How to get rid of a savior/saved complex?
May 5, 2013 2:24 PM   Subscribe

How do I stop thinking in terms of savior/ saved in relation to others?

There are several reasons why I think this way:
1) My life isn't perfect, but I know I've been blessed with a lot, more than many people. So I feel like the things I have, I should make them meaningful by sharing with others? (I think about fairness, but not in a healthy way...)
2) My parents (and a few other partnerships I know) don't have a supportive relationship; both parties are selfish and don't put the other person before themselves. I guess I am compensating for that in how I relate to others. I try really hard to avoid having the kind of relationship my parents have, and this has been... awful!!! I project a lot of this on myself and people around me.
3) Watching too many dramas. I do dream of a good, happy relationship, but I more anticipate things not turn out well and being really tumultuous.

Thinking this way has made it hard to simply be content with and enjoy what I have. I do feel guilty for having a lot, but that's not the main reason why. Maybe I have known some really selfish people, and I try really hard to not be like them, and I'd like to have more considerate people in my life. I realize that truly caring and considerate people are rare and I'd like to be one of them. But I also know that one can be caring and considerate without ignoring one's own needs. In fact, it's necessary to take care of yourself before taking care of others.

I realize that I have not been thinking the right way at all. So, how do I stop thinking this way??
posted by ichomp to Human Relations (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
How do I stop thinking in terms of savior/ saved in relation to others?

There are several reasons why I think this way:

Thinking this way has made it hard to simply be content ...

I think we need to know more about the thought patterns that are causing you trouble. You haven't really said much about them except that they somehow involve saviors and saving... or something. Do you mean that you think of other people as needing to be saved, and of your own role as being to save them? Something else? Fundamental details are missing.
posted by jon1270 at 2:57 PM on May 5, 2013

Response by poster: Sometimes, I think I am only valuable if I can help someone. I also think people's attention should go toward those who need help more. There is a weird "fairness" element in how I view things. For example, I think since I am lucky in a lot of ways already, other people deserve great things/people more than I do. Only around people I'm really close with, I retreat to a "saved" role.
posted by ichomp at 3:18 PM on May 5, 2013

yeah, a little more clarity as to what the problem thinking is would be helpful in understanding your question. generally, you might want to check out resources on codependency like the book codependent no more, co-dependents anonymous literature or meetings. i think it also helps to realize that everyone has something to contribute to society. so, just because one person has financial resources another person who doesn't have that may have a great sense of sharing or hospitality. it's not your job to save everyone, but it is good to do what you feel called to do to help others. one last thought: never view people as projects. they are people. they are not projects. oh, and check your motives for helping others. don't give to get or to make yourself feel like a worthy person. that is another form of codependency.
posted by wildflower at 3:21 PM on May 5, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I would suggest considering if your guilt/shame might be more deeply rooted in your belief in your own value than in feeling guilty over material comforts.

both parties are selfish and don't put the other person before themselves.

Do they put you, their child, first? More importantly, when you were a child, were you fully supported and loved and encouraged?

So, how do I stop thinking this way??

This is exactly what therapy is for.
posted by headnsouth at 3:40 PM on May 5, 2013 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Couple of things come to mind.

The first is that you have a boundary problem. If I read correctly, it sounds like you are putting yourself in a superior position to most people – because of the things you have. And you want to share them with the less fortunate. Not to be harsh, but who died and made you god? Whilst you have been blessed in some ways, it also sounds like you got a raw deal when it came to a relationship with your parents.

You have a big answer right there. Whilst you have a lot of things and a problem with love, some people have a lot of love and problems with things. So you have something to contribute, but you also need something. That is how everyone is, and what forms the basis of the human condition and society.

Think about your situation to the ultimate extreme. Maybe you are horribly unlucky for what you have been given. Maybe it is a curse that you have enough things to provide you with just enough satiation, so that you don't have to actually go out and deal with people. In that case, your things have done a tremendous job of isolating you. Do you still feel lucky? Fortunate? Superior? Everything is a double-edged sword, and by working with other people, we strive to reach points of balance.

The second area in which boundaries will help is in your guilt. Your parents are not you. The selfish people in your life do not have to be you. You can become them if you'd like, but there is no directive that says you have to be selfish. You can choose whatever life path you would like to choose. That is where boundaries happen. Maybe you have no desire for things but you want to spend your life building dams in Bangladesh. Go do it! And feel whole.

A lot of people have problems with boundaries. We have a society breeding terrible boundaries. It's up to each of us to form them for ourselves and arrive at a point which we each can life with.
4. Compulsive caretaker style. Caretakers are the people who create bonds primarily through taking care of others. Their energy and focus is on helping others even to the point of self-destruction or harmfulness to others. This style goes beyond healthy helping to the compulsive need to rescue someone who can and should be responsible for themselves. The identity of the caretaker rests in helping, and, as a result, they often do not take care of their own needs.

Therefore, they tend to burn out because of the imbalance of giving and taking. Compulsive caretakers can also become bitter and resentful when they feel they are not "appreciated" enough by the people they have looked after. They can easily feel like a hostage. They can also manipulate others as a hostage by using words like "After all I have done for you"... – Hostage at the Table

posted by nickrussell at 7:41 PM on May 5, 2013 [4 favorites]

- Observe others' strengths, as well as their weaknesses.
- Guilt, pity and charity are terrible precursors to friendship, and if something like one develops out of them, incline it towards imbalance. Make friends you consider your equal, whose company offers pleasure, rather than commiseration or confession.
- Seek to learn, and maybe master, some skill or area of knowledge that has nothing to do with directly helping others. Something that's fun in itself, challenging, offers a mode of self-expression, maybe, and taps into something you're good at. Protect the time it takes to learn/do this thing.
- Learn about and establish boundaries, as nickrussell said.
- If you find yourself attracted to drama, you might be a little worked up yourself. If that's true, take up some physical practice that encourages calmness and grounds you. Could be something quieting like yoga, or something vigorous that tires you out.
posted by nelljie at 9:51 PM on May 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

I grew up with a similar mental model.

It is a mental model very rooted in pecking order where you envision yourself as superior to most people. There are a whole lot of problems with it. First, if you mostly give and you expect nothing in return, you will mostly attract leaches. Eventually, you won't have it to give, whether materially or emotionally. Second, it tends to promote emotional starvation. Material success alone isn't really "enough"/all it's cracked up to be. Third, it isn't realistic to try to "save" people financially. Financial problems grow out of real problems. I have heard that two thirds of all lottery winners are bankrupt within five years. When underlying real problems are not addressed, more money often just magnifies existing problems instead of fixing them.

Some things that helped me:

Nearly dying helped me get my priorities straight.

While very ill, I also got to spend time with people who had serious financial problems but were "good for what ailed me," both physically and emotionally, something more monied individuals could not offer me.

I also kind of studied the historical and cultural concepts and philosophy related to trying to provide mental models of social interaction rooted in mutual benefit. IIRC, Greece, Persia and India all revered honeybees. They provide a model in nature of mutual benefit: The bees pollinate flowers and make honey from what they get from the flowers without damaging them. It is a lot easier to see examples in nature of a predator-prey model and human social interaction often follows the predator-prey model. I eventually concluded that savior/saved stuff is a variation of predator-prey. Thus I view most attempts to "save" another as fundamentally rooted in contempt and an attempt to frame them negatively for the benefit of someone else, if only by perceived social elevation. I find that offensive and try like hell to not go there.
posted by Michele in California at 10:01 PM on May 5, 2013 [3 favorites]

It could also be the subjugation schema. Try reading Reinvent Your Life by Dr. Jeffrey Young.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 8:02 AM on May 6, 2013

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