Are you a Fixer? Do you offer solutions instead of sympathy? Does this sometimes cause friction in your relationships when friends or partners who are simply looking for a sympathetic ear find themselves bombarded with 'have you trieds' and 'did you think ofs'? Or are you the partner or friend who sometimes find yourself looking for sympathy only to find yourself in the middle of the Spanish Inquisition?
I'm definitely a Fixer. If someone shares a problem with me I immediately start looking for ways to make the problem go away. This has occasionally caused friction in my relationships with partners who felt it was intrusive or disempowering when they just wanted to heard rather than Helped. But I've found that one particular technique I have used over the last few years has really helped with this. I have also noticed that my friends have been pinching it to use with their own partners and other friends. Since imitation is the sincerest form of flattery I've come to the conclusion that it might actually be worth propagating further and sending it out into the world. So here it is: 'The Bastards' or How to Fix the Fixers and raise a smile, in one simple step.
Now I can't claim sole credit for the idea, since I pinched the original concept from Dossie Easton and Catherine Liszt's book The Ethical Slut. One chapter described a situation like the one I mentioned above, and suggested a way for the Fixer to switch off the urge to Fix and just be there for their friend who simply wanted a sympathetic ear. The writer or their friend would occasionally provide a period of 'Poor Baby', where those two were the only words they said, repeatedly, until their friend was done venting. When I read the description, I particularly thought of one of my partners, who would often be frustrated at my trying to Fix things when really he just wanted to get something off his chest. But my partner thought 'Poor baby' was too patronising. He didn't want babying, so much as the feeling someone was fighting at his side. He felt that 'poor baby' didn't really convey the appropriate air of righteous indignation at the state of the world. So I pondered this for a while and dug around for a phrase that I felt might better fit the mood. The phrase I came up with was 'The Bastards!'
And it turns out that 'The Bastards!' fits pretty much every situation. If it doesn't make sense? All the better. It's not about the logic. It's about the righteous indignation dammit!
"I've had a long horrid day at work."
"I ran out of milk!"
"Ow, this headache really hurts!"
"I'm having trouble in my relationship..."
"My grandad's in hospital with pneumonia."
"Those bacterial bastards!"
"I got disappointing numbers from my mortgage advisor."
"The calculating bastards!"
...and so on.
And that's it. It's that simple. Obviously it doesn't fix every problem in the world, but sometimes, well... it's not about Fixing. With a bit of practice, even the most hardcore Fixer can learn to set Fixing aside and bring out The Bastards when appropriate, and folks who know what they're looking for is sympathy rather than help can learn to ask for The Bastards. And we all, hopefully, get on that little bit more harmoniously.