I am a fixer. Until recently, I said those words proudly when someone came to me with a problem. I saw this as a sign of strength, compassion, ambition, and love. In my mind, wanting to fix someone’s problem meant I love them and want them to be happy.
But now? Now I say it in a completely different tone of voice, apologetic even. Now I see it altogether differently.
I’m enrolled in a 12-week balance skills (focusing on mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotion regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness) group, and I’m learning a lot there. I’ve learned at least 4 breathing techniques to help me dial down my emotions (particularly anxiety), and I’ve fallen in love with 4-7-8 breathing. I’ve learned the difference between willingness and willfulness. I’ve become more mindful in my everyday life. I’ve learned so much more, but the biggest lesson so far is that sometimes the Universe actually DOES give me what I need exactly when I need it. And this week, I finally realized that trying to fix people’s situations (ok, and my own) is actually problematic for a number of reasons! It’s like the Universe taught me this lesson many times over the past few days, and now I’m writing it down to hold myself accountable.
First, fixing is willful. It’s crossing your arms tightly in front of you and not accepting reality. An important piece to acceptance is giving up the fight. Not fighting a situation helps us to tolerate it (the distress) better. According to Marsha Linehan, “Freedom from suffering requires ACCEPTANCE from deep within of what is. Let yourself go competely with what is.” Fixing is stubborn, unyielding.
Fixing is saying “You are not good enough as you currently are.” In another moment of synchronicity this week, my friend Story shared a Momastery blog post with me, Our Sacred Scared- Day One. I practiced pausing and listening, and then I clicked through to the message. I’m new to Momastery, but immediately after reading this post, I subscribed to the blog and I’m looking forward to reading more about Our Sacred Scared. Here is the piece of that post that resonated most with me on my new journey to stop fixing, but I encourage you to head over there and read the example that follows this:
When someone lets you into her Sacred Scared – she is showing you her messy insides NOT because she wants you to fix it, but because she trusts you enough to let you know the real, true her.
Sometimes, fixing is not listening with our full effort and best intention. What do people generally want? We want to be seen and heard. Sometimes all we want is a “me too.” As a fixer, it sometimes is hard for me to pause and listen because my brain is going, going, going, devising a plan to solve the problem (sometimes even while the other person is still talking!), make the unpleasant situation go away, and generate happiness for my loved one.
Fixing is also frustrating–it can be for both the fixer and the fixee. The fixer may become upset that the fixee isn’t receptive (enough) to the plan for action or seems to choose to wallow, and the fixee may be offended by the attempt at fixing when maybe all he or she really needed in this moment was to be understood.
Going forward with the things I’ve learned about acceptance, I’m going to practice not fixing but listening, understanding, and accepting. Will you join me?