Savior Complex – Save Yourself Instead

Savior Complex?  Being a “savior” sounds like a good thing, right?  You’re the white knight coming to someone’s rescue and it makes you feel good about yourself!   This is great but anything taken to the extreme can be a bad thing.  People who have a savior complex problem will continually sacrifice their own needs to help others.  Why do they take it to the extreme?  How much is too much?

What is the Savior Complex?

People having a savior complex feel more control in their own life by helping others.  The positive feelings  distract them from their own problems of anxiety or helplessness.   The positive validation coming from those actions can result in an obsession to create this positive feeling again.  This results in an obsessive need to help others so they feel better about themselves.  People prone to savior complexes may have experienced dysfunctional family dynamics as children, resulting in an unhealthy coping mechanism that persists into adulthood.  This dysfunction can drive wedges between you and your friends and family.  You believe you have good intentions but a close examination reveals that you have a skewed perception of the situation.  Others see the reality that you do not.

The savior complex is not a medical problem but more of a state of mind.  However, researchers  have found that people having bipolar and schizophrenia disorders are more likely to experience the problem.  It doesn’t make you a bad person, but it doesn’t make you a good one either.   It does make your life more challenging.  People don’t need you to save them, they need you to save yourself.

What is Too Much Help?

You may have the savior complex if you ONLY feel good about yourself when you help someone else.   

  • Are you looking for people to fix?  Are you chasing broken people that don’t want help?
  • Do other people thing you are getting too involved?
  • Do you ever spend time fixing yourself?
  • Do you treat people in your intimate circle like students?  Do you think you can teach them to better understand?
  • Are you going over the top making grandiose gestures or financial gifts?
  • If you think you need to regularly sacrifice your own interests and well being then you may have a problem. 
  •  If you are obsessed with finding new people to help, you may have a problem.  
  • If people become overly dependent on your assistance, you may have a problem  
  • If your help is actually enabling problems or bad behavior, you may have a problem
  • If helping people makes you feel superior or omnipotent, you may have a problem
  • People with Codependency and Megalomania might fall into savior complex situations when they try to help people as their exaggerated sense of self importance makes them feel greater than others and more able to help.
  • Animal Hoarders may be experiencing the savior complex
  • You might just like having power over people to boost your self worth and looking for less fortunate people to involve yourself with solves that desire.

Occasionally helping people is great, but overdoing it can actually be a harmful coping mechanism.   A person with a savior complex may cause more damage than good by attempting to repair something they are not competent in fixing rather than relying on someone who is. For example, if your spouse has a drug or alcohol addiction and you refuse to leave them because you ‘need’ them, you are enabling them.  In addition to the negative consequences of the savior complex, it can turn romantic relationships into a toxic and unhealthy environment, as the individual with the savior complex attempts to fix his or her adult partners as if they are a parent or teacher.

Other Harmful Aspects Include:

  • People may take risks and put themselves in actual danger when assisting
  • Your own mental state can suffer when you fail to save the person
  • You can get burned out from all your efforts which can affect you physically.
  • Your focus on being a savior can cause you to neglect your other personal relationships such as friends or family.
  • Race based savior complex where a majority race person believes that their race automatically gives them the skills to help a minority person.  
  • Throwing money at other people’s problems
  • Automatically seeing the person you are helping as inferior to you.

Solutions for the Savior Complex

  • Think about the difference between “Caring” and “Helping” and try more Caring.
  • Set proper boundaries with the people you help that can limit your involvement to more normal levels
  • Don’t take more responsibility or do more work than the person you are helping.
  • Don’t feel responsible for outcomes, recognize that your support is enough.
  • Ask others for their opinions and assistance in processing your emotions
  • Understand that you can’t really fix people.  You can’t really change who they are or what they want out of life.
  • Don’t be so quick to help, take some time to consider different options for involvement.  It’s okay to say Maybe or No.
  • Try listening to problems without reacting
  • Remember to keep your “helpee” responsible for their situation and actions.  That will be healthy for them.
  • Sometimes all you need to do is listen, people may just want a compassionate friend to talk to.
  • Think about your own problems and focus on bettering yourself.  Your reality may be that you need some personal salvation.

Savior Complex Assistance in the Denver Area

Helping others is a good thing and has plenty of health and psychological benefits.  There is no simple diagnosis for the savior complex but we can help you identify if you have a problem.  We’ll discuss your feelings and support you so you can help others at a healthy level – no overdoing it.  We can help you see both the positive and negative impacts of being overly involved in helping others.

We invite you to call us at 720-551-4553 for a free 20-minute phone consultation with a therapy specialist.  You can learn more about our Therapy services by clicking this link.

Self Care Impact Counseling envisions a new age of counseling for adolescents, adults, couples & groups that makes a REAL difference with core values of GROWTH | BALANCE | COMPASSION | INNER HARMONY.