Why Are Caregiving People Intrusive in Relationships?
Discover the emotional programming of personalities that meddle in relationships
Posted April 25, 2021 | Reviewed by Hara Estroff Marano
- Caregiving people provide too much to others in their relationships.
- Caregiving people have other features that together comprise the Omnipotent Personality.
- Omnipotent personalities arise from childhood programming by parents— emotional conditioning.
- Those prone to meddle in relationships have overly strong omnipotent personalities.
People who give care to others are referred to as caretakers, doers, nurturers, tenders, and protectors. Such people display traits that, when examined together, form a distinct personality style. Personality is made up of enduring behaviors, thoughts and manner of displaying emotions.
By studying caregiving people for forty years, Homer B. Martin, MD, and I discovered details of their unique behaviors, thoughts, and ways for displaying emotions that comprise their personalities. We learned that they were raised in a distinctive way––emotionally conditioned––by parents in early childhood.
We discovered that caregiving people go through their lives believing unconsciously that they are super-strong, able to give to, and be anything other people expect of them. In our book, Living on Automatic, we refer to this as the omnipotent personality.
We chose the word omnipotent to designate people who act and think as if they are all-powerful, invincible, highly capable and omniscient. We found that features of the omnipotent personality include not only being obtrusive in some peoples’ lives but also striving for perfection, exhibiting great pride, avoiding depending on others, rarely asking for help, and having strong problem-solving skills.
Omnipotent personalities may see great value in others but believe they have little value of their own. They seek thankless relationships and stick with them even when the relationship dies. They have wide and varied interests.
Let’s look at emotional conditioning and its source in the personalities of super-caregiving people.
We discovered that the childhood of people with omnipotent personalities is filled with unconscious emotional conditioning that expects them to be very strong and capable. Parents teach these children to be overly attentive toward and helpful to others. Parents believe these children can accomplish tasks far beyond their years. They push them to excel physically and intellectually and to be accomplished in many areas of life.
As children, their accomplishments make them believe they can give total care to others. Often, they intrude upon others in their attempts to solve others’ difficulties, even when not asked to do so.
Parents develop omnipotent children’s capacity for delayed gratification by frustrating them and by emotionally expecting them to delay their wants and needs. Parents expect them to check their emotional displays and be emotionally reserved.
This emotional conditioning is similar to how you train your dog to heel, sit or roll over. It is associational learning of events occurring close in time with each other. A dog anticipates a treat. A child anticipates parental praise for meeting parents’ ideal standards.
Moving forward in time from childhood emotional conditioning and we see the outcome in adult life. Below are several attributes and how each relates to the core emotional conditioning of being overly strong and omnipotent.
Emotional Support Goes to Others
Those with omnipotent personalities shun support for themselves. They may be incensed with others’ offers to help them. They expect to lavish support on others, even when unasked. This leads to outsiders observing their overbearing attempts to “help” as intrusive and unwanted. This one-sided way of engaging in relationships creates a person who is “all give” and “no get.” It is the only way an omnipotent knows how to interact, as it was the way he was emotionally conditioned as a child.
Omnipotent personalities show pride and can be smug in their demeanor, due to a belief that they have the answer for every life problem. As children their pride was both expected and reinforced by parents whenever they displayed advanced ability in any realm.
Personal Standard of Perfection
Omnipotent personalities expect a tremendous amount from themselves––effort, knowledge, and how to solve problems. They tackle the most difficult problems with relish, even when the problem is beyond their ability. They strive for perfection. Since perfection is unattainable, they often fall prey to self-castigation for failing to attain the impossible. They despise personal failure. This can lead to emotional illnesses of anxiety and depression.
Dislike Asking for Help
Because omnipotent personalities have strong problem-solving skills, they believe they should know how to navigate all difficulties. They are reticent to ask anyone for help. If others attempt to help them, they angrily spurn their help with, “I can do it myself.”
Strong Abstract Thinking
Omnipotent personalities excel in complex thinking where they have to ponder and practice their pursuit of perfection. They chew on dilemmas in an attempt to solve them.
Because omnipotents are so focused on giving attention and care to others, they often wind up in one-way, thankless relationships. Such relationships exhaust and stress them. But they will stick with them with a “never say die” attitude.
Suffer Low Self-Esteem
Since omnipotent personalities excel, you might think that they have high self-esteem and confidence. We discovered this is not so. In their quest for perfection, those with omnipotent personalities feel they never do enough. Their self-esteem can be low. They can be susceptible to depression from feeling they never measure up. But their measure is one of perfection, not a measure of what is reasonable in a situation.
Strong Moral Conscience
Omnipotent personalities have a strong sense of right and wrong and do not deviate or bend their principles easily. At times they may display an uncompromising rigidity in evaluating moral issues.
Project Good Qualities onto Others
Omnipotent personalities are Pollyannas. They see wonderful things, even in the least admirable people. What they do is project their upstanding qualities onto people who do not possess such salutary qualities. This causes them to think they do not possess admirable traits because they have projected them away. Projections are sneaky, hidden parts of our mental makeup that cause havoc in relationships.
As children, those with omnipotent personalities are expected to squelch emotional displays. In adult life they show the same trait of hiding or minimizing their emotions. During psychotherapy I often find such people unable to identify what they feel in a variety of situations. They were emotionally conditioned so well as children not to acknowledge emotions that they cannot access their emotional states as adults.
Looking at all these features of omnipotent personalities, we get a full picture of what omnipotent emotional conditioning does to a person. We appreciate how this emotional conditioning to be ultra-strong and excessively competent programs a child to live a repetitive and automatic life of intrusive problem-solving, especially for needy others, along with a compulsive self-devaluation.