The White Knight Syndrome: Rescuing Yourself from Your Need to Rescue Others

Are you a “White Knight?

Are you attracted to needy, damaged, or helpless people?

Do you feel like your love can heal your partner?

Are you overly involved in your partner’s problems?

Are you hungry for constant reassurance in relationships?

Do you make excuses for your partner?

Do you try to “save” people from themselves?

It’s said that sometimes, people who end up in abusive relationships (with a violent substance abuser, for instance) are “rescuers” who are eternally trying to ‘fix’ or ‘rescue’ other people from their own issues, whether those are financial problems, addiction or substance abuse, or other damaged relationships – including those with family, friends, and ex- intimate partners. Certainly not every target/victim of abuse is a “rescuer” but a healthy examination of where and why you may be taking too much responsibility for the “demons” or problems, and most of all – the behavior of others, is worth a focused look. This blog entry is from Mary C. Lamia – author, clinical psychologist, and psychoanalyst in Marin County, CA.

I include an excerpt below.

In legends and folklore, the white knight rescues the damsel in distress, falls in love, and saves the day. Real-life white knights are men and women who enter into romantic relationships with damaged and vulnerable partners, hoping that love will transform their partner’s behavior or lives; a relationship pattern that seldom leads to a storybook ending. White knights can be any age, race, sexual orientation, culture, or socioeconomic status, but all have the inclination and the need to rescue. Although white knights can exist in a wide range of relationships, such as in a business or a friendship, we will limit our focus to the white knight in intimate relationships.

You will discover that many rescuers often go from one person in need of rescue to another, riding into each new partner’s life on a white horse to save the day. In the initial stages of the relationship, the rescuer seems gracious and happily altruistic, but as time goes by, he feels increasingly unhappy, disappointed, critical, and powerless.

Although the white knight’s heroic actions may take the form of slaying her partner’s metaphorical dragons, her real goal, which is often beyond her awareness, involves slaying the dragons from her own past. Thus, at a deeper level the compulsive rescuer is trying to repair the negative or damaged sense of herself that developed in childhood.

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