Separating yourself from the journey that isn’t yours
Before I begin, I want to ask you a question.
Are you trying to fix other people?
If you answered with an emphatic yes, or even a tentative one, we need to talk. And I offer this conversation as a life-long fixer and someone who’s been through a ton of emotional heartbreak because of it.
Chances are, if you are doing this in your life, you are wasting valuable time that could be invested in yourself, your own needs, and in the path that lays before you. Just a moment of pause and I am sure, you will agree.
So why on earth do we do this?
It makes perfect sense on paper: I have my journey, complete with life experiences, life lessons, and personal growth. Other people have their own journey and lessons they must learn. So why, then, do we latch on to others when they are in a particularly difficult leg of their journey and insert ourselves into their learning. Aren’t we interfering in their own responsibilities to managing their own pain? Shouldn’t it be their job to pick apart and decipher their own life lessons, and choose their own paths toward growth?
I’ll give an example.
A few years back I met a young man who was hurting very, very much. His wife, whom he adored, had left him for someone else and was soon engaged to this other person. It seemed divorce was imminent. I wrapped myself around this hurting person, became involved in all of the drama of this situation, and soon even began dating him. I mistook his need for love. And I mistook my compassion, empathy, and the loneliness in my own life for a love for him.
The situation made me someone I was not.
I became jealous in the relationship. Needy and demanding. Paranoid and suspicious. And when he left, I was hurt, enraged, defeated, shocked.
All because I had defined the relationship improperly and thought I could fix the pain of another. It was a heartbreaking experience for all involved (meaning me) because he and his wife eventually found their way back together and to this day are very happy in their relationship. (I have had no contact with them since but have seen some updates along the way.)
Now, I don’t know what my purpose should have been during that time but I know I made a terrible mistake of trying to insert myself into the darkest need of that situation. What I should have done was offer compassion to another hurting human, but not try and take over the situation as I did and move his healing and learning in the direction that I thought it should go.
So why? Why did I do this? To myself and to them? And to my children who watched this awful thing play out?
When We Take on the Pain of Others
Sometimes when we do this, it is a sign of need within ourselves. Perhaps we are lonely, feeling a void, or simply following emotion without thinking. Perhaps we just need to take a step back and really analyze the situation, our situation.
Just because there are a lot of feels does not mean they are the right feels for us. Being a “fixer” in your relationships is an unhealthy situation for you and you may actually be avoiding your own real problems that feel unsolvable to you. So you focus your efforts outward, thereby wasting your time and energy on things that aren’t really improving the core problem in your own life.
Healthline calls it a “Savior Complex” or “White Knight Syndrome,” pointing out that we must, as fixers, have a desire to be omnipotent or more important in other people’s eyes (have we felt unimportant and overlooked in other areas of our life?) and that we find vulnerability attractive in some way.
You find yourself diminishing your own needs and becoming less of who you really are — for the sake of forcing this “fixer” role onto someone else and taking them on as some kind of human project, possibly even forcing the situation to move in a romantic direction.
Red Flags You are Fixing Rather than Loving
- Is the situation pressing you into being someone you are not? Possessive, controlling, intrusive?
- Are things in your life going unmanaged or falling into disrepair? Are you diminishing your own needs or the needs of your family?
- Are you preoccupied with the other person’s emotions, thoughts, feelings, so much that it is hard to recognize your own? Do you feel overwhelmed by the whole thing?
- Do you feel you have all the answers the other person needs if they would only listen to you?
- Does it feel your life is all about them now?
Healing Your Fixing personality
There’s no real easy solution here. The first step is to recognize what you are doing and start working on setting some healthy boundaries. Self-awareness and restraint will help you to do this. Secondly, some counseling may be the ticket to picking this thing apart and reassembling it into something more sustainable for you. When you find yourself taking on a “human project” or worse — dating one! — it’s time to take a step back and reconnect with your own path and the lessons this life has for you . . . so you don’t lose your way.
Thanks for reading.
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