Maybe you’re feeling overwhelmed because you’re taking on the weight of the world right now. This includes taking on others' responsibilities too. I grew up being the strong one; having to take care of others and making sure that everyone else was okay even if I wasn’t. I love this role which is why it’s still my career today. But it can also give us anxiety to consistently tend to and “fix” others. This means that when people come to us unhealed with a mess of human emotions and thoughts, we might feel a responsibility to make it all better even if we can't or the other person doesn't want that.
If you grew up being the parent to your parent or having a lot of responsibility even as a child, it can be hard to witness the chaos of another human. Feeling the need to fix everything and everyone can also be a trauma response. You may think, ‘If no one is upset, they can’t hurt me.’ It may even lead to anxiety when the situation you’re trying to fix can’t be or won’t be. And if you’re a natural people pleaser? Forget it. If someone is upset with you then it can be totally intolerable!
Fixing is a totally normal response that you may have developed in order to create some control in a once chaotic world. It’s hard to give up even an ounce of control if that could mean danger. Unfortunately, though, the need to “fix” others can result in hurting your relationship with others and yourself. It can make others feel invalidated but also put pressure on yourself with an impossible expectation.
According to author Jamie Siebens, you might be a fixer if:
"You feel deeply responsible for other people’s emotional stability, satisfaction, or happiness.
You can’t bear to watch a loved one experience discomfort — even if the uncomfortable circumstance is a natural consequence of their choices.
You’re quick to step in to solve problems or create solutions for people you care about, and doing so makes you feel happiness or relief.
You like to be the giver in the relationship."
So What To Do?
The good thing is you don’t have to absorb or take on others' emotions or problems. People can feel things about you or others and that doesn’t have to affect the way you operate. Here are some things to try:
Learn boundaries. Separate the need to ensure everyone is happy. Imagine a piece of glass or divider between you and the other person’s experience.
Assess the situation. Ask yourself a few questions: does giving up some control of others mean I’ll be hurt? Can I give some space to this situation and let it naturally equalizer itself? How can I care for my anxiety and myself if this situation isn’t a quick fix?
Empower. Know that even if the other person accepts help, you may not be the person to help them with everything. The saying goes 'you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink.' Remember that empowering others to help their own issues gives you space, but also helps them to feel confident in their own abilities too.
Tolerate the uncomfortable. Learn some skills (possibly some DBT) to be able to tolerate uncomfortable emotions. This can help in all situations, but especially in situations where we feel compelled to fix in order to rid ourselves of that uncomfortable anxiety.
Siebens, J. (2019). How to Stop Being the Fixer in Relationships. Medium.com. Retrieved from https://jamiesiebens.medium.com/how-to-stop-being-the-fixer-in-relationships-cc6a9934f4c3