I’ll admit it, I have played the role of a “fixer”. If you ever watched the t.v. show The Blacklist, this role was known as “the cleaner”. Red would make a big mess, then this small unassuming looking woman (pictured above) would come in and clean up the whole bloody murder scene. She is small, but mighty!
For me, the fixing or cleaning kicks in when someone is unhappy, angry, disillusioned, feeling lower energy states either towards me or in general. I not only believe that I CAN fix it, it’s also my responsibility… because somehow, it’s my fault that they feel this way. This belief is limiting. Now! Let me be clear, it’s not limiting to have the belief and confidence that you CAN fix something for someone or to want to for that matter. The limiting part is in that last segment – that it’s my responsibility to fix it for them and that it is somehow my fault, even when it’s their stuff.
I read this AA quote that is so true – “Expectations are premeditated resentments.” It’s a recipe for a resentment to develop in us when we expect that we are responsible for how someone else feels, that we expect them to respond to our efforts. When we inevitably aren’t able to fix things for those we want so desperately to make happy, it sets us up to resent them. Fixing, repairing, negotiating and even fighting and defending in order for others to be happy, robs them of the experience they need to find their own power and how to access it. Our fixing intentions come from a wish to be loving, but the result is not what we intended. Not even close. Yes, we can indeed contribute to someone's happiness. We cannot be responsible for it. Our happiness is fully the responsibility of each of us. A choice we get to make.
Let’s say there is a beautiful vase that was given to you as a gift. You love it, you love the way you feel when you look at it, it actually causes you to want to up-level the rest of your environment because it is so amazingly beautiful to you. You have had it for maybe half your lifetime.
Then, some things happen that distract your gaze and you forget to appreciate the beauty of your gift and it accidentally falls from the shelf. There is some damage to it. The “fixer” will do whatever it takes to make it all better! It may have a slight chip in it, but you return it to the shelf and to appreciating it, enjoying it, loving it. All is well, you can relax when the vase is okay, safe from harm and repaired.
But these falls start to happen more frequently to the beautiful vase. They seem to be happening regularly. The Fixer will even abandon themselves and other things that matter to them and invest nearly all their attention into preserving the beautiful gift and trying to prevent the falls from happening. The vase is starting to look a little rough at this point! But it’s still so important to you, it’s made an amazing difference in your life and damaged or not – you still love it. You’ll “make it work.”
Then the big challenge comes. When the vase seems to have been almost intentionally broken. Someone was careless and while it seems as though it was salvageable up to this point, it now lays on the floor in a zillion broken shards. You can’t believe this has happened. It may even seem to you that someone picked up the damn thing and threw it against the wall on purpose. And it may seem that their view is that you left the vase in a vulnerable position ...and so you made them do it. Who broke the vase doesn’t really even matter to you at this point, although… you take on the responsibility for it, because you see its protection as your role.
Enter… what I’m calling “the fixers dilemma": you can’t fix this. You are powerless to make it all okay. Yet your identity, what you DO, is wrapped up in you fixing things! When you can’t – it challenges you deeply to find another part of yourself. Accepting that you can’t fix it, that you are powerless to fix it because you really don’t have power over other people and their choices – this is a ginormous challenge internally. (I speak from experience on this one.) It's super tempting to just ignore this invitation to dig deep and grow your self-acceptance muscle. This is the route many will choose. And that's okay. It's just not my path.
Being unable to make things okay puts the fixer smack in the face of the very thing she does all her fixing in an attempt to avoid – she is hoping to avoid feeling unloved, not accepted. Believing that if she can just make it okay for others, they will understand her, love her.
Now her fixing must be aimed inward, at herself, as she must learn to live with knowing that she has let some people down in life and that there are those who will even wish her ill will as a result. These may even be the very people that she loves with all her heart and soul. Yet here's the thing… this will happen even if she DOES fix the vase! No matter what we do, there will be those who judge us, blame us due to their own stuff and abandoning ourselves to try and avoid this leads to a shit-ton of suffering for everyone involved. We abandon ourselves when we let their low opinions of us – become our own opinions of us.
The beautiful vase is broken. She cannot fix it. No matter how much she has invested in it. No matter how hard she tries. Accepting these facts, is the work now. Finding her own inner “vase”, by holding space for herself is a key I think. Be with the feelings that you work so hard to avoid, Love them - yes, love those feelings that's why the have arrived. So you can make peace with them and let them pass through. While your inner “vase” may look a little dinged up, it has a light that cannot be extinguished. Look past the chips and dings and focus on the beauty that remains. It's in there among the shards.
When we take our strengths too far, they can become a weakness. Empathy, compassion, a desire to help. These are all extremely beautiful gifts that many of us love to share with the world. It seems to me, especially women, seem to sometimes take this beautiful gift of empathy and turn up the volume on it so loud that it actually distorts it, and it can become self-sabotage. Especially if we have even a little dose of low self-esteem on board.
I was recently listening to a interview between Matt Kahn and Christiane Northrup on the subject of emotional energy vampires. Matt said something that I had to rewind and replay several times. It was basically; People with high degrees of empathy, can sometimes have a co-dependency on the low energy of other people. They place their own value on the ability to make things A-Okay for those who aren’t doing it for themselves. Often we can perceive other people’s lower emotions as their opinions of us. We believe that when THEY feel better, then WE can feel better, accepted, okay. We can relax.
Ya know, I think I’ve spent a lifetime believing that when someone is unhappy, grumpy, blaming me, you name it – it was MY responsibility to “FIX” it for them. That if only I can get THEM to feel better, then I’LL feel better. This endless effort to cheer people up, help them with their pain, and all very often to the point of abandoning myself and what I wanted or what was best for me. I no longer believe that this is the path to love.
Even those who don’t seem to want the best for us – when they don’t understand us we can take on this responsibility to “FIX” that view they have of us. Explaining, justifying, defending, rationalizing - these are all attempts to FIX. We all just want to feel validated I suppose. But the most empowered woman is the one who no longer needs validation.
Now, I could decide to try and make some adjustments to my behavior, and just stop taking this undo responsibility upon myself, but this is like repairing a leaking roof with a bucket. The drive to take responsibility for the feelings of others is a result – not a cause. We have to go deeper. We have to repair the roof – not just let it keep leaking and cleaning up the mess. At the core of over-doing our level of responsibility is a lack of feeling accepted and loved and until we give this to ourselves, no amount of making things okay for others will ever fill that bottomless hole. Loving ourselves and having boundaries is how we ultimately repair the leaking roof once and for all.
I must warn you: you may have accumulated some people in your life are just fine and dandy with you taking responsibility for their happiness. When you disrupt this system that gives these other people the ability to draw off your energy – they are NOT going to be on board!!! This will be challenging if you are used to depending on their happiness to provide YOUR happiness. Expect push-back. Plan for it. And their push-back may cause you to fall back into your old pattern. Giving yourself grace in these times can be really challenging. Just do your best to be kind to yourself and remember it's a new practice and that takes time. They don't call it "practice" for nothin'!
Matt Kahn also offered something on this shifting of the responsibilities that you may find helpful like I did… Courage is where we reclaim our power. When we know on some level that there are things we need to stop doing: like enabling others or over-giving to the wrong people, taking care of people who are actually emotionally unsafe for us - but you aren’t ending these things due to trying and please others…. You dim your light. This is robs the world of something only YOU can give – YOUR happiness, YOUR joy, YOUR light. To be the force of love you were meant to be, you can’t leave yourself out of the love equation! You must care for you as well as you care for others.
To bring yourself to the point of being able to release your need to FIX and take responsibility that doesn’t belong to you for things that are not yours, takes some heavy emotional lifting. You can’t rush it – even though you reeeeeeally want to hurry up and get past the pain of the push-back and the feelings of others being angry or unhappy with your choice to make your own spiritual evolution a priority. You'll have to make friends with those uncomfortable feelings and that seems so counter-intuitive! Those feelings are just information and once you let them come through, you can move forward again.
Dr. Christian Northrup says “If someone is mean to you, it’s not your job to just take it. It’s also not your job to change anyone. Just clean up what is yours.” In this case of taking responsibility for other people’s happiness (who often take zero responsibility for it themselves) your side of the street is to stand in your own light and love yourself and others, and allow them the GIFT of learning to find their happiness themselves. It’s actually the only way they can ever really sustain it – if they themselves learn how to develop it. When we take on the job of doing it for them, we actually slow their growth and we FOR SURE stunt our own. The reason we are responsible only for ourselves is because it is the only thing we can actually control. There is a difference in being responsible FOR and responsible TO others.
Along with those who will give you loads of push-back on changing the game, there is this other amazing thing that happens. There are also people in your life who support you making the decision to stand in your own light. Your tribe, those people who bring out your best, cause you to expand, who add to your life. Until you make the shift to power up your own light, you will often be hard-pressed to find these folks in your life. They are there… just waiting for you to choose you.
Learn more about a one day retreat for women on their path!
My friend and guide Joy Miley is hosting a retreat on Saturday April 21st. For more details, click here to go to her website. It is a collaborative experience of learning how to not only have your own back, but also find your tribe. Tribe = people who are FOR you and just waiting for you to choose you. I'll be there!
Sandy Edie Hansen
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