Overfunctioning and Learned Helplessness

Hello and welcome Warriors. Today we will be exploring the topics of over functioning and learned helplessness. These are complex dynamics that often play out in our relationships and can have a significant impact on our well-being. I will share my own personal experience with overfunctioning and how it was influenced by my upbringing. You can hear me emphasize the importance of recognizing these patterns and breaking the cycle to create healthier, more balanced relationships.

And fear not, I am here to simplify these concepts and provide you with the tools to break the cycle and live a more empowered life. Take a listen because I will also offer reflection exercises for you Warriors to explore their own experiences and roles in these dynamics.

Highlights of this episode:

  • Over-functioning and under-functioning create an unhealthy dynamic in relationships.

  • Learned helplessness can arise from persistent feelings of powerlessness and failure to succeed.

  • Reflect on the roles and expectations modeled in your upbringing to gain awareness of your own patterns.

  • Recognize where you may be over-functioning or under-functioning in your current relationships.

  • Break the cycle by fostering interdependence and shared responsibility.

Reflection Warrior Homework Questions:

  • What was modeled for you growing up in terms of over functioning, under functioning and learned helplessness? Every house has patterns of behavior, what were yours?
  • Currently, where in your life do you overfunction? Where do you take care of others needs that they could take care of themselves (because they’re over 18)? Another thing to look at is where do you feel like, if you stop doing it, everything will fall apart. What’s that “it”?
  • Do you see areas in your life where others have this learned helplessness? Where and how?
  • In which areas of your life do you feel resentment? 
  • Can you think of areas in your life where you underfunction?

Links Mentioned:

Difficult episode

Narcissism and Healing from Narcissistic Abuse


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Hello and welcome to the Love Your Life show. In this episode, we will be exploring the topics of over functioning and learned helplessness. These are complex dynamics that often play out in our relationships and can have a significant impact on our well-being. But fear not, I am here to simplify these concepts and provide you with the tools to break the cycle and live a more empowered life.


The Overfunctioner and the Under Functioner

Let’s start by understanding the roles in this dynamic. The overfunctioner is typically the one who takes on more than their fair share of responsibilities. They may feel overwhelmed, stressed, and resentful, but they continue to push forward because they believe that if they stop, everything will fall apart. On the other hand, the under functioner often feels like nothing they do is ever good enough. They may be anxious, depressed, and insecure, constantly seeking validation and approval.

Both roles are disempowering and prevent individuals from living their best lives. The overfunctioner may feel alone and unsupported, while the under functioner may withdraw and feel a sense of learned helplessness. This dynamic is not limited to intimate relationships; it can also manifest in our relationships with our children, aging parents, friends, and even coworkers.


The Influence of Childhood Programming

To understand why these roles develop, we need to examine our childhood programming. Our early experiences shape our expectations and beliefs about how the world works. If we grew up in a household where gender roles were rigidly defined, we may unconsciously replicate those patterns in our own relationships. For example, if we witnessed our mother taking on all the household tasks and deferring to our father’s decisions, we may find ourselves doing the same.

I can personally relate to this experience. I grew up in a patriarchal household where my father made all the rules and my mother deferred to him. As a result, I internalized the belief that men knew best and that I should always seek their approval. When I entered into my own relationship, I unknowingly replicated these patterns. It wasn’t until much later that I realized the impact this had on my life.


Breaking the Cycle

Breaking the cycle of over functioning and learned helplessness requires awareness and a willingness to challenge our conditioning. We must examine the manuals we were given growing up and the unwritten rules we have internalized. By doing this, we can begin to understand how these patterns have influenced our behavior and the behavior of those around us.

It’s important to approach this reflection with kindness and compassion. We are not blaming ourselves or our parents; we are simply seeking to understand and learn from our experiences. By recognizing the patterns that have been passed down through generations, we can make a conscious choice to break free from them.


The Consequences of OverFunctioning and Learned Helplessness

The consequences of over functioning and learned helplessness are far-reaching. Individuals in these roles often experience feelings of resentment, stress, and overwhelm. They may feel isolated and unsupported, as their efforts go unrecognized or unappreciated. On the other hand, those in the under functioning role may struggle with feelings of inadequacy and insecurity. They may withdraw from responsibilities and relationships, believing that they can never meet the expectations placed upon them.

These dynamics can also contribute to mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. When individuals feel powerless and unable to succeed, it can have a profound impact on their well-being. It is crucial that we recognize the harmful effects of these patterns and take steps to change them.


Empowerment and Interdependence

The key to breaking the cycle of over functioning and learned helplessness lies in embracing empowerment and interdependence. We must shift from a mindset of control and dependency to one of collaboration and shared responsibility. This requires open communication, mutual respect, and a willingness to challenge traditional gender roles and societal expectations.

As the over functioner, it is essential to let go of the need for control and perfection. Allow others to contribute and take on their fair share of responsibilities. Trust that they are capable and that their way of doing things is valid. As the under functioner, it is crucial to recognize your own worth and capabilities. Challenge the belief that you are incapable and embrace the opportunity to learn and grow.


Taking Action

Now that we understand the dynamics at play and the potential consequences, it’s time to take action. Reflect on your own experiences and the roles you may be playing in your relationships. Identify areas where you may be over functioning or under functioning, and where others may be experiencing learned helplessness.

Remember, change starts with awareness. By recognizing these patterns, you have the power to make a difference. Seek support from a coach or therapist if needed, and surround yourself with a community of individuals who are also committed to breaking free from these cycles.


Conclusion and Future Outlook

In conclusion, overfunctioning and learned helplessness are pervasive dynamics that can have a profound impact on our lives. However, by examining our conditioning, challenging traditional roles, and embracing empowerment and interdependence, we can break free from these patterns. It is time to step into our power, support one another, and create healthier, more fulfilling relationships.

The journey may not be easy, but it is worth it. As we continue to learn and grow, we have the opportunity to create a better future for ourselves and future generations. Let us be the warriors who break the cycle and inspire others to do the same. Together, we can create a world where everyone can love their lives.

Remember, you are not alone in this journey. Reach out for support, seek guidance, and surround yourself with a community of like-minded individuals. The time for change is now. Let’s go, warriors!