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'Fix-it Response'


Seeking support is beneficial for maintaining mental health ... So why are people not openly disclosing their struggles with their partners, friends or family members?

It may be for fear of perceived failure or judgement, avoidance of potentially burdening others ... And/or just pure frustration at the common unhelpful response, which I call the 'fix-it response'.

This response is almost always well-meaning from those who care and desperately want you to feel happier... so why is it so frustrating?

The 'fix-it response' often involves problem-solving FOR you, not WITH you. It is not collaborative. It can include a list of obvious, often simplistic solutions. These may be excessively black/white, for example avoid/escape what's causing you distress or just be positive 24/7... Hmm.

Unfortunately, this response can neglect the fact that, despite your high emotions (which can admittedly hijack your rational thinking processes), deep down you still have logic and common sense ... you haven't lost your mind. If your problems were that easy to solve, you would've figured them out yourself, right?

WHAT SUPPORT DO YOU WANT? So, have a think about what type of support you DO want. It may include: ✔️ good old-fashioned listening - with the other person sitting with you, ears open, silent and undistracted by phone/TV (timing is essential here), ✔️ validating the difficulty of your situation and normalising your emotions; "that sounds tough", "it's understandable you feel that way" or something else you would prefer they say... ✔️ a simple comforting hug ✔️ asking what changes or coping strategies you've tried before collaboratively brainstorming practical steps to move forward ✔️ and/or just giving space to nut it out yourself

REQUESTING YOUR SUPPORT NEEDS Others are not mind-readers. Therefore, it's worth assertively communicating your specific preferences for support. Ideally, you will be asking them to use key phrases or engage in specific behaviours when you openly tell them you are upset or stressed.

The result is usually a WIN-WIN scenario: 🔹 YOU will likely feel understood, respected and supported ... Which will reduce stress levels (and your associated physiological fight/flight reaction) ... Which will then allow you to access your own rational, creative problem-solving skills. Voila - empowerment and increased confidence in your ability to cope. ...AND... 🔸 THEY will likely be relieved that they can take a more passive role instead of feeling overwhelmed by the pressure of an overly responsible "rescuer role". Your relationship will thank you.

Reflect on the notion that you often can't get everything (emotional, practical and informational support) from just one person. Branch out and pick & choose your SUPPORT TEAM.

It's obviously a two-way street, so please also contemplate how you are supporting others and whether you need to hold back on your 'fix-it' tendencies too.


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Dr Sarah Bell-Booth

Clinical Psychologist

0273462707

dr.sarah.bellbooth@gmail.com

Auckland, New Zealand

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© 2020 by Dr Sarah Bell-Booth. Illustrations by Jay Allen