If you’re reading this blog post, chances are that you identify with being a “fixer”. What does it mean to be a fixer? How does it impact the relationships in your life? Let me give you some insight! A fixer is someone that feels responsible for the emotions of everyone around them. You can usually find them navigating tense emotional situations by coming up with solutions or being the “therapist friend”. Sound familiar? Let’s dig a little deeper.
For a fixer, or someone that wants to take away the pain of others, relationships typically follow a cycle of events. The fixer friend is the friend that feels such intense discomfort with emotions that they’re willing to do anything to alleviate the discomfort. You might be wondering why this is such a problem. You’re helping people, so why is it a bad thing to try and fix things?
The problem with being a fixer is that you’re reinforcing the idea that people showing emotions is a bad thing. Instead of allowing people to have a safe space to feel their feelings or express them, you immediately jump at the opportunity to solve a problem. This could be because of a desire to avoid showing emotions that are seen as “negative”.
We’ve put emotions into neat boxes and labeled them with “positive” and “negative”. Positive emotions such as happiness or hope are what people feel comfortable with. We reinforce the idea that positive emotions are the only ones we’re allowed to show by saying things such as “look on the bright side”. Most people feel uncomfortable showing emotions that aren’t inherently positive. I see it with clients so frequently – they’re talking about trauma and opening past wounds all while apologizing for crying on the couch in my office.
Society has reinforced the idea that showing emotions other than happiness is a problem. Children are labeled as “problem children” for having big feelings and adults are trained to say “I’m good” every time they’re asked how they are – even if they’re suffering. We’re terrified of showing emotions that aren’t socially acceptable and being seen as weak or a burden. This begins in our childhood and is consistently reinforced throughout our lives.
Instead of jumping to fix a problem when someone opens up to you about their sadness or anger, give them the space to feel their emotions. Sometimes people need a place to vent and attempting to give solutions immediately can make them feel like their emotions are a problem. Take the time to listen and you can even ask “would you like a solution for this, or do you just need my support?” if you’re worried about what they need.
It’s also important to honor your own emotions. If you frequently find yourself avoiding expressing your emotions, try to practice sitting with your feelings instead of instantly looking for a solution. Emotions are normal and there aren’t “positive and negative” emotions – just emotions. Letting yourself be angry or sad is just as important as being happy.
If you’re struggling to express your emotions and would like to talk to a therapist, reach out to someone from Mindsight today!
Shelby Case is a clinician offering in-person sessions at our Louisville office or telehealth sessions! She strives to make long-lasting connections with her clients in order to facilitate positive change. As a well-known homebody, Shelby enjoys living a cozy life outside of her time working by focusing on hobbies, spending time with her spouse, getting overly invested in TV shows, or cuddling with one of her cats.