Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. was in private practice for more than thirty years. He is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the states
Many of us want to fix others. I think that is one reason why some people become social workers and psychologists. However, this is a healthy outlet for the need or wish to fix others.
An unhealthy wish to fix others is to get into relationships where the partner is seen as someone who needs fixing. One problem with this is that the other person may not want fixing and may not even see a need to be fixed. The other problem is that any relationship based on one person trying to fix the other is doomed to failure. As the boyfriend of one of my patients told his girlfriend, “I don’t want to be changed, I want you to love me the way I am.” Her attempts to fix or change him were beginning to alienate him.
This patient, along with many others I’ve worked with over the years, who try to fix others, was severely abused as a child. In reality, her need to fix others stemmed from a deep sense that she was damaged. Of course, abuse damages self esteem. That low self esteem is the result of constant parental disapproval, rejection and physical and emotional abuse. As a child she blamed herself for her parents abusiveness. In other words, her belief was that it was her fault she was being abused. Then, in her adulthood, she projected her damaged self onto her boyfriends. She always saw as less than perfect and, therefore, in need of repair. She was really trying to fix that part of herself she saw as flawed and at fault. Underlying this is the unconscious reasoning that “if I can fix the boyfriend I will be loved rather than abused.” To put it another way, by fixing them she is fixing herself. The trouble is that these repeated and compulsive attempts to fix her boyfriends ended in them rejecting her. That would be further evidence that reinforces her negative self attitude along with her belief that she deserved being abused.
In actuality, it is the wish to fix others that represents what is referred to as codependence. At one time, the use of this word was limited to those who were in relationships with substance abusers. Now, it has a wider use in which the codependent sacrifices their own needs while being excessively preoccupied with the needs of others. Codependency can occur in any type of relationship, including family, work, friendship, and also romantic, peer or community relationships. Codependency may also be characterized by denial of what is really happening, low self-esteem, and excessive compliance to abusers. People who are codependent often take on the role as a martyr. By constantly putting the needs of others before their own needs they get a sense that they are “needed.” Self sacrifice to the needs of others is never a good thing.
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Are you a fixer? Do you sacrifice yourself for others? Are you in a relationship in which you are constantly being taken advantage of? This is a good place to discuss it.
Your comments and experiences are welcome.
Allan N. Schwartz, PhD
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