Monday, 3 October 2011

The Rescuers

I'm a watcher by nature which is a useful attribute for a counsellor. In response to what I was reading on my timeline on twitter last night I commented that  'twitter at times is like an episode of  the rescuers'. What I meant by that is that some tweep will make a provocative statement about their current health or mental state or perhaps they have a tale of woe as to how someone has behaved badly towards them and then other tweeps with rush to their aid. You could ask what is wrong with that? Isn't a good thing that people want to help? My answer would be in some respects yes but often the tweep doesn't want to be helped they want to be noticed and to celebrate their victim hood.

The rescuer also is often interested in being noticed but they want to feel strong and good by offering help and to bask in their own virtue. They will often tell the victim that they too have been there. That they too are sensitive and can empathise. That the victim is blame free it's the other person's problem. As I'm typing this I'm debating with myself what is the difference between those responses and the help I offer. As you know I help people professionally and successfully but that success is built on the client's desire to resolve and to be helped.  I get paid for the service which is confidential. I don't gossip about my clients or share information about them. I have no axe to grind and no vested interest. If the client doesn't make changes, whilst I may feel sad for them, I take no responsibility for their lack of change. I'm not there to rescue but to help the client think their way through whatever is troubling them. I don't tell them they are victims in fact I often ask them what the difference is between a victim and a survivor. I don't have a magic wand though some may think that preferable. I don't get in the hole with them but stand along side offering a hand.

I do believe that everyone has a right to their choice.  I am not the arbiter of good taste nor is it my function to edit your conversations. It matters not one jot how inappropriate I think it is. I do, however, wonder at the public displays? They could after all direct message each other and keep their exchanges private? Perhaps disinhibition takes hold and they lose sight of the fact that what they say is in the public domain. It feels sad to me that they reach out in this way to people who often they don't really know. They only know what they each project on twitter? I won't disclose names or an actual scenario but I heard quite recently of a tweep being duped by a twitter fantasist. The tweep's feelings were really hurt because she'd swallowed the story hook, line and sinker. She was angry with the other tweep and she was angry with herself. My suggestion is if you want to rescue then that's your choice but do it with your eyes open and please do encourage the victim to do it privately. Then please don't complain when you don't succeed and you become the victim of the ungrateful recipient of your largess.

Please Note: I am not suggesting that anyone sets out deliberately to become a victim, nor am I saying that the rescuer sets out to rescue in a cynical way, I am talking about emotional and unconcious processes.


  1. Not only provocative but thought provoking. Strangely, I have wondered myself sometimes, especially as I am guilty of moaning about my lot from time to time.

    Why do I do it, what do I expect.

    Mainly its that someone heard me - and yes that may be attention seeking, but sometimes I just need to know I am not on my own. Does that make me a victim? I don't think so, its an attempt to survive in the main. But I do understand what you mean, some people aren't happy unless they are unhappy, and seem to lurch from one crisis to the next. I dont really expect help in any real sense - I doubt many people could really empathise with me, as much of what I have experienced is well outside most peoples knowledge. But sometimes, I need to say something out loud, and maybe for someone to say, its OK to feel that way.

    Def need to think about this in light of my own behaviour anyway. Interesting post. x

  2. thank you so much for sharing your views. I do understand regarding being heard. I think that's a fairly 'normal' response. I think it's also good to be able to share. As I said it's a choice - sometimes I'm just not sure the participants are as self aware as clearly you are x

  3. Hi Babs,

    This is a really interesting topic. I also see people 'bare all' on Twitter, and wonder sometimes what they hope to gain by it. Support, being heard, sympathy, pity (!)...

    Twitter is a voice box though - and to a certain extent, the familiarity of it and the 'relationships' we build up through it, might make some people feel they can say anything. Be themselves?

    I am like you and 'people watch' - but would never expose a major problem I'm having on a Twitter platform as some things are just too personal. I might voice my frustration with something (usually BT!) but always share my problems with trusted friends and family.

    That said, I do have some friends on Twitter who I share my life with. That's what direct messages are for... ;-)

    Life is tough and sometimes things we go through seem overwhelming. So I can understand why people might want to share what's inside. I just feel there's a time and a place for everything.

    That doesn't mean to say that I am guarded on Twitter - I just wonder whether all and sundry are really interested in my problems when they are so busy with their own.


  4. It feels Nikki as if we are singing from the same hymn sheet. I too have friendly feelings towards other tweeps and I am happy to share. I am coming from a place of caring and perhaps rescuing? What we think and feel in the moment(today) isn't always what we feel in the next moment (tomorrow). I recommend the venting of frustration in an appropriate way but be aware if you're doing it on twitter its going into the ether and if you've said it then it can be used against you. I won't speak for others but what I will say is that I'm happy to listen to you anytime - by DM of course :) x

  5. Thought provoking article. It got me thinking about some of the 'distress' tweets I have responded too. I am aware that it is impossible to 'rescue' another, but often compassion means responding. Sometimes not knowing what to say or do to relieve distress, when face to face, just sitting with someones pain is enough, difficult to convey that on twitter!
    I think people want to share all kinds of things on twitter, vulnerabliy and weakness are often less acceptable than wise sayings and funny tweets...maybe? me mulling anyway...!

  6. thanks for the comment Kathie and I think you're right people do want to share many things on twitter. I think that was my point. I think it is a human to want to respond. My motivation when I wrote this last year was really holding a mirror up. I'm pleased reflection has been your response since your response will make me reflect. Thanks again.