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The Need to Fix

"Fixing" is a common theme in the helping professions. Fixing is usually an unconscious or hidden side of the massage profession.  We are often taught to fix right from the start in massage school.  The curriculum focuses on pathology and what to do with each condition.  What technique or techniques will "fix" this.   The medical profession is focused on "fixing" - taking care of the symptoms that arise.  As massage becomes integrated into the medical system, we are asked to fix more and more and prove that we are fixing.  I just read an article in one of my provider bulletins saying that there were 200 doctors who were each given $5,000 for "fixing" the best.  We are rewarded for "fixing".

I first came across the idea of "fixing" in an article called "In the Service of Life" by Rachen Remen MD which was published in the IONS (Institute for the Noetic Sciences).

 "Serving is also different from fixing. When I fix a person I perceive them as broken, and their brokenness requires me to act. When I fix I do not see the wholeness in the other person or trust the integrity of the life in them. When I serve I see and trust that wholeness. It is what I am responding to and collaborating with.

There is distance between ourselves and whatever or whomever we are fixing. Fixing is a form of judgment. All judgment creates distance, a disconnection, an experience of difference. In fixing there is an inequality of expertise that can easily become a moral distance. We cannot serve at a distance. We can only serve that to which we are profoundly connected, that which we are willing to touch. "   Rachel Remen, MD

This has sent me on a 3 year long search that still continues to become more aware of how I fix, what fixing means and how can I be of service.

Here are some of the signs of fixing that we may or may not be conscious of:

  • Giving advice and offering solutions especially when it is not asked for.  We often assume that clients want our opinions on their health.  When we give advice we are not present with what we are feeling, what we are needing.  We often give advice to make ourselves feel better about ourselves.  We think that because we know, it will show that we are good and loveable.
  • Going outside our scope of practice and giving nutritional, psychological or other help.
  • Needing to share what we think.  Needing to share our story that we perceive is the same as the clients.
  • Needing to be right.  Feeling like people have come to us as a last resort and we can fix them when others couldn't.
  • Reacting rather than responding with compassion and empathy.
  • Unable to be with our own pain when a client presents their pain.  What are you feeling the moment a client stops talking about their issues?
  • Being over responsible for others pain and needs, while putting our needs aside.
  • Clients becoming overly dependent on you for care.  This is often seen with cases involving insurance billing (see also issues and ethics in insurance billing.)  The line between medical necessity and wellness massage is often blurred.
  • Feeling frustrated when clients don't get better.  Feeling like you need to refer clients on to others when you feel like there is nothing you can do.  This often is a projection that you are not enough or good enough.  In reality you may be doing something that the client perceives as really great and they like coming.
  • Physical symptoms will appear in your body such as fatigue, injuries, repetitive strain issues, and other health issues.
  • Feeling like working with clients is draining and they are "sucking you dry".  This is often a result of trying to get your needs met through the relationship rather than being conscious of what you really need and getting them met outside of the client/therapist relationship.  (Are you giving too much or not getting enough back?)
  • Burnout
  • Fixing makes you feel good for that moment, knowing you have just done everything you could for that person.
  • Get stuck in "denial'' that your caretaking actually enables others to become dependent rather than independent.

Resources on Fixing and Helping

Caretaking vs Caregiving - Jack Blackburn
"When we caretake we assume responsibility for our clients’ healing. When we caregive we support clients in assuming responsibility for their own healing."   Jack Blackburn

The Need to Fix at coping.org

Eliminating Caretaker Behaviors at coping.org

Ethics of Touch : www.somatics.de : Go to articles for structural integrators and read "The Ethics of Touch" by Lael Katherine Green 
"In my experience, the desire to help others is always a double-edged sword. The altruistic, humanitarian side is present and real, but behind that often lurk far less noble motivations. Being able to "alleviate" some one else’s pain is an enormous power trip, and a boost for the practitioner’s self image. The savior personality draws much of its sense of self worth from the positive effect that it is able to "produce" on others."  Lael Katherine Green


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