Official blog for the book "Just Behind the Door"

Posts tagged ‘dependency’

Are You a ‘Fixer in Charge?’

Lending a hand, occasionally, to help others in time of need is important. After all, we find joy and reward in knowing that we have been instrumental in helping someone through a crisis. As with everything in life the ultimate issue is one of balance. At some point we might have to evaluate our efforts and decide how much time or emotional and financial support we are offering. Is it still enabling them to grow and become all they can be or has our involvement become so frequent that they now rely on us to solve their next problem or guide their next step. It’s so hard for givers to accept the reality that it may be time to back off and let someone that they care for experience the stress and challenge of their own circumstance. But when we are strong enough to stop ‘fixing’ we’ll see them experience the ultimate pride and self confidence that comes from wrestling with and overcoming their latest issue.

Life is tough and each of us has had to face a boat load of challenges and uncertainties. Some may have temporarily stopped us in our tracks. What caused us to persevere and learn resiliency in the process? Could it have been that help was no longer available or we chose to work it out ourselves by thinking ‘if it’s going to be it’s up to me?’

As givers we feel good inside when we see relief spread over the face of an individual we care about. Yet, we really do know intuitively when we are contributing to a person’s growth and when we have morphed into the role of an emotional or financial crutch. When we are brutally honest with ourselves we can admit when our ‘hand up’ has become a pattern or been reduced to simply a ‘hand out.’ It may be easier to say ‘Yes’ yet much more powerful to accept it when it is time to say ‘Enough.’

Maybe the lesson in all of this is actually ours. After all you can’t blame someone for continuing to ask or rely on you if you have established the pattern of being the ‘fixer in charge.’ We may even try to trick ourselves into believing that ‘they didn’t actually ask but we simply offered.’ Really? There are a multitude of ways to ask without verbalizing it. Taken to an extreme we may even justify our help by saying we have more or we can work harder to help ‘this time.’ But maybe – just maybe – we are unwittingly eroding their belief in themselves and causing them to become dependent on us.

Could it be that true love and caring for another is shown when we recognize if a defeating behavioral habit has been established and are strong enough to stop being complicit? It’s hard to break this habit of being there, continual giving or even rescuing someone we care about yet don’t we owe it to them?

Ultimate caring results when we are presented with an issue by someone we care about and rather than jumping in to fix it we ask them, simply and gently, ‘What is your plan?’ We show them that we have confidence in their ability to overcome. That’s heady stuff! Don’t expect to be able to do this the first time without feeling guilty. Breaking the habit of being the ‘fixer in charge’ is difficult. We may even wonder if they will ultimately hold it against us. That’s always a risk but if you love them – truly love them – set them free to experience their own trials and tribulations in life. If they come back to you it will be with a new found pride of accomplishment and resiliency in themselves that will last a lifetime.

Letting go of the fixing habit is hard but holding on past an expiration date is not healthy for anyone concerned.

Have a great few days!

Best Friend or Dependency Friend?

Human relationships are so important for us and the relationship between best friends is as the term implies – simply the best. Is it because they always agree with us or compliment us? No. In fact, a best friend is one who may disagree with us at times because they feel confident enough in the friendship to do so. We know, deep down in our hearts, that they only comment because they are concerned. The biggest thing we share with a best friend is our authentic self. We know that they will not judge, cajole or manipulate us into wanting what they want but encourage us to seek our own happiness and spread our wings and fly. Sometimes this means that we move on with our own life and the extreme closeness that we once shared may be altered slightly. Our time and thoughts need to be allocated differently so life as we once knew it with our best friend needs to change to accommodate our own life changes. When we have a best friend we want what is best for them and know that they also want what is best for us – terms and timelines or touch points become less important because our friendship still remains deep.

Sometimes a relationship between best friends can become one of dependency over time. The change happens subtly but we can tell when the relationship becomes more of a need rather than a want basis. When we begin to need to touch base (like many of us need that first cup of coffee in the morning) the relationship has devolved from wanting to talk to needing to talk and it’s time to do a gut check. Is it now a relationship of possessiveness, control, dependency – does the exact word even matter? The change from best friend to dependency friend usually morphs slowly overtime until one day we realize our personal independence or any influence in our lives other than our best friend is either discounted or at least regarded by them as a threat. When a friendship becomes dependent the mere thought of not touching base frequently becomes uncomfortable. Often, abandonment at an early age is the seed that germinates into dependency for one of the two people involved and results in a fear of change, risk or loss. The best friend may then have difficulty adjusting to any change in our relationship with them and may even find a subtle way to cause us to feel guilty by not giving them enough attention. If a dependency friendship exists and one of the parties is making a life change without them they may become more needy, unhappy or even delay making decisions or following through. In reality that is another subtle yet unspoken message that they are ‘just not the same without us.’ Basically, they are not happy having to share us with others. The longer this type of relationship exists the stronger the manipulations get to control our personal space. To them the idea of sharing us with others means, ‘We must not love them best.’ Sound a bit childish? Remember where abandonment starts and it makes sense. They may even become angry, hurt, depressed and question our true feelings about them if they feel threatened by what they see as any loss of control or influence that they have had on us. Sadly, with their choice to become ‘exclusive’ in their friendship with us they are refusing to grow in life and develop additional friends. Overtime they can become cynical and disappointed with life in general. To help them they need to be pushed, ever so gently to get on with their own life as we get on with ours. Purposely reducing the time and attention to them will slowly help the friendship regain a healthier balance.

Recalibrating a dependency friendship back into a healthy best friend relationship is difficult and often resentment and even guilt will be felt until a more healthy equilibrium is once again achieved. However, the change is essential for both parties to experience a full authentic life with others. A healthy relationship is one that is secure enough to know that neither party needs the ‘psychological possession’ of the other to make it in life.

A best friend encourages you to experience life both with and without them. They truly want to see you go for the gold and live your authentic life because simply and truly they love you with a heart that is selfless. It is not about what they get out of the relationship but what they see you becoming that is more exciting and rewarding to them. In their heart the friendship is so much more than possession – it is one of simply being.

Have a great few days!

Drop the Superman Cape!

This is the second blog on the topic of rescuing others and creating an entitlement mentality. Please go to last Sunday’s blog in the archives to read part one if you missed it. The topic, of course, is when to help someone in need and when to realize that YOU are perpetuating an expectation in them that is interfering with their life lessons and growth.

Let’s first start with you in the role of the rescuer. If you are reading this I bet you have become quite good at it. Although you don’t wear a badge that says, ‘Rescuer in Charge,’ you may be living the role. When you get to the point that you can no longer do everything or you start to resent the fact that you are constantly called upon to ‘fix’ something for someone it is time to accept responsibility for what you have created. The timing is easy to figure out both your head and heart will tell you. If you have offered a helping hand to someone once or twice and it has helped them, good for you! If, however, you look at a situation and find that a pattern has been established in which you are repeatedly called upon to jump in to fix something for them it says more about you as Rescuer in Charge than it does about them.

What exactly is this rescuer behavior pattern and how did you acquire it? Most likely it goes back to childhood. At some early age you realized that if you did something to help someone things would go smoother for them in the family dynamics. Sure enough it worked and you felt that you had figured out a way to avoid an upset if you jumped in to rescue. As long as you were ever ready to fix the latest problem things seemed to go better. Let’s fast forward 20, 30 or even 40 years. The pattern you have established from childhood is to rescue -to jump in and help anyone and everyone when a crisis surfaced. In fact, you may have become so good at it that you are literally called upon by many people when a crisis happens in their life. It makes you feel important, loved even, as you once again get things back to an even keel when you put on your Superman cape and dramatically swoop in to help. You think to yourself, ‘I can do this or that ….they need me.’ It’s a heady feeling to be needed.

An opportunity for your own self growth arises when you can no longer meet the ever expanding requests and are courageous enough to admit it. If you have established a pattern of being needed (also known as the rescuer) and do something about it pat yourself on the back. When you decide enough is enough be prepared. Folks may not remember how many times you were there for them but only this time when you did not jump in. Expect this response and you won’t be disappointed. Most likely they will resent you for saying ‘No, I can’t help this time.’ After all you have conditioned them to expect you to be there. Your help has become a life expectancy. It will take them a little while to regroup after your first or second refusal but trust me, they will regroup. In fact, they will become stronger, as we all do, when the have to figure out our own solutions in life. When we rise to the challenge we gain self confidence and a greater feeling of control in life.

The good part is that you have been able to help others in the past and have made the world a little better place. Now you recognize that a pattern of expectancy has developed and you love them enough to be strong and break the cycle. Be prepared, the thinking of those you have continuously helped goes like this….’If I act overwhelmed, angry or depressed or simply refuse to accept that he/she says they can’t do what I want them to do, they will give in and fix it.’ Trust me on this, you are being manipulated by them to their own detriment. They have figured out your pattern way before you have figured out theirs. They will be confused, at first, because their manipulation has ‘worked’ for them in the past. The truth is that it has slowly but surely caused them to feel that life just isn’t fair and and the ‘poor me’ syndrome in their life has set in. What you did out of love and concern has become an obligation – an expectancy – and everyone loses. You wouldn’t purposely hurt someone you love but without realizing it you are doing just that by allowing them to continually rely on you. You have moved from enabling them to disabling them by always running to the rescue.

This may come as a shock but the truth is that they will survive without you when they are forced to accept responsibility for their life choices and challenges. They will stop the blame game or ‘poor me’ attitude and will decide to readjust their thinking to be, ‘If it’s going to be it’s up to me.’ That is an empowering mind set. Regardless of their decision to handle their situation or not, one thing is for sure, if you have established a pattern of rescuing others only YOU can fix it.

Next Sunday I will follow up on this topic with a poem that talks about letting go with love. It is a powerful lesson for those of us who are fixers in life. Stay tuned!

Have a great few days!