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Powerful Helplessness continued

Beware of the helpless.


These individuals can be powerful manipulators.  Such behavior is unhealthy for everyone involved.  Like many other problems in human relationships, the problem of helplessness comes down to two fundamental issues. First, such patterns of behavior need fertile soil for survival. Helplessness as a form of control can’t work without someone else’s cooperation.  Second, the best defense against developing such behavior is to allow everyone to experience and express genuine feelings, without fear or guilt.  Try to remember that everyone gets angry. Everyone has momentary desires to control others. Everyone feels scared, insecure, anxious and full of self-doubt at times.  


Those who assume the role of dependent helplessness yearn to be strong and powerful, free and independent. However, if dependent behavior goes uncorrected, an individual’s feelings of inadequacy will be confirmed every time he is allowed to “cop out” or win by being helpless.  If you allow someone in your life to be a helpless dependent, you are encouraging his belief that he is helpless. His success at being helpless deprives him of healthy pride in himself that he needs to feel and leads to a life that is unfulfilled and unhappy. The flip side of the coin is that as you take care of him, you will inevitably become angry and unloving toward him.


The rule of thumb is never to do for others what they can legitimately do for themselves.

If someone you love appears to be helpless or dependent, build him up by encouragement.  Let him know that you believe in him, that you view him as an intelligent, capable individual who simply needs to get up and get going.  Offer him the opportunity to communicate his opinions and feelings.  This process will open the door for him to learn to appropriately express his need for autonomy and to learn how to fight for it in direct and constructive ways.



Beck, Marie Cornelia; Rawlins, Ruth Parmaeliu; Williams, Sophonia R. (1984). Mental health--Psychiatric nursing. St. Louis: C.V. Mosby Co.

Copyright 1992, El Rophe Center, Inc.

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