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How to Stop Trying to Fix and Solve Others' Problems|12.27.2023

In this episode, Kristen explores why we rush to fix others' pain and the power of simply listening. She shares insights on embracing discomfort, fostering authentic connections, and finding healing through empathy.

You'll Learn

  • The power of stepping back and not always trying to fix others' problems.
  • How to incorporate empathy into your interactions and deepen connections.
  • Personal stories that highlight the impact of just being present for someone in their struggles.
  • Practical tips on creating space for emotional healing without offering immediate solutions.


For counseling services near Indianapolis, IN, visit www.pathwaystohealingcounseling.com.

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This information is being provided to you for educational and informational purposes only. It is being provided to you to educate you about ideas on stress management and as a self-help tool for your own use. It is not psychotherapy/counseling in any form.

Kristen Boice

Welcome to the close the chapter podcast. I am Kristen Boice, a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist with a private practice pathways to healing counseling. Through conversations, education, strategies and shared stories, we will be closing the chapter on all the thoughts, feelings, people and circumstances that don't serve you anymore. And open the door to possibilities and the real you. You won't want to miss an episode, so be sure to subscribe.

Kristen Boice

Welcome to this week's close the chapter podcast it is so hard to believe that the year is almost over. Where did the time go? I feel like it flew by. How are you feeling? Do you feel like this year went by so incredibly fast, you're not alone. There are so many important topics that we didn't even get to cover this year that I hope to cover in 2020 for next year. Or you might be listening to this at a different year. And I hope I can continue to take a deep dive into important topics on emotional well being. We don't talk about it enough. I want to teach it to all ages. Because the earlier we can get this information, the better off we're going to be in terms of handling pain, shame, fear, grief, loss, anxiety and trauma. Because we can't prevent it. We can just face it because the more we feel, the more we heal. So in today's episode, I thought it would be really important to talk about our need to fix our own pain and other people's pain. We want to rescue them from something bad happening them feeling sad, or any kind of emotional distress. We get uncomfortable with that or a loved one. Maybe it's your kid grandkid. Maybe it's your friend, maybe it's your spouse, your loved ones, you don't want them to feel upset. And so we try to rescue people out of their pain, when in all honesty, what they need the very most is your loving presence, your ability to tolerate their emotions, and your willingness to sit with them in it, not offering advice, not trying to solve it, not trying to control it, or fix it or rescue them out of it. Because pain is hard to hear traumas hard to hear loss because it can activate our own emotions. The more you can be with your own emotions, the more powerful you're going to be in your life and in your family and in your romantic relationships. This is one of the greatest gifts you can offer yourself and others. So sit down, grab your notebook if you want. Or if you're walking, doing laundry, maybe you're driving, maybe you're trying to get some work done. Hopefully we can offer you some helpful pieces to break this pattern. So when someone starts to open up be vulnerable share with you authentically, you can say it's okay not to feel okay. I had a client say that dear client who's done some incredible work. And if you're listening, you know who you are. A lot of my clients have done incredible work. And you'll hear me just shout them out in various ways. Because I couldn't be more proud to witness their progress. And just then becoming who they are. I wouldn't even say progress. I would say them evolving and healing the pain of the past. They said that they were listening to somebody and they said it's okay not to be okay. And that person texted this person that said that and said that she'll never forget it. What a gift that you can tell people you don't have to have it all together. You don't have to say just the right thing. You don't have to hold back repress, suppress, push down how you feel that you welcome the emotions. When people say I'm so sorry, I'm crying. I'm like, no, please let it out. You don't need to apologize. That's actually healing, because you're letting the feelings out. Now I've had people on the podcast that say that can be also a defense mechanism. And I believe if you have suppressed and repressed a lot of what you feel in your crying, I believe truly that it's progress, because you're no longer willing to have your body take that repression, because that's what makes us sick, secrets, repression. They literally physically make us sick. I had another case where their child was had some medical issues. And I said please ask their child. Is there anything that they have not shared emotionally? Are they moving away from any feelings? Is there anything they've pushed down or repressed or suppressed that could be living in their body? And they may or may not tell you but this is a question for you. Is there anything you have kind of a adaptively and then it becomes maladaptive moved away from by keeping yourself busy, maybe you've been eating your feelings, shopping, maybe you've been drinking too much wine, maybe you've been working a whole lot, maybe you just have to busy yourself with a lot of projects around the house. So you're pushing down what you feel, maybe you're on social media a lot, or gambling, or maybe you're into pornography. And this is not to shame anybody, because everybody has things they do to move away. So please know that this is not about being perfect. This is about just looking at what are you pushing down into your body? What are you not feeling and breaking the pattern of trying to fix it? We can't do that unless you're willing to sit with your own discomfort of your emotions, and might look like you are involved in a whole lot of caretaking. So maybe you're over volunteering, you don't say no to things when it's a heck unless it's a heck yes, I'm a no now at this point, because I've learned that it takes a toll away from the things that matter most to me not to say volunteering is that it's wonderful. It's are you moving away from something, and sometimes it's one of the best things you can do is to help someone else. And maybe that's your stretch, are you doing things could dependently to be needed to be wanted to be desired. And that becomes your focus, pleasing other people, maybe perfectionism. And this is always to move away from those core emotions of fear, sadness, disgust, anger, maybe you're trying to not feel those things. And maybe it's even joy or pushing down or pushing away from because trauma splits us off from our authentic self, it splits off parts of us. And once we can start feeling we can start healing. And I know that sounds I've said it multiple times on the podcast. But until you start feeling your feelings, you're not going to be able to hold space and not want to fix it or rescue someone out of their own pain, or to try to tell them what to do or solve the problem. Like if you only would go to therapy, if you'd only go to this 12 STEP program, if you would only do XYZ you're trying to solve it, you're trying to fix this person, quote, unquote, fix, I don't believe anyone needs fixing. I believe people need free in freeing from the pain, the trauma, their past, the shame that binds them up. And so these are foundational things I'm teaching in order to be able to hold space for another person who's in pain, who's in shame, who's in grief, that you can feel comfortable enough saying, Your pain is welcome here. You can't fix it, you can't make it go away. You can just say, Hey, I'm here to process and that is the greatest gift you can give yourself and another person giving yourself permission to feel giving yourself permission to take up space. And so I kind of broke this episode into two parts in order to stop fixing, stop controlling, as you're trying to work on something prevent something bad from happening. Here's the truth. I can't control what happens from one minute from now, it goes back to the whole concept of accepting the ads is so broken out into two parts. One is what needs to happen within yourself, or what's the invitation for yourself. And the second part is, how do you do this for another person, because we have to first start with ourselves. And then we can offer this to another person. So let's start with ourselves. I've already highlighted several pieces. Let's continue. Okay, recognize your own fear and discomfort. So let me give you an example. I'm really big on examples. And there's millions of them. But I'm going to give you one of my own life because I think that makes it more relatable. And you know that we all struggle with holding space and not fixing. So my daughter came to me there's always stuff with lunches. If you remember back in middle in high school, it happens all the time with friendships, somehow you get left out or feel left out, or teenagers sometimes unimportantly, or directly do or say things that are hurtful. So my daughter was talking about the lunch table and how two of the people at the lunch table ended up kind of talking to each other and turning their backs on her. And I don't think it's intentional. And then she ends up with this other person who's very nice. She just feels sad that she's not included in these other conversations. So these other two people get up, go to the locker, basically leave her and they're like, we're going to this person's locker, we're going to that person's locker see later. And there's been more things that have happened that have been extremely hurtful, whether she thought she was rooming with these people and then come to find out when she's like, Oh, how are we rooming together? They're like they replaced her with somebody else. So these are things that happen in high school. And so she was telling me about it. And what did I want to do? I wanted to get my mama bears things on I wanted to call the parents up. I'm just gonna be honest, this isn't what I wanted. I'm not doing any of this but I want to be real about when someone's in pain. And a lot of times if your kid During pain, we want so much to protect him from pain. Well, we can't. So I don't call the parent up, of course, because what are they going to do? I mean, they could do something. But the point is, that's not the point of this exercise. I had to take a deep breath. And the first thing out of my mouth was, well, have you talked to them about this, because you could tell them how you feel. And before I could even finish, I knew that I was advice giving, I was trying to solve it. I was trying to fix it. And she said, Because I empower my kids to tell me the truth all the time and question anything. She said, you're trying to fix it. And I just need you to listen. And that's all an offer empathy, I don't need you to fix it. And I was like, good for saying that good for you for interrupting me, because I want to empower them to speak up, say how they really feel. And I said, Thank you so much, can we do a redo, and then I was able to come back to center, I was able to listen, self regulate, not try to fix, save a rescue, offer advice, problem, solve it, any of those things, because that's not what she needed. She knows what she could do. She knows her options, she is very emotionally intelligent. And so, uh, still growing, of course, so I was able to take a step back. And that's not always the case, especially with couples, it's not always the case, because people can get really defensive. So the first thing I had to do was kind of take a deep breath and watch my defensiveness, which I didn't feel as defensive because I felt grateful that she could tell me that she didn't want the advice I was like, or problem solving it, I thought, thank you so much. So in other cases, I do get defensive. And I have to watch it because it's so hard, especially when we don't feel like what the other person is saying is on target, or maybe I experienced something differently. And they're saying it differently. But in this case, I was able to come back to center, take a deep breath. And then I really offered empathy. I said, that is so hard. And I could see how you feel really sad about that. Because you really want to connect with them, and hear what they have to say, and build relationships. So that makes so much sense to me that you feel that way. And I could just see her body relaxed and feel safe, and feel seen and heard and understood. So this is a good example of when we want to jump in and offer problem solving options. And we think we're being helpful. And I believe our intention is to be helpful. And 99.9% of the time people just want to be heard first, they want to be heard, they want to be understood. And so I didn't mirror it back, because in our family, they've said don't mirror me, because they feel heard already. What helps them feel even more heard is that I'm able to acknowledge the pain and offer empathy as a result. So what I did is I empathize with the emotion. I said, That really sounds sad and hard. And that makes sense to me how you feel because you really want to connect with them. I use the word because that's a nice reminder that when you offer empathy, it's nice to say that makes sense to me. Because an offer the reason why it makes sense to you, not your interpretation, mainly why that emotion that they're having or the pain that they're having makes sense in your mind. So I had to recognize my own fear of oh my gosh, she's not gonna have a best friend, and which is all not true. But the fear of her feeling sad and lonely. And she said, it's really not that big of a deal, mom, because I'm okay. I'm okay. If friends aren't going to treat me that way, then maybe I don't want to be close friends with them. She came up with us all on her own. And I thought well, good for you, girl. You're noticing what you like and what you don't like in a friend. And that's okay, and to give her full permission to rumble with those things. What works for you? What doesn't what how do you feel when you're around certain people. And if you consistently don't feel good, then those not might not be the best people to be around. And I just could see the integration of her ability to sit with her feelings, process through them, talk about them out loud, have them empathically witnessed is the most transformative thing you can do with someone in pain. Having an empathic witness that's non judgmental and compassionate. It doesn't mean you agree with their pain, it just means you understand that that could be hurtful to them. So to rumble through my own fears and discomfort of her feeling sad. It'd be like that's really helpful that she's processing her sadness. I don't need to rescue her from that. That's a human emotion that we all have regularly and it comes and goes, it have to come up and out of your body is so important. You're not projecting that onto somebody else. You're not taking it out on somebody else. You're feeling your feelings and you're working through them. The next thing is within yourself. Befriend the discomfort. Befriend that you can't fix it for somebody else. To sit with that feeling that you can't fix someone else's loss, pain, grief, shame, we want to though we think we can, I can't fix it, and I hate that word, fix it anyways, but I can't rescue someone from that I can be a empathic witness to that pain. That's what I'm really hoping to help continue to help myself and everybody else was because it would change the world. We don't need more judgment, we need more empathic witnesses, and then we can move through the pain if you've had ever had a child skin, their knee? Or maybe they got their feelings hurt at school? Or are you seeing this before you will have had this happen? As someone says, oh, let me they're offering the pain. Oh, honey, come here. Let me hug you. I'm not fixing it. Now I might have to put Neosporin on it or clean it out, put a bandaid on it, but I'm nurturing it by empathically witnessing and holding space, and then they move on. It's like, oh, thank you. That's what I needed. And I move on. What if we could offer that to ourselves and our children, in our partners, I'm telling you what would change the world. So if your partner comes home, your spouse comes home, they've had a really bad day at work. And they're like, I had a horrible day, a boss is awful to hate me, whatever, I just am sick of this job. I never get promoted, Baba, bah, bah, blah, and for you to go so hard. And I can imagine you feel not good enough, because you're trying your hardest you're putting all the effort in and it doesn't seem to be paying off, whatever, however you want to frame it. But the point is, I'm holding this space, I'm empathic, because pain needs to be witnessed to be transformed. The other thing is, I think it's helpful to pause before moving forward, take a pause by taking a deep breath, create space before anything comes out of your mouth that you're going to try to problem solve, offer advice, tell them what you've done in that situation, tell them a story about you and how you've handled it or your loss. And how that helped you save that. You could say that maybe later. But at the front end, we're not going to do that. We're just going to hold the space, you're going to notice your body is your body having heart palpitations is this triggering something in you that needs to be addressed or looked at, maybe it's triggering a memory for you of when you felt rejected by a person or a friend based on my example. And you felt like you weren't good enough, and pretty enough or personable enough, fun enough, whatever the thing is enough, maybe you're over identifying what the person's experiences. So then you want to share your story. Instead of holding the space, I have had to work on that because I want to go meeting. I've said that before me too. And sometimes that can be very helpful. I would just caution to wait. And then after you've witnessed after you've empathized, after you've really heard and understood them, then maybe you can say that depending on where the person's at, ask yourself, What is your intention? Are you wanting to tell this person all the ways they can solve the problem? Because that's how you think, are you wanting you see more efficient way that this person could do something? Are you seeing how you could make this whole thing go away, if you would just talk to the person, which all that might be true. That's not what we want to do on the front end, that is not step one, you're already at Step five, we want step one, which is listen, watch your body language and your facial expressions. So we don't want to have a judgmental face. When we're listening to someone's pain. We don't want to act bored, we're going to listen to understand, we're going to offer that empathy that we so crave as humans. So look at your intention, whether you're trying to solve a problem, fix it for them. And if you always jump in and fix someone else's problem and problem solve them for them, they'll never get to learn how to problem solve on their own. And I like asking questions, after you've heard after you've listened and empathize, then you could ask other questions. And I think it's important for you to explore your own anxiety. And that kind of came back to my first part of looking at your own fear. Because oftentimes, that fear will block you from the ability to be completely attune to somebody else, and present. And then we have to look at that a lot of times we're trying to prevent people from pain, shame, grief, loss, judgment, rejection, abandonment, we think we're going to protect them from that. And the truth of the matter is, I can't, and once we can rumble through the powerlessness that we feel that's an important step to be able to stop trying to fix things for everybody else, stop trying to caretake everybody else. Now, as parents, we have to do some degree of that. I'm not talking about that. But there's a point where we're going to over compensate and rescue other people and rationalize and minimize try to rescue them out of really doing that deeper work of connecting to emotions, and you're going to stunt their growth. They're going to stunt them emotionally. Part of what we're working on is helping people to feel safe enough to open up to us. It's up to them whether they want to do that work or not. So what are some of the key components when we are holding the space for the other person without fixing, without problem saw the advice giving or gonna acknowledge their emotions. So we're going to reiterate some of this, we're going to offer empathy. And that makes sense. Because you're going to say the because ask if they want you just to listen and empathize, or they want advice or feedback or problem solving. Ask your kids. Are you just wanting me to listen? Or I don't care if they're adults, or their teens or the little kids? Do you want me just to listen and offer empathy? Or are you wanting me to give you advice, feedback or

Kristen Boice

problem solve? And then if they say, I just want you to listen, just listen, don't just because or let me offer you this, or I think you could do that. No, they're going to not open up to you, they're not going to share with you when you try to solve the problem. When you give them suggestions, when you give that person ways that they could handle the situation. They don't want that unless they ask for it. So you could ask if you're not clear. And then I think it's important to give people permission to let it all out emotionally, meaning if they're crying, we're going to let them cry. It's okay to cry, please don't ever say stop crying to anybody. Because what that does is it pushes it back down into the body, and it prevents them from getting the healing and the relief that they need. So someone's crying, I'm like, let it out. It's okay to cry. Let's create space for it. And then I'm quiet to let them cry. I'm right there with them. I'm shaking my head like, yeah, that's painful. Yeah, it's okay to let it out. It's okay to not be okay. Yeah. And when we can start giving other people permission to feel love could tell you, there's an opening and an expansion that happens within yourself and that other person, and I encourage you to do that for yourself. So when you're crying, you're gonna say Good for you, sweetheart, you're getting it out. And I know, we're not like yay, crying. Everybody says I hate crying in front of people, I'm the same. I'm the same, I have had many episodes of crying. And it's the most cleansing thing I can do for myself. Now the next day, oftentimes, you'll feel exhausted, your eyes might be swollen, and you might feel a little lighter, that you got it out, you might feel a little lighter, that you didn't bury it. And then you're giving those permission slips to yourself and other people. So we don't have to start drinking our feelings away. We don't have to take so many things, pills and whatever to make those feelings stop because you can tolerate the feelings in you can tolerate them and other people. And you expand yourself in so many ways. So if you want help connecting more on your own emotions, grab the journal at Kristen D Boice, k, r i s t e n, d BO ice.com, forward slash free resources because I want this to be practical. And I want you to feel like you can implement this, I invite you into a commitment of working on listening and offering empathy more this year, than I want you to do experiment for me and tell me how your life changes, let's say to your own inner voice, listening to your own emotions, listening to your body that gives you then that's step one, then you're going to be able to listen to other people in such a deeper capacity. And I would love to hear how this transforms your life and your relationships. And I know that sounds like I'm making this big it is we're not going to fix everybody's problems. We're not going to try to people please everybody in our lives because you can't, everybody's responsible for their own happiness. I'm not responsible for my kids happiness, I'm not responsible for my husband. He's not responsible for mine. My kids aren't responsible for mine. We're all in charge of our own happiness. So if people said just want you to be happy, well, Happiness comes and goes, it's not a sustainable emotion. It's not realistic. So I have a fair to say, I just want you to be happy because we want that for all of us. We all want to be happy when our kids to be happy. But happiness is not an emotion that's there all the time. Because life is constantly changing. I mean, we are changing one minute to the next, our skin is changing. Our cellular makeup is changing. And what if we could just give people permission to feel that's where the joy lives if you've seen the movie Inside Out, she wanted to put all these emotions in a circle like I don't want to feel sad. I don't want to feel frayed I don't want to feel any other feelings but happiness but joy, and it's not realistic because you can't feel joy. If you're numbing out other feelings, it just won't happen. So get yourself the journal start connecting to your emotions and where they live in your body. Start listening with deep empathy with other people and see how your life changes. Share this episode if you found it helpful if maybe you want to be on a journey with someone else doing this work, and let me know how it goes. I am cheering you on and so proud of you that you are doing the work of connecting more emotionally being more emotionally available and not fixing problems saw Being advice giving offering solutions up on that first step. So thank you for listening and I can't wait to see you in the new year. Thank you so much for listening to the close the chapter podcast. My hope is that you took home some actionable steps, along with motivation, inspiration and hope for making sustainable change in your life. If you enjoy this episode, click the subscribe button to be sure to get the updated episodes every week and share it with a friend or family member. For more information about how to get connected visit kristendboice.com. Thanks and have a great day.