Thom Rutledge, Guest Author
Are you a fixer?
When someone tells you a problem they are having, do you immediately feel the need to offer advice? Is it difficult for you to just listen to someone who is in distress, to just be there for them without knowing precisely what to say or do? Are you uncomfortable with anything being in limbo? Are you addicted to certainties? Does your self-esteem depend on your ability to make things right for other people? If you’re answering yes to some of these questions, you are probably a fixer.
Did you just now experience an impulse to “fix” the fact that you may be a fixer? If so, you are definitely a fixer.
I find it helpful when faced with a problem or a discomfort or a pain to ask this question:
Does this need to be fixed or healed?
Think about it. The two options are very different. When a pipe burst below my kitchen sink, I don’t wrap a bandage around it and wait for it to heal. Similarly, when I cut my hand slicing tomatoes I don’t imagine that I can simply “fix” the cut.
Certainly when something needs to heal, we still attend to it. I can apply pressure and bandage my cut. Or if I have the flu, I can go home, lie on the couch drinking juice and chicken soup. But I know that as much as I might try to convince myself otherwise, I cannot simply fix myself so that I don’t have the flu anymore.
Consider relationship problems: do they need to be fixed or healed?
In this context the question is more difficult because both are often called for. If I have been dishonest with you causing damage to your ability to trust me, then I need to fix my behavior and allow there to be time for the relationship to heal. I suppose this is analogous to a broken bone needing to be set so that it can heal properly.
When something needs to be fixed, it calls for us to be proactive in identifying what needs to be done and then doing it. When something needs to heal, our job is to protect the space around the wound or injury, allowing in only what will contribute to the process of healing.
“Does this need to be fixed or healed?” is just one of those good questions to keep around. Sometimes the answers will be obvious, and other times the question may just get us thinking in a different direction. Certainly using the question will save some valuable energy when we can stop trying to fix what can only be healed, and stop waiting around for what needs fixing to heal.
Write the question down on an index card and put it in your pocket, your wallet, or your purse. Carry the question everywhere you go for the next week or so – test drive it.
See if it makes a difference.
Copyright © 2011 – Thom Rutledge. All rights reserved. Reprinted with Permission. Thom Rutledge is a psychotherapist, speaker and author of several books, including Embracing Fear. For more information visit www.ThomRutledge.com.
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