Lockdown Learnings #2 Rescue Drama Anyone?

So here I am with the second of my musings about the awe-some learnings I’ve had during this pandemic…this time all about the rescue drama!

From my last musing ‘What you Resist, Persists’ you may remember the premise of my realisation that all my challenges were already present in me and my mindset. The big illumination was really about how I was locking myself down in my leadership and life. 

I suggest keeping this in mind as you read on.  Where may you behaving this way in your own leadership or life? When does your care become fear driven…the hero…the fixer…the rescuer. And does this play out in a well-rehearsed, well-travelled, well known drama.

Tiara anyone? 

The ‘Rescue’ Drama

So one of the other things that I noticed in my own behaviour during the early 2021 lockdown was how I launched into a ‘rescue’ attempt a couple of times. This was for those that I assumed were at risk of suffering – particularly emotional – suffering. We had a couple of serious illnesses in my family in the early part of this year and this is when I started to notice my behaviour around this scenario much more.  I offered my heartfelt emotional support – but not in a I’m here lean on me way – but in heroic I have to save you way!  I could feel the physical pull of fear in my body. Gosh I feel some shame as I type and remember this now…

So there I was, putting on my golden lasso of truth, my silver bracelets and a razor-sharp tiara. I realised later that this emotional ‘rescue drama’ was a behaviour/habit I developed from early experiences in my childhood – when I was really, really terrified.  At the time I very much needed emotional strength and resilience from others. Sadly this was not what I got. Thus my young mind decided that I had to put myself aside and ‘take care of others’. My story was that I wasn’t important enough to be focused on. My young mind believed I was the cause of the suffering and I had to fix it – or fix me so others would be happy.

What Does This Behaviour Matter?

For me I realise – as an adult – this can be a form of hiding out.  This can have a huge impact on my willingness in leadership. When I invest my time and energy in ‘saving’ others I’m not looking at myself or my own leadership. Not looking at what is really going on for me, for others or actually what I or they are truly capable of. And most importantly for me as a leader and a human being it meant more fully embracing my own wants/needs. In my personal context this was not being a ‘coach’ or emotional crutch to my family. Of course I want to supportive, compassionate and empathetic. But that is enough. They are adults. They are more than capable of choosing to ask for support if they need it.  And actually this is an important process in their own development, particularly self-esteem. I can actually do them a disservice with my rescue drama, which doesn’t encourage them to take responsibility for themselves.  I’m feeling tearful and heartfelt gratitude now as I type this, for me there is such a bigger piece on offer. To really get deep down that my wants and needs matter equally. 

This is vital as a leader, holding my space as an equal whilst also modelling this and facilitating this for others. This is how we work – and excel – as a high performing team.

The ‘Rescue’ Drama Triangle

A rescue drama theory well researched and documented in psychotherapy is the Karpman Drama Triangle. For myself the drama I’ve engaged at times has been the back-and-forth victim/rescuer. Here I am the Hero! I shall sweep in with my masterful qualities and fix you and your problem! In my experience though, the hero/rescuer usually makes many assumptions about what the victim is thinking, feeling and wanting. Really their ‘rescue’ or ‘fix’ is a projection of their own thoughts, feelings and wants. Because really how would they know what the ‘victim’ wants or needs?  When I’ve been in this role my purpose is to reduce MY fears in the rescue drama – with MY idea, solutions or ‘fix’.  This is not a scenario where my victim is empowered or included in the discussion. There’s little or no ‘we’re in this together’ attitude, which again is vital for a high performing team – and for innovation.  I’ve popped on my tiara and bracelets and I’m off on my crusade!  

The Empowering Value of Coaching

For myself these days as a coach, one of the vital skills and elements of self-mastery has been the ability to notice and step away from any form of rescuing/fixing. So you can imagine my surprise when I witness myself doing this behaviour with my loved ones. It was a shock my friends. And an absolute gift to be woken up to how this has played out in my leadership and life ♥.  Only when we are awake and aware can we change our behaviour.   

For me the practice to ‘get myself out of the way’ is a huge part of the reason I adore coaching so much. This is both as a professional and as a concept. When I’m there awake and aware, I am FOR my coachee and myself in a way that is empowering – and can sometimes be a transformational energy in itself.  How I show up, my ability to be in-tune and aware of myself is essential to my coachees empowered experience.  If at any time I believe I know how they or their path should be, the conversation has become limited and more about me not them. There is no empowerment in me believing the illusion that ‘I know best’.          

Who or What Creates My Thoughts and Feelings?

What strikes me right in the heart about this idea of rescuing and fixing is the notion that I or you can make somebody else think or feel something. This notion that simply by something I do, say or don’t say – I can determine your thoughts and feelings. This is an incredible illusion my friends.

There’s a tool that I learned about 16 years ago when I took a powerful self-esteem course. This course, the concepts…tools…context completely transformed my perceptions of myself and how I’d been experiencing my life. I am to this day very, very grateful for this wake up. What I learnt was a complete eradication of the notion that I have the power to determine another human beings thoughts or feelings. This was HUGE for me, however it did mean…

Taking RADICAL Responsibility

If I don’t have the power to determine another’s thoughts or feelings, they also don’t have the power or ability to make me feel, think or believe anything. This means everything inside me comes from me, my own thoughts – not anything outside of me.  Oh my! I can no longer abdicate responsibility for my own thoughts and feelings. I then don’t get to blame others for my feelings, thoughts, behaviour – including justifying my behaviour in light of how others are behaving. So what now? 

What’s on offer is me taking complete responsibility for everything that is created from my own thoughts and feelings. And importantly the part I play in what’s created in any interaction. Can you imagine not blaming anyone of anything anymore for your mental or emotional state? When I was enlightened to this reality I really had quite mixed feelings. On one hand I felt scared as all my blame, justifications were no longer valid it seemed. And I felt excited as I felt this inner power knowing that at any time I could transform my perception and my experience of others, myself and the world.

Mastering Your Mind…

When I’m working with coaching clients in the arena of shifting behaviours, the awareness and reality of what is happening in the mind is essential to taking radical responsibility for our behaviour (the Event, the Mind and Our Reaction). Only when we acknowledge and wake up to the reality that we (our thoughts) – nothing else – creates our reactions will we be truly empowered. And a large part of the shift in behaviour patterns happens when we take full responsibility for our part. 

This means stopping attaching to the illusion that others or anything outside of us create our state or behaviour. In my experience this is not an easy thing to master, I am still practising this after 16years.  A practise well worth committing to though as this is where empowerment and freedom lives.  And, sometimes the ongoing awareness of the illusion in itself can be transformational in our inner and outer experience of life.

What’s on Offer

So here’s my top 5 wonderful life-giving benefits to taking on and practising this reality:

  1. Awareness – once we are aware of our thought patterns and beliefs we have the awe-some opportunity to change them, resulting in transformation of our experience
  2. Tell the Truth – when we see how our thoughts/mind is ‘running the show’ we have the opportunity to be honest with ourselves and others. This in turn creates the opportunity to have more authentic, real relationships based on who we really are (essential self) rather than who our mind fears we might be (feared self)
  3. Humanity – when we can see the reality of judgements, accusations and assumptions we are making about ourselves and others. This creates an opportunity to be human, compassionate and see the humanity in others
  4. Interconnectedness – when we take full responsibility for our part, we can choose to see this as an opportunity to connect with ourselves and others rather than separate. We may even start to see the mirroring of ourselves in others and the beautiful interconnectedness that is on offer…   
  5. Freedom – when we tell those truths about our own fears, judgements and assumptions we FREE ourselves from the mental and physical tyranny that this creates. This does mean taking that radical responsibility BUT it also means we are free to value ourselves for who we are 

What You Can Test for Yourself

So here’s an exercise for you to test this for yourself …

  • Event – recall an event where you remember yourself reacting, particularly negatively. What happened…it may be something somebody said or a specific moment that you didn’t want or like. Close your eyes, take yourself back to that moment and ‘tune into’ your mind and body…
  • Reaction (Feelings)  – what are the emotional feelings (e.g. sadness, anger, resentment, hurt, disappointment)     
  • Mind – what is your mind telling you about the event that happened? Look out for judgements, assumptions, accusations, conclusions…  

The big question…are the judgements, assumptions, conclusions that are running through your mind actually true?

And…I have the ongoing opportunity for you to have a look at your own lockdown reflections.  Here’s an invitation for you to complete a FREE lockdown learnings reflection exercise for yourself Lockdown Self-Reflections.  You have the option to submit your responses and have some feedback from me if you would like to…

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