Wendy's syndrome: what it is and why it should not be underestimated

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Philippe Gloaguen
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Wendy. The name is not unknown to you. You will probably remember Wendy at Peter Pan. Do you remember what happens when you get to Neverland? She took charge of the lost children, of the house, of making Peter Pan think whenever necessary: ​​was she a child with an adult role?



Precisely for this we speak of Wendy's Syndrome. It manifests itself in those people who take on the responsibilities of others as their own with a maternal predisposition, usually towards one's partner or family. Let's analyze these dynamics together with the Dott.ssa.



In this article

  • What is it
  • Also male syndrome?
  • Causes and how to behave

Meaning of Wendy's syndrome

How to recognize a person suffering from Wendy's syndrome?

«From the name of the Peter Pan fable, it consists of the so-called "Red Cross nurse syndrome". Wendy is the one who, while her little brothers play and have fun, waits and sews, she takes care of them and Peter Pan, does not look after the same needs as her but only those of others.



It is she (more often a woman) who does sacrifices, even to self-denial, for someone else, who can be a partner such as a child or a parent, in a whole spectrum that ranges from normal sacrifice to pathological and devastating forms. It is a hyper empowered subject which always has to do, on the other hand, with a Peter Pan, with another who is not responsible, who allows himself to be treated and cared for.

In the most serious cases, and which I often observe in therapy, Wendy corresponds not to a simple Peter Pan but a severe pathological narcissist, who is very skilled in grasping the unconscious propensity of the Red Cross nurse and usually manages to exploit it for his own advantage.» says the doctor

Here are some symptoms that may indicate the presence of the so-called Wendy syndrome:

  •  If you worry excessively about the matters of others (that they are well, that they do not miss anything ...)
  •  If this interest leads you to forget about yourself, your needs, your desires, and you feel that if you are not there, everything will go wrong (they will arrive late, they will fail, they will not know, etc ...).
  •  If the management of everything and everyone and the fact of being essential generates fatigue, because there is no need for anyone to ask you for anything or to thank you. You are always there to ensure the success of everything. And if you stop doing all these things they will stop loving you.

Is it a female syndrome only or also a male syndrome?

«They are more often women, but they can also be men (think of the cult film with Marlene Dietrich "The Blue Angel" where it is he, poor Professor Rath, who prostrates himself and is ruined for her). This type of woman is recognized for her oblativity, the excess of what appears to be self-denial, generosity, patience, tolerance, self-sacrifice, willingness to put oneself in a passive position, to renounce one's own needs to put those of other causing also serious damage to one's life and career… .we say that it is not difficult to recognize this type of subject, in the most obvious type.



It may be less easy in the more occult, less evident type, and then this type can also be discovered within a course of treatment, sometimes not aware of the same subject, who only feels the symptom of suffering.» says Valdrè.

Does anyone with Wendy syndrome usually have a partner with Peter Pan syndrome?

«The two don't necessarily go together. Sometimes yes, people choose each other on an unconscious level and a woman with cross-nurse tendencies or, more technically, with masochistic and renunciative tendencies, tends to unconsciously "engage" a non-responsible partner, an eternal child, so as to be the one. indispensable, which he cannot do without. But as I said, it is also frequent that this type of woman unfortunately encounters a more or less severely pathological or sadistic narcissistic subject, and this, depending on the level of gravity of the woman's masochistic complex, can push her into abysses more or less. less deep. In other words, it is possible to establish in relationships alliances of unconscious couples and roles that are not easy to recognize or to dissolve »explains Valdrè.

What are the causes? How to react?

«I would say first of all the low self-esteem, if not complete self-esteem. - says Dr. Valdrè - If I do not love myself, I do not appreciate myself, if I do not give myself consistency as a person, I will do everything to make someone else give it to me, since I think I do not deserve it. We think of Cinderella, an archetype of all times: it is the other that with the shoe gives value to the woman. It is the profound disregard, to the point of hatred for oneself that has deep roots in childhood that can only be analyzed in psychoanalysis, that leads the woman to become a Red Cross nurse. The unconscious hope is to obtain love and a narcissistic return, to be loved in return and gain self-esteem, which never happens, indeed the opposite happens, as the partner depreciates the woman who is always available and a vicious circle is created. "

The causes can be traced back to childhood (0-7 years), age in which the character is formed. The origin is multifactorial: cultural, education, number of siblings, age difference. In general, those who suffer from this syndrome suffered from the absence of parenting figures. These circumstances led the subject to assume adult responsibilities. Another determining cause is having experienced a situation of over-protection, which has led to a blocking of autonomy and independence. These situations make Wendy feel that she exists and is worth as a human being only when she does something for others.

How to free yourself from toxic behaviors

«By becoming aware of it and deciding on a real change. Since, as seen above, it is not a simple change of partner or attitude but one must go to the deep roots of the personality, it is not a change that can be faced alone or with shortcuts. It is necessary to turn to a professional with confidence, and as a psychoanalyst I consider psychoanalysis, or psychotherapy, the best tool that can enable the subject over time to understand himself and his choices, and consequently modify them ", concludes Dr. .ssa Valdrè.

You can work to stave off these unhealthy behaviors:

  • Improve your self-esteem: work on beliefs and values ​​through various techniques that make you feel your real value, believe that being yourself is enough, leaving aside the false idea that they want you for what you do for them.
  •  Improve your assertiveness: set clear limits, learn to communicate your needs and desires, learn to say NO.
  • Improve the relationship with yourself: learn to take care of yourself, to love yourself and accept yourself as you are. Prioritizing yourself doesn't necessarily mean being selfish. On this point it is recommended, together with individual or group therapeutic support, yoga, meditation or the like.
  • Learn to delegate, to feel that sharing tasks with a partner or family is good for everyone and that taking responsibility for everything leads to nothing but dangerous overload.
  • Get in touch with an experienced professional and the process will be much faster and more effective. It will allow you to create new habits and stable changes, which will make you feel full and will make you understand that having a partner and a family is an opportunity for joint and shared growth in which everyone contributes, everyone receives and everyone grows.

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