Saviour behaviour

Are you a saviour, someone who wants to save people?

We all need to care for those who need us. But you shouldn’t make sacrifices for someone who doesn’t deserve you or care for you.

Children under the age of 16 definitely need a parental figure. But once they reach secondary school you become the person who puts food on the table and are otherwise an irritant to them. Later in life they’ll come back and recognise your worth, but not while they’re teenagers. Give them bed and board, and let them grow into adulthood, knowing you’re around, but not under their feet.

Grown up children don’t need a saver either. Sure, it’s cheaper for them to live at home, and get their meals supplied. But in general they’ll treat the place like a hotel, and regard you as a waiter/waitress.

What about your partner? A typical scenario. Your partner is a creative, a tortured soul. They have big plans. But they don’t produce much output, because creativity can’t be rushed. So you wash and clean, and earn money, and keep them in weed. And you love them and understand their moods.

But being a saviour means they don’t have to take responsibility for their actions. And that may not be a good thing because they’ll remain in a childlike state.

Here’s the thing. Writers’ block is for amateurs and dilletantes. The pros get up in the morning and write, whether they’re inspired or not. A famous writer was once asked, ‘How do you become a writer? His answers: 200 words a day. That’s 73,000 words a year, ten books every decade.

Jason Horejs, owner of Xanadu Gallery, says “My research has shown that, on average, successful painters are creating nearly 80 pieces per year. Successful sculptors are sculpting 55 pieces per year. Artist Chuck Close says: “Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work. If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightning to strike you in the brain, you are not going to make an awful lot of work. All the best ideas come out of the process; they come out of the work itself. Things occur to you.”

Being a saviour means the person you are protecting doesn’t need to take responsibility for their life. And they can and do take advantage of you.

It allows them to boss you around, and complain if challenged. That goes with their role of ‘disabled person’, ‘talented artist’ or ‘misunderstood genius’. It gives them carte blanche to ride roughshod over you. Many people who are cared for get to feel entitled to it and become selfish. It’s not their fault.

 The issue of elderly parents is more complex. There’s a period of time between them being independent and becoming infirm. Truth is, people are better off staying in their own home if they can, and for as long as they can, rather than be cared for. The latter takes away their survival skills.

Will they be lonely on their own? If they stay with you, you probably won’t be around much. The day will be just as long, and they’ll have less need to get out, buy food and pay the electricity bill.

If you or they have the money, you can pay for a cleaner, someone to pop in and check on them. Many organisations will take them shopping or for an outing. There are flats with warden support.

My maternal grandmother came to live with us while she was full of health. She bossed my parents, and looked down on my father as being less middle class than she was (despite the fact that he held a managerial post and put food on the table for her). She was wonderful to me, and I loved her. But I think her presence made life difficult for my parents.

If you’re a saviour, think long and hard about your motivations. Some of us find being a saviour a crutch. Does it give you a hidden benefit? Does it let you avoid the responsibilities of a job? Does it give you a purpose in life? If so, that’s great, and perfectly reasonable. But if so, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to make the massive change that this book is all about.

Not being a savour means you have to set boundaries and be selfish (in their words). It’s harder to deal with a dependent once you’ve adopted the role, because you can’t easily evict them.

If you have a need to help others, you could go to work in healthcare.

Is this how you feel?

You assume that someone wants or needs help. But just because they accept your help, or seem to benefit from it, doesn’t mean it’s right for you or for them.

Do you feel empowered by helping that special person? If so, you may be committing to a life of servitude. If they’re genuinely in need of help, and no one else can provide that, that’s ok. But you’ll have to accept that you won’t be able to make change in your own life.

Warning signs

Are you taken for granted?

Does the person you care for fail to properly reciprocate your kindness?

Ask yourself these questions

Does this person want my help, or am you imposing it on them?

Do you have to do the caring? Can anyone else do it?

How to manage your saviour tendencies

  1. Set boundaries between you and the person you’re saving. Don’t be at their beck and call.
  2. Make sure your support is reciprocated.
  3. Challenge the person you’re saving whether they could be doing more to help themselves.
  4. Show them how to take the necessary steps, rather than doing it for them.

Do you want help with achieving change in your life? We have a coaching programme that could help you. Learn more.