Mentor or Rescuer?
Mentoring, when an individual provides coaching and encouragement to another, helping him/her develop specific skills and knowledge, which enhance his/her professional or personal growth, plays an essential role in many companies. It has multiple benefits, but boundaries are vital.
Yes, many people have the desire to help others and being a mentor is one way. However, it is also possible to be a rescuer, a relationship which creates unhealthy levels of interference.
A mentor encourages others to help themselves. A rescuer is a person driven to do it for them. The motivation is less like altruism than addiction, a deep-seated need to fill a gap assuaged only by excessive “helping.”
A mentor helps the mentee to recognize mistakes and take responsibility for change. On the other hand, a rescuer feels compelled to save the mentee from his/her mistakes. Mentoring builds confidence. Rescuing creates an inherent sense of tension, failure, and lack of confidence for the mentee—none of which encourages growth or empowerment.
Some people cannot differentiate their own needs from those they are proposing to help. If this unhealthy relationship syndrome has a chance to foster, it will cause more harm than help to both the mentor/rescuer and mentee. It often leads to unhealthy boundaries and eventually a dependency for the mentee and emotional burnout for the rescuer. Sadly, a rescuer is seldom aware of his/her underlying motivations and genuinely believe their interventions are best.
Experts believe the only way to address the Rescuer Syndrome is to face up to it. The individual responsibilities and behaviors need to change to facilitate a healthier outcome. If you find yourself slipping from mentoring to rescuing, don’t give up helping others. Instead, establish more structured roles with specific limitations.
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