The Secret to Fixing Other People

The secret to fixing other people is that you can’t. You probably already knew that. It doesn’t stop you from wanting to fix people. To see what they’re doing wrong, to swoop in and save them from themselves. Raise your hand if you’ve wished with your whole heart that you could take away someone else’s pain. It’s so hard to watch them struggle, especially if you’re empathic like I am. Their pain affects you almost as if it were your own and you hurt for them.

A long time ago I had a friend that struggled with drug use. She had been clean for a few years when she relapsed. I remember when she told me and those feelings that flooded me. My heart opened to her, to her pain and her disappoint and I wanted to jump into fixer mode. I wanted to say:

“Do this and this and this and feel this way and let me fix you.”

I’ve seen my friends go through bad relationships and again I’ve got to remind myself that it’s their heart not mine. I am not a Fairy God Mother that gets to swoop in and fix things because I know better. We all think we know better, whether we’ve been there before or not, it’s easy to make judgments about another person’s path when we aren’t walking it.

But that’s not my place. It’s not my story. I don’t get to write it.

Many times I’ve found myself obsessing about someone else’s problems, feeling hurt over them, anxious because of them, and racking my brain on how to FIX it for them.

The biggest example of this was my three-year relationship with an alcoholic. There was always a crisis, always a problem to be fixed, and you want to know the truth? I excelled at managing all of it.

I was also an anxious and depressed mess. Gotta love those trade-offs. I was living another person’s issues and feelings and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that’s a bad idea. It’s wonderful to want to help your friends or your partner, to want to make them happy, to make their life better, to give loving and supportive advice, but there’s a thin line between supporting someone carrying a burden, helping them to carry a burden, and then trying to take the burden from them and carry it yourself.

My heart was well-meaning but I had to learn that there are boundaries. There is a time and place to give advice and there is a time to sit back and let them find their footing and do their thing. It’s one of the hardest things you can do, to let someone flounder a little bit so that they can find their own strength.

Be there to offer your love and your support.

That is the most loving thing that you can do. You can not learn the lesson for them. That’s a tough one for me. I want to help people. I want my loved ones to be happy. I also have to allow them to walk their own path. When they’re ready they will do the work, they will take care of their “stuff” it’s not my job to do it for them, as much as I may want to.

So even when it hurts your heart to watch the people around you hurting, don’t let yourself get wrapped up in it. Love them while they work on their stuff.

Do you have trouble stepping back and letting people solve their own problems? Do you try to fix other people?

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