Recovering from Superhuman Syndrome

Superhuman Syndrome

It is not unusual for self-acclaimed Superhumans to feel totally guilty for things over which they have no control. Their mission? To make everything right with the world.

I know, I know. You’re really attached to that cape, right? Quite despite your superhuman abilities, though, it’s time to put your cape away. And this time, for good.

Of course, I speak in jest when I call it the Superhuman Syndrome, but really, is it that far off? There are too many folks among us – particularly those raised in the South – who take it as their personal mission to make everything right with the world. It is not unusual for these folks to feel totally (and sometimes cripplingly) guilty about things over which they have no control or feel the pain of other people’s poor choices as if they’d personally plunged the knife! If not felt so overtly, then their agony takes the subtle turn of “why didn’t I see what was happening and help them?” In Star Trek terms, these folks are what we call Empaths – someone who acutely feels the emotional distress of others and, by very definition, feels responsible to intervene.

This high capacity for empathy is part of what makes a counselor effective, as it creates connection, warmth and communicates a genuine desire to help.  But it is also a point of vulnerability. Without proper self-care and daily prompts to be mindful of what they’re absorbing from (and for) those around them, Empaths can easily slide down the trail of overload, overwhelm and eventually, complete burnout. Because they tend to feel responsible for unpredictable events happening around them, their world view can take a serious hit as well when a personal sense of failure looms. After all, oh Superhuman Empath, shouldn’t you have seen it coming and figured out how to prevent the disaster?


So, my fellow Empaths, let’s consider the 12 steps for recovery from your condition. Or at least, to perhaps make your load a bit more bearable.

  • Step 1: Admit you’re powerless to control (or rescue) others and when you try, your life becomes unmanageable and you prevent them from developing their own wings to fly.
  • Step 2: Understand that powers greater than you are at work and are needed to restore this person’s wellbeing. Be willing to get yourself out of the way and let natural consequences from the Universe take place.
  • Step 3: Surrender yourself to universal forces as well (i.e., whatever spiritual source you ascribe to), knowing you, too, need such forces to work on your behalf.
  • Step 4: Make a searching and fearless moral inventory of your needs to be superhuman in the first place.
  • Step 5: Admit to yourself and the universe what misguided motives this desire contains (i.e., using others for personal needs).
  • Step 6: Be ready to have these misguided motives corrected.
  • Step 7: Humbly ask the Universe and those around you to help correct your misguided beliefs and motives.
  • Step 8: Make a current inventory of those you attempt to control (or save) and for whom you feel excessive guilt or fear in terms of attempting to manage their welfare.
  • Step 9: Make amends to yourself and them by constructing plans as to how to “let go” and provide only the type and amount of help that would benefit their growth (not dependence on you).
  • Step 10: Monitor your progress, seek accountability from others, and correct your hero tendencies when noted.
  • Step 11: Make conscious contact with the universe through meditation or prayer. Ask for guidance and wisdom.
  • Step 12: Celebrate your success and spiritual awakening.

Yes, you CAN shed your cape and join the ranks of mere mortals. Go forth and be human! (Okay, okay, you can rescue other Empaths while you’re at it. Geez!)

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