The Savior Complex: Everything You Need to Know

The phrase “Savior Complex” could first have a positive meaning. However, it becomes obvious that this behavior pattern can be problematic as you learn more about it, the underlying motivations, and how it affects other people.

The savior complex is best described as “A psychological construct which makes a person feel the need to save other people” by This person has a strong propensity to seek out those who need assistance and to provide it, frequently at the expense of their own needs.

Many people who work in helping fields like mental health and healthcare, as well as those who have loved ones who are addicted, may exhibit some of these personality traits. For several reasons, they are attracted to persons who need “rescue.” But sometimes, people go too far in trying to help others, which drains them and might even help the other person.

These people’s guiding principle is “It is the right thing to do.” They think that since they always provide a hand to others without expecting anything in return, they are somehow superior to others. Regardless of whether they had good intentions, their actions did not benefit anybody. The issue is that trying to “save” someone prevents that person from accepting accountability for their actions and from finding motivation within. Therefore, the changes may only be transiently positive or negative.

So what are solutions for avoiding the “savior” trap with relationships and clients?

  • Discuss your feelings with loved ones, coworkers, or friends.
  • Establish limits with others that let you care for them without attempting to “rescue” them.
  • Say “maybe” or “no” instead of “yes” to allow yourself time to consider your alternatives.
  • Slow down long enough to consider your options.
  • Speak with a therapist or coach for assistance if you need an unbiased evaluation of your interpersonal problem.
  • Encourage your customer, friend, or loved one to accept responsibility for their deeds.
  • Don’t put in more effort than a friend, family member, or customer.
  • Support the person as best you can, and then “let go” of the outcomes.
  • Defining “helping” and “caring” differently.


What does “helping” mean to you and for this individual?

  • Asking questions, stepping back, just listening, and providing actionable advice and coping mechanisms as opposed to taking on all of their work


Ask yourself:

  • By avoiding the inevitable consequences, am I assisting this person?
  • Is this choice being made for their general well-being or to keep them “happy”?
  • Am I doing this to make myself feel better or to assist them?
  • Am I being asked to assist?
  • Do I “want” to do this, or do I have to?


What are your fears about not helping, and can you challenge them?

  • My family and other people won’t like me.
  • People could be unhappy or complain, and my job might be in danger.
  • I think I’m not doing a good job caring for my loved ones or doing my work.
  • I believe I am powerless to assist.
  • I’m not working as hard as I can.
  • I’m overlooking something.
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