — shake!

This releasing of tension from the system through shaking is one way to remind ourselves of our capacity to be with ourselves in all emotional experiences.

Because the shaking means the threat response dissipates, which means there’s more access to our true nature of aware presence, which means there’s more capacity to be with ourselves in uncomfortable experiences, which means we stop needing to rescue others to try and ‘fix’ what’s in fact only a problem here. In you.

This means we stop needing to rescue others as a proxy for rescuing ourselves.

Here’s a clip of Steph from last week. Highlighting how much we’ve dissociated, as a very practical coping technique…but there comes a point when we want to live fully again!

Do you want to live fully again?

Do you now see places where you’re rescuing someone?

Are you able to recognise what it is you’re trying to escape or avoid in your own experience?

What do you want to do now to resolve this within yourself?

With love, Helen

Extra resources…


Whirlpools are from my analogy of The River of Experience, used to describe times when we’re lost in a conceptual idea, rather than being in contact with life as it is. The river explains all our human experience. You can get a free training here.


I created a video about “How do you know when you’re rescuing?” for my community recently. Join as a Level 2 member and access the video here.

For a free option, here’s a clip from this month’s Enlightenment Event — how we soothe others when it’s really about soothing ourselves. I loved this response from someone who watched it —

“Absolutely, Helen, and people can be so surprised when we suggest this is what they’re doing. And I know I definitely feel (hate) it when people say, “it’ll be fine, it’ll all work out, I know it, just you see”. Own your own need to stop feeling uncomfortable. Hmmm, think you explained it more kindly 😆”

TRE — Tension and Trauma Release Exercises

All of this fear of our own emotions is why we’re enlightening our emotional experience in The Enlightenment Event through April. And which is why Steph ran her TRE session for us. People said…

[After Steph’s session] “I found it much easier to notice and be with the sensations of the irritation, rather than the story of the irritation. And indeed it seemed it wasn’t a problem to just be with the sensations”

“Great experience, thank you! I felt lighter and more relaxed but with more energy.”

“I loved it and want to do it again!”

You’ll get this April content if you join when we open the doors again 1st May.

Listen to Simon Mundie interview the founder of TRE, David Berceli, on his podcast.

Subscribe to my newsletter to be kept updated with ways to enlighten.



Helen Amery

Creating a life of alignment, with peace, love and joy.