When you were little, did you have a mom who went right from hearing your problem to ‘fixing’ it? Or did she meet you with solutions you didn’t even know you needed? I’m willing to bet that most of the time, that fixing energy really turned you off. It made you feel like you didn’t have your own answers, that you weren’t as smart as you really are, or that someone else needed to help you because you’re just so incapable of fixing things yourself. And I bet somewhere deep down you could recognize when your mom hadn’t even fixed this issue for herself. It was hypocrisy. She was projecting her own insecurities onto you.
The problem when we have Unhealthy Fixer Mothers is that we’re never actually met in our own state of emotional upset AND we get the message that we don’t know how to fix our own problems anyway. We get cut off from our authentic selves.
The Unhealthy Fixer Mother tried to meet your problems with solutions, robbing you of your emotional experience and authentic wisdom.
If you really knew in your core that you were wiser than your mom and that she was totally being a hypocrite, then maybe you have been more upset that she couldn’t really meet you where you are. Maybe you’ve had to learn how to hold your own big feelings and reparent your inner child who didn’t get the empathy she needed. Maybe she went so quickly from fixing to shutting down your big feelings that you just learned how to suppress and then you became an adult who has been cut off from her feelings.
But maybe your mom was pretty wise, and within her lack of empathy was also some real truth about the situation. So you just learned to bypass any emotional upset that you have and go right to a bigger truth, or a spiritual truth. You got the message that your feelings were wrong because they were so self-centered.
In any event, now you’ll take these messages into your female friendships.
I’ve noticed in my female friendships that I tended to attract women who felt like “mother” energies, but more empathetic moms than what I had. It would seem like no matter what we were talking about, suddenly the attention would be put back onto me. They’d ask me more about what was going on in my world, never letting me into theirs. They’d LOVE it when I had a problem because then they could start offering solutions.
As I evolved, I recognized this for what it was, but still avoided putting the spotlight back on THEM to share, figuring that it was their work to do to become more comfortable in vulnerability. But the energy beneath their words would still bother me because it would still remind me of my mom’s own hypocrisy. It was like *I* wasn’t smart enough to have my own answers, but I knew they didn’t have the answer either. I knew it was an unexamined part of them they were projecting onto me, just like my mom did.
So I had to reparent that little girl inside of me who had hypocritical parents and got the message that I didn’t have my own answers. I had to remind myself how I’ll always show up for myself with empathy, and that a lot of people just aren’t capable of doing that for me. And that everyone is on their own timeline and will be courageous enough to share or to sit in discomfort when they’re ready. I also know that the more I model empathy, the more likely the people I love are to show up in it for me.
True empathy is reflecting back another person’s experience so THEY can find the solution. Sure, sometimes as a friend we’re going to point out blind spots, but it’s that energy underneath what we share that matters.
I’m not saying that I’m perfect at giving other people empathy, I’m still learning and practicing, and sometimes in friendships we just want space to vent and release, not to actually solve anything. So sometimes we just need another person to be a witness that gives us room to breathe until we’re ready to go inside.
It’s also that mutual sharing, that reciprocity, that creates a healthy relationship. There’s a give and take that’s occurring. Either an, I get it because I’ve been there too, or an, I’m also struggling with something right now. And if you don’t have either of those, just a, man, I don’t know. I’m sure you’re going to figure this out.
When we walk beside another person, that’s all we’re doing, walking beside. We don’t have to carry them to the next checkpoint. We don’t have to drag them along if they’re unwilling to go. We don’t have to beg them to carry us. We just have to walk beside them on their journey and let them know we see, hear, and understand them. And encourage them with reminders that THEY are enough. THEY have their own answers. THEY will find a way and we’ll be here as they stumble and fall or as they triumph at the summit.
All of these experiences as adults are great reminders that the way we respond to our children’s problems REALLY matters. Sometimes they have blindspots and you have to step in and guide them through the dark because they just literally do not know enough yet to solve this themselves, but most of the time we’re just there to be their loving mirror full of unconditional positive regard as they navigate this journey of life. We try to figure out their perspective and tell them what we think it is. We try to sense their emotional energy and share what we are feeling if they’re not sure what it is yet. Then we can ask beautiful questions that guide them back to their own wisdom, that help them see how to meet their needs in this situation.
Do you feel like empathy is a skill you’re developing?
If you’d like to learn how to have healthier relationships with wonderful, conscious empathy, you can join my Happily Ever After private marriage coaching program. Learn more about it by clicking here.