Wednesday, January 13, 2010

On meddling in other people's lives

Some of life's lessons are the hardest lessons. For whatever reason, I messed up and it has cost me a lifelong friendship. I must now confess that it was my need to fix my friend's life that contributed to this end, and I truly regret that.

I'm reminded of Jane Austen's Emma. I have never really liked that story, and even after reading the book and seeing the film several times, the character of Emma always irked me, and made me angry. Now I know why, for when I looked at Emma, I was seeing a reflection of myself and I didn't like what I saw. (I feel that it is no coincidence that I watched the film, yet again, with my daughter, Lauren, this weekend.)  So now that I've seen my ugly face starring back at me through Emma's mirror, I must take action and do something to fix myself, for a change.

I found a website that addresses the need to fix and found some helpful information. (I'm posting the link HERE just in case some other "chronic fixers" might be interested in seeing it.) Here are some of the things that stood out for me.

My need to fix is driven by the following:

1. Compulsively driven behavior to rescue or help another person, place or thing to be the way you believe it "should be.''
2. Inability to accept people, places or things the way they are and the chronic attempt at changing them even if they are unchangeable.
3. Drive to feel "needed'' or "wanted'' which leads you to become overly involved and responsible in your relationships with persons, places and things.
4. Result of a pattern of getting approval and recognition from others for "helping'' in the past with the belief that this is the only way you can have meaning in life.

 The negative effects of my need to fix are:

1. Run the risk of becoming a caretaker to many with few people giving you the healthy emotional support you need to be a fully functioning and coping human.
2. Experience people moving away from you if they no longer desire "to be fixed'' by your advice, solutions or insights.
 3. Will hand out a lot of "I owe yous'' to those you fix in hope they will be there for you when you need them, unfortunately forgetting that your only worth to them has been the fixing you perform and they will not "come through'' the way you hope they will in your time of need.
4. Might be the one who does all the work in a relationship and, once you "stop the work,'' the relationship will die since you are no longer working at fixing it.
 5. Might have successfully used everyone else's problems to divert your attention from yourself, the only one you have greatest odds of fixing because you can have control and change yourself best.

I'm going to spend a lot of time in deep introspection in order to address this problem. I'm also going to seek to cultivate friendships with persons who are less needy and who will be more available to support me in my own personal growth and character.  I also need to find the balance between compassion and meddling and learn the difference between the two. But most of all, I'm going to work on that pesky little guy named "ego", and put him back in his proper place. 

Thankfully Emma had many redeeming qualities - loyalty, compassion, generosity - to name a few, so in the end, it turned out well for her, for she was able to see the err of her ways and cultivate those qualities that made people fall in love with her in the first place. I will do the same, and only hope that one day my old friend can find it in his heart to forgive me.


  1. Lynette - This is a life lesson I am learning as well. I recognize myself as a recovering "fixer." My FB post this a.m. is actually about my decision to stop trying to "fix" my husband. see...we fixers feel the need sometimes to fix even those with whom we've been in relationship a very long time. My personal freedom epiphany, which I did not want to put out there on the somewhat more public (for me, anyway) forum of FB, is that I can neither fix him, nor the more thorny aspects of our relationship. Rather, I have to grant him his freedom to be who he is at this moment, grant myself the same freedom and the freedom to detach from "fixing", and turn the entire ball of wax over to an ever benevolent Universe. I support you in this journey, as a kindred spirit. Hugs. (ParrisHouse1818 = Beth Miller - I have a Blogger site too - lol.)

  2. Just wow. I've said a lot over the past several days to Steph that I don't believe in coincidence. And your comments here have made that belief even stronger. I'm so glad that we found one another through Jessica over on MySpace and that we have continued to cultivate a meaningful friendship through Facebook. I only hope that one day we will have the opportunity to meet one another in person.