The conversation typically goes something like this, “Karen, my friend has an alcoholic boyfriend. She’s unhappy and I think she needs to get out of the relationship. He’s no good for her. Will you work with her?” Then I have an honest conversation with the person who called. Although her friend’s situation is tough, she’s the one that we focus on for a few minutes.
Here’s the truth: We don’t like to see other people unhappy.
We get unhappy about their unhappiness. So, what do we do? We try to fix it. We look for solutions to solve their problem, so that they will be happy again.
Here’s more of the truth:
If you are a fixer, what you’re really trying to do is fix them so that you can be happy.
Of course, you want people in your life to be happy, but what you REALLY want is to be happy about their happiness. You want freedom from their pain.
So, you fix…
You purchase 10 personal training sessions for your wife who complains about her weight and her struggles with getting fit.
You do an intervention on a family member who is addicted to alcohol or drugs. If you can only get him to treatment, hand him off to a place where he will be safe and start recovering, everything will be okay.
You buy your daughter the latest thing…a new iPhone, laptop, or even a new car when she turns 16. All of her friends have these things and you’re aware that she’s having a hard time fitting in. You want her to fit in and be liked.
Why do you really fix?
You “fix” because it is painful to see others in pain. You’re deep down trying to find peace within yourself about someone else’s pain. You truly believe that you are trying to help others, but you’re really trying to help yourself move away from being attached to their pain. You have the answers. You always do. After all, you’ve been overweight and out of shape, you’ve been in the depths of addiction, and you were a nerd and didn’t “fit in” in high school. You understand all of that pain.
How did you fix your pain?
You took your own butt to the gym and started to take ownership of your physical fitness. You hit your addiction bottom and made the personal decision to stop the addiction and save your own life. You got some mental health counseling and realized your nerdy challenges in high school were significant strengths and today you are the CEO of a company that you feel passionate about. You rescued you.
Back to your fixing and the final tally…
Ten personal training sessions is a great present if your wife is already committed to a training program. If she isn’t, when she doesn’t get fit and still struggles with her weight, she will now have the added pressure of your “gift” and the expectations that were attached to it. Side note: I was a personal trainer for over a decade…these “gifts” almost always create more pain.
Interventions rarely work, as that person typically isn’t at his or her bottom, even though we want him to be. It’s hard to see people we love in the depths of addiction, losing their lives, living on the streets, exhibiting behavior that we know they wouldn’t do if they were clean. The addict has to want to recover. If they do, help them get some help. If they don’t, you’ll probably have to set some pretty firm boundaries to not be in addiction prison with them (yes, that was a metaphor😊).
Very few teenagers feel like they fit in, even the ones that appear like they fit in don’t fit in. A gadget won’t fix it and I know it’s hard to see your child struggle. You certainly want to fix it so that you will be happy and not in pain and worry about your child’s challenges. Being honest, loving, vulnerable and authentic with your child in struggle is so much better than any new iPhone. Also, acknowledging your own pain about your child’s struggles is important…just saying.
The challenges that others are experiencing are their challenges; Not yours.
Of course, you want to help, to solve, to fix. You want them to be happy. Maybe jump in a little bit. Tell them how you got out of a similar challenge. Have some empathy and try to understand how painful it would be for you if you were struggling with their challenges.
If you always step in and fix it for them, you rob them of out of your own selfishness to not experience your own pain.
Be with them in support. They have the skills, the intellect, the strength, and the heart-based answers within them. They will figure it out.