His steel blue eyes shone bright from his brown wizened face that held stories of war and poverty and addiction. Whether is was the cigarettes or the sunshine that had turned him into a shrivelled version of himself, neither had numbed out the insights he had gathered and come to share. “You can’t save all the drowning puppies,” he said dryly, just before I got up to leave his temporary lodgings.

It took me a few years to really get just how insightful that message was. And it came back to me today when I jumped dripping wet from the showeUnknown-3r to look out the widow’s walk to see just what Shanti, my little black lab, was barking at with such fervour.

Were they deer in the yard again? Was the UPS fellow here ahead of schedule which meant I could actually leave the property today before everything closes in this small South Shore community?

No. It was a new visitor strolling down the paved driveway away from the house and headed towards the road that runs along the beach. Black and bigger than a squirrel. By gosh it was a small dog! And maybe it needed my help. (Yep the ‘I am a dog loving Empath’ rescuer took over my brain — especially since a friend’s dog had run from the beach yesterday, I went straight to ‘I better help!’ right away. Searching frantically for something to put on that wouldn’t be too embarrassing if a neighbour stopped by or god forbid the  courier arrived before noon! Grabbing the first sarong from my basket of scarves I ran barefoot down the wooden steps and looked out the front walk as I wrapped it around me. The dog had disappeared. It was gone and so was my chance to jump in and rescue. And that’s when I remembered the man’s words. And that is how I got inspired to remind YOU that rescuing has to stop.

Sure trying to rescue a dog nearing a highway where it could get run over is an act of compassion. However, going to a quick plan how to adopt said dog, rather than thinking about how to find its owner red flags that sister, you are in rescue mode. And while for me it is oftEmpathWays Truths -Not Doing the Codpendency Cha-cha (8)en animals that pushes this button, it used to be men, or old houses, or rotten relationships.

Put your hand up now if you have been a Superhero/Rescuer in your life too!

We can help others as sensitive souls. That is an empowering gift to share. But we cannot rescue them. That is enabling and gets into some nasty energetic consequences!

We will become drained and depleted. We might even start back on the Codependency ChaCha. You know the one…

I see you have a problem, chachacha forward. Here’s how you fix it, chachacha forward. What do you mean you aren’t going to fix it? That pisses me off, chachacha backward.

And repeat the steps again.

But wait you are having trouble, let me help you, chachacha forward with a flourish of the hands offering to help.

Stop it! Time for a new dance my fellow recovering help-aholics.

Suggestions from a recovering help-aholic…

1. Repurpose the Superhero Cape ~ So you know I am speaking from my heart when I pass along this little piece of wisdom from a man they all called ‘Crazy Joe.” You can’t save all the drowning puppies.

No sir. You can’t. And frankly you may actually be doing harm by trying to do so.. to yourself and to the ‘Other.’ (I am thinking of in the case of trying to step in and rescue people with this piece of advice.)

You are taking away learning opportunities, pre-destined soul growth experiences. Your superhero cape is best used as a table cloth dear or a great window treatment because darn it, if you love up that person and be your best self, you are modelling what works. When you are guided (and that means using discernment and checking before acting) or you are asked for your help, that will be a better way time to be of service. You can then offer your advice, or assistance, when and where it is asked for. Neat right?

One of the added benefits is you stop a pattern that you complain about anyway and you allow the other person their dignity. Willingly giving and receiving is an act of love, not a rescue strategy.


2. Reflect on ‘who’ really needs rescuing ~ Most healers and many in the helping professions would definitely fall into the ‘Wounded Healer’ archetype. They have gone through much difficulty themselves, often in their childhood, and have come through rather well with skills and abilities that would be useful for others to learn, once the ego has surrendered and they are working in a balanced way. But if the deep work, the soul retrieval work where you have the opportunity to reclaim pieces of yourself that have been lost or suppressed in this lifetime (or perhaps in others), then you may find you are repeatedly trying to ‘rescue’ others with a problem that mirrors your own.  It is no longer a calling your are fulfilling, but a hole in your energetic fields that you are trying to fill.


3. Recall your soul’s purpose ~ Unless you have been called to the job of God and know that you are here to save all of humanity (gosh I hope you hear the ironic humour in this), best get back on track dear and FOCUS ON YOUR SOUL’S PURPOSE. Most often you are called here to be love. To be the fullest expression of YOU. To shine. And if you haven’t found what turns your pilot light on up to full flame, then take the time and find out. You are worth it!  Often I have Soul Journey clients return from their week long adventures with clear ideas and strategies to move forward on their path because they took the time to really dig deep and reconnect with their passion. New businesses. New relationship opportunities. Even new living arrangements often happen within weeks of their return!

When you are honouring your path, you are far more respectful of others’ paths too. You know that they are learning and growing and you are ready to celebrate them and cheer them on. You are not ready to intervene because it doesn’t look as pretty as you think it might.


4. Release the ‘how’ ~ When you do get inspired to act, don’t question the ‘how’ or worry about what the outcome needs to look like. You are only being asked to do YOUR part and you may never see the whole picture. You don’t need to. What you need is faith. Faith and courage so that when you get called to act, no matter how it might look like to anyone else, you do so.

It always reminds me of the story I heard years ago about this man of faith who was driving along and suddenly heard a voice urgently tell him, ‘pull over! Quick!’ He looked for the safest spot to do so and pulled into the gas station up ahead on the left, parking and turning off his car. Within moments the voice came again and said,’Go over there and stand on your head. By that pop machine.’

Well that was a little more unusual than other requests he had heard in the past, like pay for that fellow in the drivethrough’s coffee, or offer to shovel that lady’s walkway this morning, or smile at that person in the elevator and chat a bit because they have had a hard day and need to stop their worrying thoughts. He had had some strange requests before, but nothing like this.

When he heard the voice call firmly again, he got out of his car and moved slowly towards the Coke machine. And up he went. Or rather down and then up he went. His legs over his body and pressed against the red and white pop machine. As his arms were shaking and the voice had gone silent, he figured it was ok to get down and he crumpled back to the ground. Dusted himself off. Stood up and steadied himself.

Even with the noise of the traffic going by he heard the shuffling through the bushes and focussed his eyes to see someone slowly emerging from the dusty greenery. It was a young man in tattered jeans and a sweatshirt holding a faded green duffel bag stuffed with what was left of his possession walking over as tears silently streamed down his face. He was stepping out to shake the man’s hand.

‘I prayed for a sign. I said to God, if you really loved me and I am not to end my life right here and now then show me a sign. I asked,’ he gulped ‘for someone to show up and stand on their heads by that pop machine within the next 1/2 hour or else I was going to …” His voice trailed off.

That story always choked me up some because I have played both roles.. the one in the bushes and feeling desperate about my life and the one who was called to slow down and show up.


5. Relax into a loving space. ~ Allow your intent to align with your acti. You have not come to deal with projects, past times and a prolonged list of life goals. You have come to be love in action. So do the deep listening. Before you jump to rescue mode, check and see what it is in the highest good to do. And then do that. You will be blessing everyone, including yourself, as you live your purpose.


ES promo shot sedonaEagleSpirit, a Contemporary Shaman, has worked for over 20 years to help clients relax their bodies, release limiting beliefs and radiate their most authentic selves.
As the creator of Empath 101 Empowerment program she speaks to groups internationally, facilitates the month-long course that has changed lives and is often featured in the media for her grounded approach to spirituality.
Visit here for more details about Empath 101 and contact us if you would like to sponsor the program in your area.
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2 comments on “Step away from that project, you ‘help-aholic!’

  • Lots of resonance in this piece… I am a recovering rescuer. I don’t know that I’ll ever say recovered because the impulse to help and save is always there. Like you, I’ve done it in past relationships, especially romantic, extricating myself from it when the person I am ‘helping’ is stronger and no longer needs me (aka pushes back when I offer my advice). I even see some of this rescuer syndrome in my current relationships. But the difference is, now it exhausts me to be the rescuer and I don’t want to do it because I have enough to deal with in my own life.

    Thanks for reconfirming this for me.

    • Yay you for breaking the pattern. Wow how empowered your friends and family could feel as you are loving them up and trusting them enough to believe in them and their journey!

      You rock!

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