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  July 8, 2002

Helpers and Fixers

When I was on The Ark residential training intensive, there was a little sign taped up on one of the doors:

"Rescuing someone is like asking a bear to dance. You have to keep dancing until the bear is tired."

As a fixer/helper from way back, this phrase burned its way to the center of my brain and is permanently branded there. I have spent too much time and energy in my life dancing with that bear.

Every helper has their reasons. Mine were many:

• If I focused my attention trying to fix the problems of others, I would not have to look at my own.
• If I focused my attention on the pain of others, I did not have to feel my pain.
• If I could fill the emptiness of others, I did not have to feel my emptiness.
• If I could bask near the flame of the charismatic "mess" I was fixing, I would not have to notice how dull and boring I had become.
• If I could be the parent to some confused adult "child," I would not have to look at the neglected child in me.
• If I could maintain the illusion of the wise, superior helper, I would not have to look at how inferior, worthless, and unlovable I really felt.
• If I could spend all my energy fixing the messes of others, I could burn off all the excess anxiety and agitation I felt.
• If I could finally fix someone, maybe they would really love me.

This pathetic pattern caused me to seek out and trap many "bears" to fix and dance with. In every case, I damaged them and I damaged me, until my world began to collapse. By primalling the feelings, I gradually unravelled and released the original trauma - that I was still trying to fix my emotionally ill mother so that she would be able to love me and give me what I needed.

Although that one essential theme developed from some significant traumatic events, most of the wounds happened in hundreds of ways - many tiny cuts, day in and day out.

One of my most profound realizations was the awareness that the helper, though culturally revered, actually preys upon the "needy" and keeps them weak and powerless. Of course - if problem people were allowed to come into their own power, the fixers would be out of their "fix."

If you give someone a recipe for bread, they can make their own. Helpers don't do that. They bake bread and sell it - keeping the customer dependent on them. When we attempt to solve problems for others it does not allow them to feel, understand, and solve their own. It isn't just ineffective - helping is actually destructive.

When I realized that I was actually hurting the people I "loved," I stopped in my tracks and had no other choice but to feel my pain and emptiness. It was a relief for them and ultimately a relief for me.

I have come to see that we cannot help, fix, or heal anyone else because the power that it takes for them to heal comes from inside them and not us. Healing is a natural process that occurs from within when it is supported and allowed. The only thing that we can affect is the field of our own feelings and sensations. Therefore, the virtue of "not helping" is not a moral issue, but a practical issue of physics and nature.

More than that, it is our own condition of emotional blindness that causes us to stumble and injure others. If we really wish to do others a service, we not only need to stop trying to heal them, we need to start healing ourselves. Instead of escaping by focusing outward and shining our judgmental light on others, we need to be responsible and turn our focus inward - and shine the light on ourselves.

According to St. Matthew, Chapter 7, Jesus of Nazareth said:

"And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye."

The Chinese Sage Lao Tzu wrote in Chapter 57 of the Tao Te Ching:

"Therefore a sage says: so long as I do nothing the people of themselves will be transformed."

The next time you meet a bear with a toothache, take a pause and ask yourself:

"How do I feel? What do I need? Do I have the energy and the genuine interest to dance the whole dance? Do I have the energy and genuine interest to be a support without having to actually pull out their tooth?"

We can support others in their own healing challenges, but we cannot enter into their sacred adventure. Helper, heal thyself.

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