When a new client comes to see me with hopes of feeling better, it is very common for many of the women and sometimes men, to have become over-responsible for almost everyone in their lives.
I have worked with many, many people over the years who have lost touch with themselves. They don’t know any longer what they would like to do with the rest of their lives or even what would be fun. They finally realize this has happened to them without them even realizing it.
Of course, they receive some some rewards for being the responsible one or the “go to person” within the family or the group. What started out as just being helpful and kind has now become an expectation or requirement by all those that have been the recepients of that help.
One day, this person wakes up to simply feeling overwhelmed or totally stressed out and wonders why. For some, this has simply become a way of life for them. They no longer regularly think of themselves as having needs of their own. They have only thought of others needs for so long. Sometime they don’t even notice this has happened without them even realizing it.
Usually the others in their lives who are the recipients of all that help are not thinking about the impact on the helper at all. These people now expect the support and help and in some cases demand it or even think it is their “right” since it has become such a way of life.
It appears that personal responsibility is no where on the horizon or even a thought on the part of the “fixer” or the “fixee.” (I do know this is a made-up word.)
As we work together, soon the “fixers” learn they are not actually helping those in their lives by “over-helping” them. Without meaning to do so, we are teaching them not to be responsible for themselves and their problems. We are acting as if they are incapable when actually they are not incapable, but have not had the practice needed to become personally responsible since they have seldom experienced the natural consequences of their behaviors or lack thereof.
The flip side of this is that in the process of “fixing” others, the fixer has failed to notice that they have been very poor about recognizing their own need for self-care. They appear to have not even been very aware of their own needs until they are at the point of exhaustion.
However, come to think of it, whose responsibility is it to take care of you? As a mom or dad, many times you may be so in touch with everyone else’s needs that you are not taking care of your own needs. It is “legal” for you to be a human being who also has needs of your own!
The helper or fixer has to begin to set boundaries in their own life so they can begin to have a life of their own. Many I work with confess they feel “selfish” when they begin to think in this new way. They have been caretaking others so long, it seems normal to them to overdo it.
Not surprisingly, eventually this way of living often leads to depression and anxiety. More than once, I have tried to use humor to help some over-responsible people (usually women, but not always) start writing out their resignation.
I’m talking about their resignation from being in charge of the whole world. Of course, that means their whole world! Many times it has worked to keep them aware of their bad habits, so they don’t pick it ALL up again!
These wonderful fixer or helpers can then move ahead with beginning to live their own lives, enjoying the others in it, instead of being bent over with carrying so many others’ responsibilities unnecessarily. It is not surprising that much of the time, those others are being helped are often not even appreciative of what is being done for them in any case.
Is it time to take a look at what is happening in your own life? Helping others is wonderful and can give meaning to our life, but over-doing it doesn’t help anyone, either the “fixer” or the “fixee.”