The world is a tough place. Many people are having a hard time trying to find their way through poverty, mental illness, physical illness, life in general, relationships, jobs, and much more.
Unfortunately, the news is pretty much all bad news; because, hey, ‘If it bleeds, it leads…’ And social media can be a downright cesspool.
There are a lot of problems out there to contend with. And, of course, it’s only natural to want to help?
Well, yeah, it is. It’s one of the best parts of humanity. People give billions of dollars to charities, non-profits, and needy people. Many people work jobs where they know they are underpaid and overworked just because they are passionate about helping people.
The problem is that there are healthy and unhealthy ways to help. Healthy ways can empower and help people lift themselves up. Unhealthy ways are typically selfish, pay little attention to the person who needs help, and are often self-serving.
Speak to an accredited and experienced therapist to help you stop trying to fix everyone else’s problems all the time. You may want to try speaking to one via BetterHelp.com for quality care at its most convenient.
Why do people try to fix other people’s problems?
It’s unfair to say that all attempts to fix problems for others come from a place of malice or manipulation. Some people genuinely care, but they have poor boundaries, are acting on old traumas, or just haven’t learned how to be kind and supportive without enabling.
They go too far in the direction of doing the work that the person they are trying to help should be doing. Trying to do it for them robs the person of their own victory when they start making progress and hopefully figure out a way to overcome what they’re facing. So, it’s unfair and not right because it’s not the victory of the helper.
It may be that the helper is acting out of a place of trauma. For example, Brian lost his mother to suicide. He feels guilty and like he should’ve done more even if there was nothing more to do. Brian gets heavily involved in mental illness advocacy and volunteering because he’s driven by guilt rather than an active choice to be involved. That’s a problem because Brian is focusing more on his trauma than the people who actually need help – which not coincidentally also includes Brian.
Brian is not malicious or manipulative. He’s just coming from a place of his own hurt.
Of course, like all things with humanity, there is a darker side to fixing other people’s problems.
Some people try to fix others because they are trying to gain something. And, believe it or not, there is quite a lot to gain personally by being one of those people. So, let’s look at a few general archetypes that might help you better understand.
The White Knight
Much like the knights of fairy tales and stories, the White Knight rides around looking for people to save. However, they’re not doing it to help people. They are doing it to feed their own ego and to position themselves to look better than they are.
The easiest White Knight to see are guys who fawn all over a woman in distress for the express purpose of trying to improve her opinion of him so he can try to sleep with her. They’re manipulators who prey on vulnerable people.
The Social Narcissist
Social Narcissism isn’t something you’ll find in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). It’s not a diagnosis – it’s just a term to better illustrate a particular behavior.
This is a special person who uses social issues, social work, and helping people to make themselves look good. This person isn’t interested in helping people because they generally don’t care about others or their feelings. Instead, you can find them humble-bragging about how much of a difference they make in the lives of others. They may go on and on about how they’re saving people or taking credit for the victories of others.
And listen, there’s nothing wrong with that to some degree. Things like fundraising or trying to inspire others to action require a little bit of self-promotion. The difference between that and a Social Narcissist is that the Social Narcissist will focus on “me me me” and not the people.
Furthermore, you can’t even count on the Social Narcissist to actually help. They may drastically cut corners, provide subpar service, or throw people under the bus if they threaten the Social Narcissist’s image.
The Social Narcissist can cause a lot of harm, especially if they are in a position of power.
What is a Runner? The Runner is someone who constantly devotes their time and energy to other people’s problems so they can avoid their own problems and responsibilities.
This may be someone who devotes all of their time and energy to the job, so they don’t have to think about their own problems. This person may avoid the pain and difficulty of dealing with their trauma by focusing on others.
Again, this is a selfish act because it’s not coming from a good or healthy place. It’s coming from avoidance and choosing the path of least resistance in dealing with one’s own problems. The Runner is just running away from their responsibility.
The Caretaker often appears to be compassionate, loving, and supportive on the surface. The problems don’t necessarily appear until the person they are helping starts to do better. The Caretaker may be more invested in figuring out the solution than actually solving the problem. And once the problem is solved or looks like it will be solved, they lose total interest and may discard the person.
A good example is people who believe they can “save” a romantic interest. This archetype is often attributed to women, but men do it just as much. They look at someone who may be down on their luck, seek to build them up, and do everything they can to help them get on their feet – and all of that effort maintains the interest. But once the person is on their feet, they lose interest because it was never about the person they are helping.
This person may be coming from a place of personal trauma. They might have been abandoned as a kid and feel like they can earn love by being a caretaker themselves. They may feel like they have to be useful to be a good partner and often have poor boundaries that allow them to be taken advantage of. They’re often hypercritical of themselves and devalue other people so they can make themselves feel strong.
They may also want to keep the people they are allegedly helping feeling insecure and needy so they can better feed their own needs. The only person the Caretaker is taking care of is themselves.
How do I stop fixing other people’s problems?
The fact is that there is really only one way to curb and change this behavior: focus on yourself first.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to help people or improve their lives. There’s nothing wrong with being inspired or driven by circumstances in your own life.
It becomes a problem when you start losing sight of healthy reasons to be helping people. In all of the previous archetypes, each thing comes from a selfish place that props the helper up more than the helped. That can harm the people you’re trying to help because you may not have their best interests in mind. If you’re coming from a self-centered perspective, you’ll be thinking more about your needs.
One of the best ways to focus more on the needs of the other person is to ask. Firstly, ask whether they would like your help. Perhaps they would, but they might not, and you should respect that.
Secondly, ask how you can help. Don’t assume to know what they would like you to do, and definitely don’t do something for them without checking that it’s okay with them. They may only want your support and NOT your advice or physical intervention. They may want to hear your opinion on a specific issue but not on anything else. Be very mindful of what they want and do not go beyond that unless they subsequently ask you to. Don’t ever try to force your ‘solutions’ onto them.
By asking, you put the other person’s wishes first and all you do is see if you can assist them with those wishes.
And remember, it’s not noble to set yourself on fire to keep other people warm. It leads to disappointment and burnout because you can’t burn forever. You need to heal what’s happening inside you and make the active choice to get out there and help if that’s what you want to do.
The best place to stand when helping people is in the middle. You’re not a savior, but you’re not a doormat, either. You can lift people up, but not at the expense of your life or emotional well-being. You can watch someone suffer without trying to save them instead of swooping into every situation so you can try to save someone from themselves.
It’s unfortunate, but it’s necessary. By saving others from themselves, you deny them the chance to learn from their life and have their own victories. And if you genuinely care about these people, that’s what you should want for them.
If you feel compelled to fix the problems of others and can’t seem to resist that call, it would be a good idea to speak to a mental health professional about it. There are likely to be some underlying reasons linked to one or more of the archetypes discussed above that you need to unbox and work through.
And until you get to the root cause of your need to help others, you might find that no amount of effort to change your behavior actually leads to that change. A professional will know how to identify and assist you with the root of your problem by giving you very tailored advice based on your life so far and your past relationships.
BetterHelp.com is a website where you can connect with a therapist via phone, video, or instant message.
Too many people try to muddle through and do their best to overcome issues that they never really get to grips with. If it’s at all possible in your circumstances, therapy is 100% the best way forward.
Here’s that link again if you’d like to learn more about the service BetterHelp.com provide and the process of getting started.
You’ve already taken the first step just by searching for and reading this article. The worst thing you can do right now is nothing. The best thing is to speak to a therapist. The next best thing is to implement everything you’ve learned in this article by yourself. The choice is yours.
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