The compulsive behavior of trying to fix someone comes in the form of seemingly rescuing or helping another person, fitting them into an image of the way you believe things “should be.” Under this scenario, people have to be “perfect” or fit into an idea of what you perceive to be ”correct” in order for you to accept them, regardless of whether they buy into the idea themselves. To overcome the need to fix someone, start by fixing that need within yourself.
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Begin Practicing the Skill of ‘Emotional Shielding’
Dr. Nina Brown, author of “Whose Life is it Anyway? When to Stop Taking Care of Their Feelings & Start Taking Care of Your Own” discusses how sometimes, family members can get so swallowed by their loved ones’ problems that they lose sight of who they are and what they really want. If this sounds familiar to you, recognize that this can result in a reduction of your self-esteem as you lose yourself trying to fix someone else. Also, when doing so, you hinder the other’s ability to accept personal responsibility for their actions, since you are already doing that for them.
To overcome this, Brown recommends practicing the skill of “emotional shielding.” If you get so caught up in other people’s feelings that you lose sight of your own, establish a healthy boundary. Practice detachment from emotions of guilt and shame that can arise from the empathy that you may feel for the other, which may also lead you to do things you do not wish to do, and ultimately feel uncomfortable. In resisting this urge, you place responsibility for the other on them and not on you, which is where it belongs in the first place.
Mirroring Styles of Communication
John Gray, author of “Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus,” discusses how we expect the opposite sex to be like ourselves: “We desire them to want what we want and feel the way we feel.” In doing so, we mistakenly assume that if our partners love us they will react and behave in the ways we would react and behave. To put it another way, “men mistakenly expect women to think, communicate and react the way men do, and women mistakenly expect men to feel, communicate and respond the way women do.” When this happens, we fail to recognize that we are wired differently.
According to Gray, men first and foremost require love that is "trusting, accepting and appreciative," while women's main requirement is for love that is "caring, understanding and respectful." When the urge to fix someone comes up, resist that urge by providing emotional support and understanding of the other person’s feelings concerning a problem, rather than giving advice or trying to solve the issue for them. Recognize that acting on the belief that you have more knowledge than others as to what is good for them is a sign that you’re trying to fix them.
The Difference Between Male and Female Brains
To gain a deeper understand of this, take a look at the biological differences between men and women. Dr. Louann Brizendine, author of “The Male Brain” and “The Female Brain,” describes the female brain as a lean, mean communicating machine, and the male brain as a lean, mean, problem-solving machine. “When faced with a loved one’s emotional distress, a man’s brain will immediately spark in the area for problem solving and fixing the situation, whereas a woman’s will spark in the areas of providing emotional support, listening and empathizing with their loved one.” In other words, women are wired to focus on expressing emotions, while men are more wired for action.
This is rooted in a hormonal biological structure. “In the female brain, the hormones estrogen, progesterone, and oxytocin predispose brain circuits toward female-typical behaviors. In the male brain, it’s testosterone, vasopressin and a hormone called MIS (Mullerian inhibiting substance) that have the earliest and most enduring effects.” The unique structure of the male and female brains determines how each one thinks, what they value, and how they communicate. By recognizing and exploring the differences between one another, you can discover ways to accept people as they are and consequently improve your relationships.
It Takes Two to Tango
To every problem there is at least one solution. Problems are inevitable, and when they appear they can either be sources of resentment and rejection, or opportunities for deepening intimacy and increasing love, caring and trust. When you understand your partner’s communication style as well as your own, you can work toward fixing a problem and coming to a healthy "win-win” resolution together.