Support versus Fixing & Caretaking

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The Fixer/Care Taker

It has been a theme in my sessions and talks recently:  “How do we provide support to the ones that we love?”  I come from a long line of fixers and caretakers.  I grew up with my father’s mantra:  “I will give the shirt off my back to anyone that needs it.”  It became my job (and one that I willingly took on) to take care of my family and friends (even when NOT asked).

A service attitude is one to be proud of.  My parents spent most of their lives giving to children – as teachers, counselors, camp directors, coaches, and leaders.  Serving others is necessary in building a strong, healthy, and loving community.  However, there is a boundary that is important to be held.  How does a child learn how to walk if you never let them fall down? This boundary of allowing others to struggle, fail, and flounder can be painful to watch.  Knowing when to step in – how to step in – and when to stand passively and lovingly by- is difficult.  Some wise people in my life helped me see that I was NOT helping those people I loved by getting them out of the binds they put themselves in.  Especially if sacrificing myself was part of the fixing.

So, here’s what I have learned:  When we stand in front of another, we are telling them that they are NOT STRONG ENOUGH to handle what is coming at them.  We are telling them that we are stronger than they are.  They are weak.  When we pick another up off the ground, we are telling them that they are not strong enough to stand up on their own. I know this is not the truth.  God doesn’t give us more than we can handle.  Every time we find ourselves on our butts, we have an opportunity to learn an important lesson.  When we stand on our own two legs and feet, we are being given the opportunity to witness, acknowledge, and embrace our strength.  We gain another piece of our essence and confidence in this process.

I can already hear all the caretakers out there screaming at the screen:  “Yeah, that sounds great, but really:  How can I see someone I love in pain and not fix it for them?  How can I see the train wreck coming and not push them aside to take the hit myself?  How can I not attempt to STOP the train?”

So, my fellow fixers:  What is support???  It is a two step process for the person giving the support:  Step #1:   1) Asking them what they need in this moment. a) Do they need to vent?  b) Do they want advice?  c) Do they need to be held? If advice is what they want, I try to give my thoughts without the demand that they do what I tell them.  If they want to vent, I try to listen and keep quiet (a true challenge for me!). Step #2 Reminding myself and reminding them: 1) There are lessons to be learned from this situation.  2) This is THEIR journey and their path.  3) They are strong enough to stand up when they have fallen down.   4) I believe in THEM – their strength, their intelligence, their creativity, their brilliance.  They have ALL the answers within them to find their own way through this challenge.

Do they always stand?  Do they always learn?  No – not always.  But when they do, I am as proud as a mother hen.  I will always struggle with my need to put on my blue and red Superman cape.  Allowing those THEIR path and lessons is one of my life challenges…

Love to all the fixers in the world!