The Hidden Fear:

You’ll experience unbearable pain or disappointment by relying on others to be there for you

What it looks like in relationships:

Your adult son is struggling with money. He’s always been the type to disregard the rules. He has accrued thousands of dollars of debt in outstanding parking tickets because he doesn’t want to drive home after partying with his friends. You hate that he’s struggling and fear his car will be impounded. So, you decide to fix his problem by paying off his parking ticket debt. Two weeks later, you get a notice in the mail for yet another parking ticket in your son’s name. You’re furious and call him immediately to let him know just how angry, disappointed and upset you are about this ticket after all you’ve done for him. He responds firmly, “I never asked for you to fix this or pay off my tickets, mom! I am a grown man so stop treating me like a helpless child.” You think to yourself, I wish he appreciated me and all I do for him!

How this habit serves you:

You truly care and feel deeply responsible for the wellbeing of others. You are emotionally resilient, strong, dependable and always there for those in need. Practical by nature with a fiercely independent side, you pride yourself on being able to handle the “tough” stuff by jumping in to save the day. It’s almost unbearable for you to witness a loved one’s suffering, even if that suffering comes from natural consequences due to the choices they’ve made. Whether someone is struggling with addiction, financial issues, family drama or mental illness, you believe that with the right kind of tough love and support, this person will get better. When it comes to dealing with your own heartbreaks and emotional pain, you take on a “suck it up” stance. You often bounce back quickly from disappointments and many people envy your sense of resilience and outward strength.

How this habit hinders you:

Your need to control other people can damage your relationships in many ways. As the faithful fixer, you often feel guilty when the people you try to help don’t get better, and this guilt soon turns into hardened resentment. Creating “stories” about other people without knowing all of the facts, you’re quick to judge or draw conclusions to justify your need to jump in and “fix” the person or situation. This typically results in a life-long cycle of attracting people who “appear” to be broken, weak or helpless in some way.

Although noble in your intentions, rushing in to “fix” other people’s problems often blocks them from learning important life lessons that will help them make more empowered choices in the future. This habit can also lead to unhealthy, codependent relationships where the person being “fixed” never feels confident or capable of overcoming life challenges. Often, the people being “fixed” by you become even more dependent over time. This detrimental habit hinders the people you love from feeling the satisfaction and the joy that comes from looking inward and finding their own internal motivation to change, grow and heal. This also hinders your ability to be open and vulnerable with others. By focusing your attention on other people’s problems, you avoid tending to your own emotional needs for fear you may have to lean on others for support to fulfill those needs.

What this habit can teach you about yourself:

As a faithful fixer, focusing on other people’s problems distracts you from the underlying pain and anxiety of not being able to get your own needs met. This can stem from a traumatic or unsettling event from the past, like betrayal, repeated acts of neglect, abandonment, abuse or a sudden loss of a caregiver. Because your own needs were unfulfilled at a vulnerable time in your life, you adopted the belief that trusting others to be there for you was dangerous and painful. The pain you experienced was so deep, in fact, that you may have vowed (consciously or unconsciously) to never rely on or to trust anyone else to be a source of comfort or support in times of need. While this habit served you well in the past by helping you feel safe, secure and more in control in an unpredictable environment, this inability to trust others prevents you from forming healthy relationships today. A lack of trust makes it impossible to be vulnerable, to be yourself, or to share who you are with others, even those closest to you. People will sense your lack of trust in them and this affects how they respond to you.

Deeper Discovery Questions:

  • Do you become resentful when others don’t take or follow your advice?
  • Do you distract yourself when you feel intense emotions (scrolling, overworking, turning to an unhealthy habit like drinking, smoking or eating, etc.)?
  • Do you feel a compulsive tendency to help others even if they haven’t asked for your help?
  • Do you feel a constant need to be in control or have people described you as controlling?
  • Do you have a hard time asking for or accepting help?

Self-Guided Exercise:

When you feel the need to “fix” someone else’s problem, pause and ask yourself, “What emotional need am I avoiding by focusing on this person’s problem?” Simply asking the question turns all of that outward energy inward so you can identify the unconscious beliefs that might be blocking you from receiving the love, comfort and support you want and need from others.