Are You Trudging Along With a Helpless Personality?
Even trapped in a vulnerable role, you can work toward better emotional health.
Posted September 6, 2021 | Reviewed by Davia Sills
- Parents emotionally condition some children to assume a helpless, impotent role in their relationships.
- Those in inept roles may have problems coping with daily life, relationship conflict, anxiety, rages of anger, and suicidal feelings.
- Improving a vulnerable, inept role involves adding strength and vigor to your personality by doing more for yourself and also by aiding others.
Emotional, vulnerable people are everywhere. They whine, complain, and back away when asked to participate and be responsible toward others. Helpless people behave and believe they are inept and inert. They cannot be relied on. They can be demanding and expect to have their way. They bank on others not only to pitch in on their behalf but to do things for them. They believe they are deficient in ability and toughness. They are unsure in most situations and lack stamina.
How do those lacking in vigor get that way?
In studying people's personalities for a combined 80 years, psychiatrist Homer B. Martin, M.D., and I (a child psychiatrist) have discovered that weak, vulnerable, overly sensitive people are raised in a distinct way. Their childrearing comes from their parents’ emotional conditioning of them. This style of childrearing creates a feeling of inability to cope with much. We say that such incapable people have impotent personalities. We describe these personalities in our book, Living on Automatic: How Emotional Conditioning Shapes Our Lives and Relationships.
Here are some highlights of impotent emotional conditioning by parents and the results in children:
- Parents do a great deal for these children
- Low expectations for independence
- Desires/impulses are continually gratified by others
- Emotional speech—uses emotions to manipulate others
- Behaves in a low-coping way—believes they cannot manage when thwarted
- Problems assuming responsibility for self and others
- Others have few expectations of them
- Frivolous, unserious attitude
- Changeable and capricious thinking style
Drawbacks to thinking you are inept
When you are emotionally conditioned to believe and think as if you are impotent—helpless and unable to get through ordinary life events—you are prone to the following emotional difficulties arising from your weak, conditioned role:
- Difficulty coping with routine problems of daily life
- Easily overwhelmed at work and in relationships
- Experience relationship conflict from being overly demanding that others cater to you
- Anxiety with believing you cannot cope on your own
- Depression or anger when others balk at catering to you
- Suicidal feelings when upset with others who may not do the unreasonable things you demand
Remedies for the impotent personality
To help yourself, assume a “stronger” role of robustness and vigor. To do this, you first should be introspective and examine yourself. Realize you are more capable than you believe, act, and feel.
Remind yourself that you are in an emotionally conditioned role established by your parents for you. The role your parents taught you is not who you are or who you can be. This knowledge will lead you toward better emotional health and improved coping.
Instead of asking for support or demanding it, assess realistically what things you can do for yourself. You may be anxious doing such things, but this is a feeling, not a true measure of your abilities.
Also, evaluate what you can do to help others. You may feel like you are hitting a brick wall at the thought of assisting friends and family. But this is a false brick wall. It does not exist.
This feeling is just your emotional conditioning operating. Assist others without any expectation of something in return. Practice being reliable to others. Keep your word. Don’t weasel out of promises you make.
Your self-confidence will improve when you assume stronger ways of thinking about yourself and behaving. You cannot help the ways your parents emotionally conditioned you to feel weak and inert, but you can make changes and become stronger for yourself and others. You can be more reliable as a friend and family member. You can improve your emotional health by tweaking your emotionally conditioned personality and role toward capability and strength.