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Need to Fix

Chapter 4 Overcoming the Need to Fix

Tools for Handling Control Issues

By: James J. Messina, Ph.D.

What is the need to fix?

The need to fix is the:

  • Compulsively driven behavior to rescue or help another person, place, or thing to be the way you believe it should be.
  • Seeing another person, place, or thing as in need and the automatic response pattern to this message.
  • Belief that, unless everything is just right for another person, then that person can never fully be happy in life.
  • Obsessive need to have every thing, person, and place perfect or correct in order for you to be comfortable enough to be relaxed and accepting of them.
  • Inability to accept people, places, or things the way they are and the chronic attempt at changing them even if they are unchangeable.
  • Acting on the belief that you have more knowledge than others as to what is good for them so you strive to correct their thinking to see the light in your way.
  • Inability to maintain emotional detachment from a person, place, or thing that is hurting or in trouble. You proceed to fix them even if this means that they are hindered from personal growth and accepting personal responsibility for their own actions.
  • Inability to not give advice, suggestions, or offers of help, even when you know in doing so that it will hinder another person's growth and personal mastery in life.
  • Interfering in business and personal affairs to help people even when they haven't asked for your help or assistance.
  • Drive to feel needed or wanted which leads you to become overly involved and overresponsible in your relationships with persons, places, and things.
  • 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.

What are the negative effects of the compulsive need to fix?

If your compulsive need to control others by fixing is not resolved, then you:

  • Run the risk of developing a series of relationships with people, places, or things who become overly dependent on you.
  • 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.
  • Will be unable to remain emotionally detached when you run across a person, place, or thing which appears helpless.
  • Experience people moving away from you if they no longer desire to be fixed by your advice, solutions, or insights.
  • Will never take care of your own needs because you will have successfully avoided focusing on self by diverting your focus to fixing others.
  • Become guilt ridden if people, places, or things which you are trying to fix don't get fixed and instead get worse.
  • Might tie your identity into the fixer role and never be able to enjoy a truly healthy give-and-receive relationship with anyone.
  • Will feign wellness as a mask to convince others you have found the answers to fix them and thus remain static or reverse in your personal emotional health.
  • Will hand out a lot of I owe you's 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.
  • 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.
  • Might become hostile, angry, rageful, or hateful to those whom you have fixed if they do not give you enough recognition in return for your efforts.
  • Might have successfully used everyone else's problems to divert your attention from yourself, the only one you have greater odds of fixing because you can have control and change yourself best.
  • Will increase in your low self-esteem as you lose yourself in fixing others.

How is the need to fix a control issue?

The need to fix is a control issue because:

  • It puts the locus of control into your hands as the fixer rather than into the hands of those being fixed where it correctly belongs.
  • If you are a fix it person, you end up trying to control every situation, person, place, or thing to be right or perfect so that you can feel sane, safe, and in control.
  • Fixing is taking over the responsibility of another person, place or thing and being sure that the outcome for them is positive and in accord with your mental picture or ideal of the way things should be in your world.
  • It robs people, places, and things of their freedom to be themselves because of your need to correct, change, or alter them to be the way you want them to be.
  • Giving advice, offering solutions, and directing choices puts you in a power and controlling position over those things you are trying to fix.
  • In your enthusiasm to help, you run the risk of using threats, coercion, or intimidation to get others to do what you believe will fix them.
  • In your compulsive, addictive, or obsessive need to fix, you might be taking on uncontrollable and unchangeable things which burn you out and leave you in need of being fixed.
  • The sense of overresponsibility which leads you to need to fix others is a depowering of the others to take responsibility for themselves; it puts the onus of accountability on you if the solutions do not succeed. It also puts the recognition for their success on you rather than on those you are fixing.
  • Addicted fixers do not allow those whom they are trying to fix to become independent or to think and try things out on their own and create overdependency on themselves to make things right.
  • Being a fixer is a powerful position which gives you a sense of importance, identity, and reason for being.
  • Those being fixed often feel out of control in terms of what is happening in their lives and can become dependent on you the fixer to do for them rather than to do for themselves.
  • Although fixing looks altruistic, it is really a self-centered behavior because the outcome is not so much for the other's benefit but to make you feel good, relaxed, at peace in that things are the way they should be.

What irrational thinking leads to the need to fix?

Some irrational thinking which leads you to the need to fix other people, places, or things is:

  • When you have the resources materially, emotionally, intellectually, and energy-wise, you should always be ready to share these with others less fortunate than you whom you perceive to be in need of help and assistance.
  • You should never stand by and not get involved when you see someone hurting and in need.
  • You are rewarded in so many ways for the sacrifices you make to help others and it is a straight path to heaven if you give to others without any hesitation.
  • You should give insights from your life experiences whenever you find someone in a similar situation.
  • You should never wait for a person to ask for help since so many people are shy when it comes to admitting they don't know what to do with their lives.
  • You must die to self if you are to gain eternal reward. To be focused only on solving your own problems is so selfish. Therefore, you are sure to gain a higher eternal reward if you dedicate your life to helping others no matter what the physical or emotional costs involved.
  • It is impossible to ignore a plea for help especially when it comes from someone who is obviously helpless.
  • It is a real sign of your personal growth that, after a time in recovery, you can have the insights, answers, solutions, and clarity of direction for everyone with whom you come in contact.
  • You can burn yourself out just focused on your own personal growth so to revitalize yourself you should get involved with other people's problems to give you a better perspective on your own problems.
  • What will others think of you if you don't offer help to someone who is obviously in need?
  • Your meaning and purpose in life will be threatened if you are not needed to fix, rescue, or help someone.
  • Being a fixer is not something which you want to avoid being because it is the only way you have ever gotten people to recognize and to accept you.

What is the way to overcome being a compulsive fixer?

In order to cease being a compulsive fixer, you need to:

  • Accept the belief that others must accept personal responsibility for their own lives and actions.
  • Recognize that being a fixer is a way to control others. It places the responsibility for the other's actions on you, which is not where it belongs.
  • Establish a healthy emotional boundary between you and those whom you desire to fix.
  • Develop a philosophy of helping which emphasizes that what people need is emotional support and understanding of their feelings concerning a problem rather than advice, direction, suggestions, or content solutions.
  • Establish healthy emotional detachment from the persons, places, things whom you feel driven to fix.
  • Get your reinforcement, strokes, or warm fuzzies from within yourself and not get hooked on the need for approval or recognition from others for what you do for them.
  • Accept that in helping another the goal and purpose is to help the other to help himself.
  • Recognize that doing for another is not helping another get strong, healthy, or independent.
  • Recognize when the compulsion to fix arises so that you can use rational thinking and feeling to develop strategies of helping which leave the others free to fix themselves.
  • Accept that you can only fix one person, namely yourself, and that all others must be responsible for fixing themselves.
  • Give permission to the people in your life to call you on it or to confront you when you are caught up in the need to fix them.
  • Gain support from your support network as you let go of the people, places, and things you feel compelled to fix.
  • Recognize that the only way you can get significant others to recognize that they need help is to be squeaky clean and healthy in your relationship with them.
  • Accept that your fantasy or dream of how others would be if they changed is your fantasy and dream and not necessarily theirs.
  • Identify that, if another has a problem, then they have to own it if they are ever going to fix it and that, if you try to fix the problem, then you are taking on ownership of the problem as your own.
  • Accept that, when a problem exists in your relationship with another, both parties must work on it to fix it if they are to come to a compromise and healthy win win resolution.
  • Identify that obligation and overresponsibility are not healthy enough reasons to keep you in a fixer posture with others.
  • Realize that guilt as a motivator to keep you hooked into a fixer fixee relationship is unhealthy for you and the other.

What are the steps to overcome the fixer role?


Step 1: In your journal, you first need to list and identify all persons, places, and things with whom you are a fixer.

  • The people I feel a need to fix are:
  • The places I feel a need to fix are:
  • The things I feel a need to fix are:


Step 2:  For each person, place, or thing identify the following:

  • What are the issues that need fixing?
  • For whom are these issues a problem? Are they a problem for you, a problem for the other, or a problem for both of you?
  • How openly have the others admitted these issues are problems and how have they asked for your help to fix them?
  • How have the others tried to take steps to solve or fix these problems on their own? How successful have they been?


Step 3:  You next need to identify what are the hooks in your relationship with each person, place, or thing that keep you in your addicted fixer role. For each person, place, or thing identify in your journal which of these twenty hooks exist for you.


Hooks for Fixing

  1. Your sense of guilt if they should get worse
  2. Your sense of overresponsibility
  3. Your sense of obligation
  4. Your fantasy of a change in the relationship
  5. Fear of losing them
  6. Your need to be needed
  7. Your need to control others
  8. Your fear of going insane if they don't change
  9. Your overemotional enmeshment or attachment with them
  10. Your need for approval and recognition
  11. Your need to be seen as a helper who does good for others
  12. A martyr complex - this is your role in life is to clean up the messes which others make in your life
  13. A sense that they can't do it without you
  14. A way of keeping the focus off your needs by keeping the spotlight on help of others
  15. The others don't recognize that you are an addicted fixer with them
  16. Your own low self-esteem and unhealthy way of thinking, feeling, and acting
  17. Your inability to emotionally detach from others who are in a toxic relationship with you
  18. Your competitive need to look more knowledgeable, wiser, and more together than the other
  19. Your need to ensure that your current life is not as dysfunctional as your past life was
  20. Your pride that only you can correct or fix things for others


Step 4: Once you identify the hooks in the relationship with each person, place, and thing for whom you are an addicted fixer, then you need to develop rational, healthy alternative beliefs which allow you to let go of the need to fix them.


Step 5: You then need to get support from your own network of support to let go of the need to fix these persons, places, and things.


Step 6: You need to give back to each person, place, and thing the responsibility for their own actions and solutions to their problems.


Step 7: You need to seek your Higher Power's strength as you cease your fixer role in the lives of these persons, places, and things.


Step 8: If you find yourself relapsing into the fixer role again with any person, place, or thing, then return to Step 1 and begin again.