The savior complex

Save me! Well no…

It is a syndrome also known as co-dependance, it is a form of addiction. When a relationship is based on the fact that you want to save the other person. Without going as far as addiction, this is a fairly common behaviour in our society.


Rick Astley the greatest savior of the 80’s

Causes: Children have often been parents of their parents. They play this role towards a disabled parent, a brother or sister, or even several people. The saviors are people with an empathic profile, hyper sensitive, in love with justice and harmony. Faced with dependent people who lack autonomy, the rescuers feel their distress and want to help them.

The rescuers were also able to witness behavior of dependency and sacrifice from their parents. So loving means sacrificing yourself no matter what.

The victims rely immoderately on one or more people without really wanting to move forward and above all it is a recurring dynamic. Sometimes they do not even formulate their needs but by their behaviour or complaints, encourage rescuers to come and help them.

There is a real difference with a person who sincerely seeks to evolve and who will bring out with the power of his intention the solutions/helpers he needs at the moment. With this kind of people, there is a real exchange/ sharing and helping them is not experienced as a constraint because the demand is punctual, light and not imposed. She does not rely entirely on one person and will find the right help.

We arrive at the dynamics of the Karpman triangle where the protagonists take turns in the roles of persecutor, savior and victim:

Argument often heard: « Yes, but if I abandon the person, he will sink! » Even though the « victim » has a dynamic of its own, and often does not ask to be saved, they just want you to continue to feed the pattern on which it has been based for years. We can go further by talking about the fact that the soul chooses the life, the parents it will have to experience and learn. From the beginning we have been the creator of our life experience. By playing the role of savior, we forget the creative power of each person and substitute ourselves for them, which is somehow a little violent.

Example: When I was 35, one of my aunts sent me a picture of a single engineer who was attending the same church as her. I had not asked her for anything, nor made any complaints about my status. I found that there was a total lack of confidence in life and in me. I felt so invaded and brutalized, it reminded me of my Vietnamese grandmother’s forced marriage and I felt lucky to be in a position to be able to decide my future…

The joy luck club

My priority was not to settle down according to her standards but to meet the right person for me. It was that or nothing. Let’s imagine for a minute that I follow her advice to please her. I would have been unhappy and she would have found other reasons to worry.

Not only would I have made a choice to please her, but it wouldn’t even have worked because it didn’t suit me. Basically I would have « sacrificed » myself for nothing. I also played this role of savior with my loved ones with the same feeling of departure: fear, lack of confidence in the future and in the person.

In NVC (Non-violent Communication), Marshall Rosenberg explains that what is not given with the heart is not well received. That the sacrifice is never well received since it is not given with positive feelings.

After that, it is not easy to « drop » someone you love, especially when you consider that the situation is dramatic.

Zorro is heeeere!

So why do we play this role?

The benefits of being a savior:

-We value ourselves, we have the truth, by saving the victim we are a good person. We feel useful.

-We save because we share the person’s problems.

-We can’t abandon it because it hurts to see the person like that.

-It keeps you busy, we lack personal projects in life. We take care of others so we don’t see that our own life doesn’t evolve.

The Disadvantages:

Image associée

« You’ll be digested for a 1000 years!!! » Star wars

Energy loss, depression, the feeling of being « eaten ». There is a great sense of injustice. « But why doesn’t the person give me anything in return? »

Anger towards the victim and/or those who do not help accumulates in us because this « debt » is unfair. Anger is also rising because we see that our sacrifice is useless.

-The person takes your interference very badly and either has not asked you for anything or does not share your vision of the situation. In short, even if you are right, if the person is not ready to give up a pattern in his or her life, your arguments may have an effect in the future or never.

Exit the triangle and enter the circle

So what to do?

To live this experience to the full as any human experience, it allows us to highlight what is unbalanced in us.

These people can send us back our inability to listen to our own needs and put ourselves first. This may indicate an inability to receive. There is often a lack of self-esteem in common between the two protagonists.

Our society really leads us towards this self sacrifice behavior, a system where we feed each other with many false obligations. So many unsatisfied and unspoken needs that compensate each other with a kind of uniformity of happiness. Instead of being autonomous, unique and sharing good times whenever we want.

Remember that the person experiences it with his own vibration, that is, he needs to experience it to understand something and that he/she probably experiences it better than you. You can’t compare one life to another it’s impossible. They are like eco-systems that balance each other in different ways. You are you, the other is the other…


Recover power and autonomy. Remember that true empathy is not pity, it is to recognize the person’s power to manage his life and feel his difficulties without wanting to save or judge him. You can listen and help if there is a demand, but you also have to respect your own limits. It is even better for the person who, faced with your refusal, can then turn to someone who would be better able to guide them or decide to become more autonomous.

Setting an example: rather than sacrificing yourself and continuing this infernal chain, giving yourself love, thinking about yourself, saying no when you don’t want to. It means showing others that there is another way to do things. And if they see this as ingratitude and fail to understand, it is their path. Getting sick for others doesn’t make sense and it doesn’t make people in trouble feel better. You have to get past it when you assert yourself in this way, because the people who have been feeding on your role until now will try to keep you in or at best will end up being inspired by your behaviour. And when we give, we really do it with the heart, with altruism.


I have been doing this for a long time with my family and friends. There was still one person to whom I still felt this connection and the greatest difficulty I had was to detach myself emotionally from the situation. Maybe because my sensitive nature pushes me to help others. But also because it is very difficult to live when a loved one suffers. As I love the person, I want them to be happy and I feel beyond words what they are going through. I also saw her as a helpless little sheep and it was when I finally saw the other facets of her that I realized that she was really choosing what she was going through.

I understood that I had to respect her rhythm, her path. That there is no perfect path, only curves that we follow as we feel. That this person does not have the same priorities in life as I do, so what I consider unbearable is not unbearable for her. I expressed as gently as possible what I experienced with her and she was able to do the same. I allowed myself to be angry, sad, manipulated and let go.


At that time I was reading Nicolas Bernard’s book, co-creator of the 9 breaths, a therapeutic method based on the intelligence of the body, it offers us a very interesting and thorough approach on the dimensions of man, his natural healing potential. I had a healing session with him and he highlighted the wounds I still had in me about being a savior in the face of parents who refused to evolve and who didn’t leave room by constantly fighting. I hadn’t told him about any of this, but he felt it when he was in contact with the different parts of his body. He told me my personal story and allowed me to accept all the emotions associated with it. I knew him by doing dance therapy classes with his wife Anne Ena Bernard, an approach also based on emotional liberation through the free movement of the body. I was surprised by this method, both free and guided, it allowed me to explore the innate intelligence of my body and to better let go of blocked emotions, all without using the mind.

I really clicked when I read this passage:

« As hostile and greedy as the people around us are, they can’t take anything from us without our consent… That’s where it all comes down to!

(…) Then begins the process closed to a carpet merchant negotiation. The goods sold and exchanged are those of our body (…) « Mom, I am willing to give you part of the activity of my right leg since you are not able to manage your material life, but in return I want:

That you watch over me and feed me is the minimum;

That you make my older brother feel obliged to give me part of the activity of his lung, since one consequence of the fact that I give you a little bit of my leg is that I may feel suffocated and therefore run out of air; (…) »

When I gave up that role, I felt an incredible flow of energy, a liberation, a relief. My voice has amplified, it carries further when I sing. I really enjoy doing things for myself and I can be more in the moment. Being a healer and in pursuit of well-being, I can easily fall into this role if I am not vigilant and I know that I have not fully emerged from it at this time. Old reflexes and the subconscious mind are very powerful. It’s like any healing, it takes time and we discover layers and under layers regularly. It gets better and better as we go along.


Some relatives have remained in my entourage, others are more distant because our way of being is different. Love is there, but I’m not forcing anything. And I meet people who correspond to who I am today and I know that the circle will continue to evolve with me.

Leaving the triangle is entering the collaborative virtuous circle, where differences are respected and complement each other. Where you choose your destiny and the people you want to share with.

You are perfect, even when you think you’re wrong:)

DEAR ENGLISH READERS you can find more articles written in your native language here (or hit the « english » button in the menu):

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