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Superhero Syndrome

Updated on July 6, 2011

Just your average dumb superhero

As I stand on the top of the tall building, the wind catches my hair.  My voluminous gold cape blows behind me in the cold air.  To complete the picture I have on a tight-fitting muscle-hugging tee, tights, and over that - golden underwear.  I watch and wait to do what is right.  To help a poor soul and save them from their plight.  I act in the day and sometimes at night, for I am……can we get a drum roll here?  For I am…….THE SUPER HERO of your life!  Yeah, that does sound rather good, doesn’t it?

 It’s amazing though, we don’t look on ourselves as super heroes, or see ourselves as suffering from Superhero Syndrome.  That’s the perception that other people have of us.  “Look at Cindy,” they’d say, “She’s so strong and courageous, I could never do what she does.”  We hear those comments of course, and feed off that, and that’s what gives us the strength to continue.


Hey, think I might save the world today...

You don’t consciously set out to be a Superhero.  It’s not like you wake up one morning, and think, “Hey, think I might save the world today!”  Basically, you are just a warm, caring generous kind of person who is prepared to go the extra mile to help others, and who is prepared to leave their own comfort zone from time to time in this quest. 

Many people do that, it’s called compassion, and that doesn’t necessary make them Superheroes or suffer from Superhero Syndrome.  What turns them into Superheroes, is when they do it time and time again, putting themselves and their families in danger and at risk, as the people they are helping are out of the norm.  I am not talking about helping an elderly neighbour to carry in groceries here, or Superman flying through the air to thwart a bag-snatcher.

    People who suffer from Superhero Syndrome have an addiction, like smoking, or drugs or alcohol, or sex.  Oops, did I say that?  They are addicted to helping people and it becomes a fix they need in life.  They need to be constantly helping others to make themselves feel whole and alive.  Helping others makes them feel worthy of being on this planet in the first place.  Helping others gives them a purpose in life.  It gives them a feeling of control, and it gives them an excuse to shelve their own problems.  “No time for my problems, I’m on a mission to save someone else!”

Being a Superhero is just another form of escape from yourself.  You have no time to deal with ‘you’ or your issues, you are too busy taking on everybody elses.  The more you prove to everybody that you can solve their problems, the more problems they’ll present for you to solve.  Rescuers constantly go places, do things, participate in activities they don’t really want to do, rather than upset people.  You tend to compromise your own needs on behalf of others.


Woohoo! Superhero to the rescue!

I can remember Rick being in tears over his problems with the IRD.  They were after him for over $10 000 as he hadn’t submitted a tax return or GST return for 3 years.  He was being threatened with jail and was beside himself with fear.  Rick was broke and didn’t have money to go to an accountant or bookkeeper.  “It wasn’t my fault,” he kept saying over and over again, “Rachel used to do my books, but when my marriage started going sour, she stopped doing them and I didn’t know how to do them, so I left them.”  Well, let me tell you a little secret, I didn’t have a clue how to do them either.  But I didn’t tell Rick that.  So, I did what any Superhero would do, I offered to do them for him.

    Rick was so relieved, and I asked him to bring all his books and paperwork around so I could do it for him.  That was in the November.  I hate nagging, so just dropped a subtle hint every now and then, that it might be a good idea for him to bring all the paperwork around.  “No worries,” he’d say, “No rush, as I told IRD you were doing it and I got an extension until March when the court case is.”  Well, 6 days before the court case, Rick brought all his paperwork around in 3 supermarket packets.  None of it was filed in date order, let alone in year order.  On top of looking after my family and working a 9 to 5 job, I spent just over 80 hours of my time in those 6 days, on completing 3 years books, tax returns and GST Returns.  I was exhausted afterwards, but felt really good about myself.  I had managed to sort out all his tax problems, get the $10 000 written off and also get him a refund!  Needless to say, I did not even get a token packet of lollies or a slab of chocolate as a thank you.

    The more I helped Rick, the more he needed my help.  Every letter or phone call he didn’t know how to deal with, I dealt with it for him.  When his friends had IRD problems or needed letters written, he’d bring it round and I’d do it for them.  His friends thought that he was wonderful, as he could get so much done!  However, it all just plumb tired me out.  Something had to give, and it was the time I spent doing my own paperwork that suffered and the time I spent with my children. 

An enabler is a repeat offender

Looking back on my time with Jason, it was no different.  He had an aversion to work, period.  I cooked, cleaned, earned the money to keep us going and feed the family.  I would do all kinds of crafts or extra things to make more money so we could have a few luxuries.  Jason would just watch TV all the time or play games on the computer.  He never worried about how to put food onto the table, as he knew that I would always make a plan.  I remember being upset when at the end of my relationship with him, my mother-in-law told me that his laziness and failure to provide for the family was all my fault.  She told me that I was an enabler, I enabled him to become like that as he knew that I would fly in as the Superhero to make everything right.  He could be lazy and do what he wanted, I’d always provide.  As cruel as it had seemed at the time, his mother was right.  I’d enabled him to become lazy.

Initially, sufferers of Superhero Syndrome are expert jugglers.  Time jugglers, that is.  They are always busy, rushing here, rushing there, rushing everywhere.  At first you can fit in and accommodate yours and your family’s needs, but sooner or later, they take a back seat as your life revolves around the poor Victim you are helping.  A Superhero is a very busy person.  “No rest for the wicked,” is a favourite saying I used while flying in and out.

    However, all the ‘busyness’ wears you down, exhausts you and puts you into a downward spiral.  As you help your Victim less and less, they move on, and leave you behind, or turn into a Persecutor and start blaming you for their demise.  “If you didn't do everything I wouldn't be so dependent, so it's all your fault that I don't know how to do things.” “You never have time for me anymore, and I don't have anybody else to ask to help me, so if you don't find the time to do it, I'll get into deep trouble and it'll all be your fault.”  And as Jason used to say to me quite often, “What can I say, you're a better man than I am,” when I solved problems for him and sorted things out. 

    You recharge your batteries, vow never to do something like that again, promise family and friends this is it - no more helping people like that, never ever ever again, and so on.  I wonder why they just nod and smile and don’t believe you?  And, they are right. Because sooner or later, like a junkie, you need that fix.  “I have to help someone, have to save someone, have to change someone’s life for the better!”  So, you dig your golden cape out of the bottom of the cupboard, iron out the wrinkles and creases and there you go!  A for away!

    Please don’t misunderstand me, it’s not wrong to help people, but it is wrong to do too much for people that you are actually harming them more than you are helping.  The difference between helping and rescuing, is that in helping you are assisting that person.  It is a joint effort and they are contributing something towards it.  In rescuing, the other person is doing nothing and all you’re actually doing – is helping them to continue doing nothing.  Remember, that pity generates pitiful persons. 

  It is also not a good idea to shelve your family and friends, and things that you need to do while you are out on a mission to help somebody else.  Sometimes, we don’t want to spend time with ourselves, that’s why we fall into Superhero Syndrome.  Being busy all the time means that you never have time to be alone with yourself.  What are you trying to hide from yourself or run away from?  What fears are driving you?  If you find yourself trapped in the Superhero cycle, you need to get out.  I found out the hard way, that doing things for people, doesn't guarantee their love and respect, and doesn't even necessary make them like you as a friend.  You are just setting yourself up to be used and abused.  That is a lose/lose situation, and there are no winners in that Game.

Arachibutyrophobia- Fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of the mouth.

What role do you play in the relationship triangle?

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    • cindyvine profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Vine 

      9 years ago from Cape Town

      Thanks Janetta, but my patience is drying up

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Oh Cindy, my dear, you are too good a person. You showed far more patience and understanding than I ever could. I look at you through Super Hero glasses. :)

    • cindyvine profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Vine 

      9 years ago from Cape Town

      Yeah, MIJ, flying could be fun!

    • My Inner Jew profile image

      My Inner Jew 

      9 years ago

      great hub! So true its easy to get the super hero syndrome. I rather be something cooler like batman though....who wouldn't want to fly???

    • cindyvine profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Vine 

      9 years ago from Cape Town

      I agree Patty, the problem comes in when you let your own priorities suffer as a result of rescuing others.

    • Patty Hahne profile image

      Patty Hahne 

      9 years ago from Oregon

      If you believe in Karma, being a superhero might be a good thing. I guess all things must be done in moderation.

    • cindyvine profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Vine 

      9 years ago from Cape Town

      Thanks Nanny, so were they the Nanny Diaries!

    • Nanny J.O.A.T. profile image

      Nanny J.O.A.T. 

      9 years ago from Somewhere over the rainbow

      Okay - who's been peeking into my diary!!!! Yes, I have to admit, I've done some of the same things. But like many, I've learned "when to hold em and when to fold em" Thank God age tends to bring wisdom!

      Great Hub Cindy!

    • cindyvine profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Vine 

      9 years ago from Cape Town

      Candie, sorry about that, my next hub will put your head back on Pam's body, or was it take her head off your body,oops, now I am confused.

      FP, I am beginning to say no, help yourself more often now. In fact, have sent my golden cape off with my packing!

      Dianacharles, I'll try that test!

      JJ, my experience is you start out as the rescuer and end up as the victim, shake yourself off and go out and rescue someone again.

      Tom R. If there are time you have the wisdom to not rescue someone, then you are on the road to recovery! Let people fix their own messes!

      Wittywriter, you only damaged my wing but I shook it a bit and it still works just fine!

      Tom K. there is a teacher on our staff at the moment whom I see everybody phoning when they have a problem. She's great at sorting problems, but then they don't invite her when they have BBQs. Think I might have a word with her about it later today.

    • Tom Koecke profile image

      Tom Koecke 

      9 years ago from Tacoma, Washington

      I know the feeling all too well of someone thinking of me when there is a problem I can solve for them! How I wish some of them would call to just say hi, and can I meet them for a drink!

    • wittywriter profile image


      9 years ago from Concord New Hampshire

      Wow! Are you a fly on the wall of my life. Hmmm... sorry if that was you I swatted yesterday. LOL! Great hub...

    • Tom Rubenoff profile image

      Tom rubenoff 

      9 years ago from United States

      I tend to be a rescuer, but sometimes I have the wisdom not to get involved when I can see that the person needs to go through their own trial to wisdom. I have been a victim. I have not been a persecutor. We actually have a persecutor that we have enabled right now. What fun!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I have been the victim (enabler) and the rescuer...I have to admit I am always trying to make sure that I make everything better. And I do Juggle way too much. I can relate to this hub alot! Nice to get to know you better Cindy....((HUGS)) ~ JJ

    • dianacharles profile image


      9 years ago from India

      Another great hub...Tell me Cindy have you ever done the Enneagram test?

      Basically the No 2 Personality types...are the Helpers...dont know how to say No and will go out of the way to help others...even batter them into saying Yes. :P

      I have been called Mother Teresa a few times myself. :) You are right, one needs time for oneself and not always be the superhero.

    • profile image

      Feline Prophet 

      9 years ago

      Sounds like a tough job Cindy, but someone's got to do it! I bet people are glad to have you around! :)

    • Candie V profile image

      Candie V 

      9 years ago from Whereever there's wolves!! And Bikers!! Cummon Flash, We need an adventure!

      Cindy, great hub. I didn't enter your poll, because at different times I've been all 4. I'm a lot more balanced these days. My sister in law has a saying "Any of your best qualities taken to the extreme are your worst qualities" That fits this so well. BTW why did you put Pamela's face on my (Dorothy's) body? No one will know it's me!!


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