This is about being trained by a codependent to always need them. Never to make a move without them. Never to make a decision without prior consultation. And what happens when being a codependent’s Professional Rescuee is carried to the Nth degree.

Life by Committee

You know that old story about how a camel is really a horse designed by a committee? Yeah, that’s kinda what it’s like when codependents demand that you need them. That you always consult with them. That you not make a move without them. All decisions are made “in committee” with them. You become their Professional Rescuee. The perfect foil for their need to be a Professional Rescuer.

During my twenties, my family made it clear that in lieu of a husband to guide my decisions, I was to consult them. I knew this meant I would always make the decision they wanted me to make. Why? I was addicted to their approval, their love-bombing. Pathetically, I never learned how to make decisions independently and alone. I was long on blind, fearful obedience, extremely short on common sense.

I’ll never forget my first day alone in my first home. I’d never hung a picture before in my childhood bedroom. It’d always been done for me by the “Hanging Committee.” I was so excited at the thought of hanging my print of The Bookworm all by myself, I literally sat down and hyperventilated. Pathetic, I know.

The same thing happened the first time I went clothes shopping with no one to answer to, no one to approve or disapprove. I hid behind a wrack in J. C. Penney’s hyperventilating with nerves and excitement. Two hours later, I’d found my personal style for the very first time.

Now, don’t get me wrong! There’s a lot to be gained from asking other people for their experiences and advice. My mother taught me to always “learn from other people’s mistakes.”

For example, every time my husband has a particular health complaint, I usually post it on Facebook. Kind friends come out of the woodwork. They actually pinpointed a health problem that a CAT scan missed!

But if you ask the wrong person, it can also trigger a repeat of the Professional Rescuee scenario you’re trying to escape.

Been there. Done that. Here’s the story.

When we first moved Up North, there was a lot to be learned about Country Living. My only experience with gardening had been a tomato plant in a pot on a balcony. If it wasn’t available at a mall or a big-ass grocery store, I was a Babe-in-the-Woods.

Kind friends helped. Advised. Shared their living-close-to-the-land wisdom. They were happy to do it. We were happy to receive it.

Fast forward a few years. There was a change. A subtle shift in attitude.

It began as condescension. My friend was getting her kicks telling me what to do.

Then it advanced to superiority. What had been advice, now felt like an order. Her tone implied, “Well! If Michael would only take XY supplement, he’d be cured of all that ails him.” It was unspoken, yet I sensed it.

And resented her dogmatic, superior condescension.

Then I realized the truth: I’d recreated my past. Where I was merely open to advice, I’d come off as the Professional Rescuee I used to be. And she’d stepped up to the plate, telling me exactly what to do and how to do it. Loving every minute of the ego-fanning superiority she felt by telling me what to do. By poo-pooing my ideas as unworkable, close-minded to creativity.

This is where our story ends because the rescuer/rescuee dynamic is another reason that friendship ended.

You see, I like making my own decisions. Oh, it takes a tremendously long time to make one. Narcissistic abuse has a way of squelching your common sense (e.g. “normalcy”), but it’s still there. Given the chance, we make very good decisions without any help from others and take great joy in doing so.

I don’t want to be a Professional Rescuee. I never did! It was a role foisted upon me that I accidentally recreated and perpetuated.

Well, that stops now.