One of my mother’s longest running stories about herself is that she is a Mrs. Fix-it, which includes being a martyr and saviour in its list of traits.
Identity defining stories like that need a companion tale running alongside it to bolster it.
Like a runner training for a marathon with their coach, a pacer, running with them for support.
To be a Mrs. Fix-it, a martyr and saviour, you need things to be broken.
Those things my mother needs to be broken are people.
People to fix, save and witness her martyrdom to fixing their brokenness.
My mother would sigh very dramatically, loudly, proudly, as a negative boast, and then proclaim – I’m always having to clean up the messes which others make.
Others are always the problem, but without those problematic others someone like my mother has no defining identity.
Her story would fall apart before it began, never get written, never get published, and read to all those who had to hear the tales of her heroic fixing.
She prefers to read the story to others rather than allow them to read it themselves, as they can’t be trusted to read things correctly. They might mistake the heroine for a villain and the villain for a hero… and that would be another fine mess which she would have to clean up.
The fact that people still consider my father to be a hero and my mother to be a villain in the story of their life together rankles deeply with my mother. Without her my father would have been a nobody with a story in which no one would have been remotely interested. She made his story a bestseller. She took something broken and fixed him. He kept breaking and she kept fixing. Yet people keep assuming that she took something whole and broke it and kept breaking it more and more.
People are wrong. They are broken and she will not rest until each and every one has been fixed. But no one can truly be fixed or else her services would no longer be needed and her story would die without dignity.
Therefore part of her self-story requires that she find messes to tidy up, that she spot the faults of others.
Then she points it out. Making sure the thing, the person, which is broken be fully aware of their breakage. Others’ eyes must be made to see their own mess, their cracks, flaws and imperfections.
Once that is done she generously offers to fix it, fix you, because she is the only one who can do so and such things need to be done.
If you refuse her generous offer, the mess will get tidied up anyway because you do not know what you need and want. A broken thing never knows it is broken until it has been fixed by someone who does know it is broken and needs fixing.
Once a mess created by someone else is detected, she sets off on her quest to fix it.
You will be grateful. If you aren’t, your inability to be grateful is a flaw which will be fixed.
Beyond this story is another story, encircling it like an outer ripple of an inner ripple.
My mother’s version of tidying up a mess, fixing what is broken, perfecting what is flawed, usually creates havoc and chaos.
If the thing is not a real problem before my mother came along and decided that it was because she needed it to be, not long after her meddling fixing begins, the thing would indeed become a problem.
If it wasn’t broken before she came along, she would break it… telling herself all the while that breaking it is fixing it.
Confused? You will be. You will no longer be able to discern what is wrong and what is right, all of this will be redefined according to her. She will try to educate your wrongness with her rightness. Soon everything about you will seem wrong no matter what you say or do or don’t say and don’t do.
One of the things my mother enjoyed doing (though protested that she did not enjoy it at all) when I was a child, was to enter my room, decide it was a pigsty, and then rather than tidy it up (or suggest that I tidy it up) she would sweep her arms along shelves and knock things onto the floor.
Once she had declared the room a pigsty, a pigsty it became. But it wasn’t a pigsty because of her or her actions.
The only times she cared about the status of my room was when she was in a foul mood.
She was in a foul mood because her ego had been dented by someone her own size and she needed someone smaller than her to use to fix the dent. I was a dent-fixing tool disguised as something broken which needed fixing, and by tidying up my mess, a mess which had not been a true mess until her sweeping arms made it so, she regained her identity of saviour and martyr. Mrs. Fix-it to the rescue.
And I was expected to be grateful.
This process which she did with me, was similar to the one which she did with my father, and with many others. She would enter your space, decide it was a mess, then make sure it was as chaotic as possible, and after a long lecture on your sins, crimes, flaws, faults, she would very generously tidy up your mess for you because you were too incompetent to do so.
It should perhaps be noted that her own room was far from perfect or perfectly tidy, and her belongings overflowed into everyone else’s space. But this was never allowed to be pointed out… or tidied up.
Once she’d finished her quest of fixing you and your mess, she’d move on to another broken thing and mess. Leaving you to tidy up the havoc which her tidying up had caused.
But she never saw the consequences of her actions as being anything other than the blessed work of a saint. The handiwork of a saviour forever martyring herself for the sake of others. Others who were never grateful enough and who never learned to stop making messes for her to fix.
She used to like telling me tales of her heroic Mrs. FIx-it quests, especially those in which she saved the day for my father, Mr. Break-it. Her favourite little tidbit about him was that when he tried to fix things, he always did so by bashing them and breaking them. What a fool! Luckily he had her in his life to fix his disastrous attempts at fixing things.
Recently I spoke some words which expressed a story similar to my mother’s – I always seem to be left to tidy up the messes caused by my mother tidying up messes – as I spoke those words I wondered…
And my wonderings led me down dark paths…
Yet eventually I reached a lit place which showed me that I am not repeating an inherited pattern so much as expressing a companion pattern to someone else’s story.
But this pattern is not one which I cherish.
Although I’ve played this pattern of fixing chaos caused by certain people fixing what was not broken or a mess in the first place, and am doing so now in trying to clear up another mess my mother has caused due to her being Mrs. Fix-it fixing other people’s messes (a mess by my father and his cohorts in this particular case)… I tend to do it to clear a way through for me to pass, and if I can pass without needing to clear the way, I will.
Sometimes things need to be left a mess.
Because maybe the mess is not a mess at all.
Thank you 🙂
I really resonated with the quote “YOu can not fix yourself by breaking someone else. ” Well said.
I love that quote too, it really inspires a pause for thought. It’s one of the things I often consider when I read or hear anything which is purporting to be a solution to a problem, the intention behind it may be to fix, but is it really fixing or is it actually breaking something which is not broken? Is someone who is claiming, and believing their claims, that they are fixing other people or helping others to fix themselves, really doing that or are they projecting their own breaks onto others, thus breaking them, and trying to fix themselves using others. Things like that always make me wonder 🙂
Damn your good. If you could only see me as I read your posts, you’d die laughing. I’m shaking my head, high fiving the air, going cross eyed and a bit dumbfounded too as I try to absorb it all. You can be so clear, yet perplexing at the same time…kind of a mess really, ha:) And yes, that’s a compliment. Thanks Ursula.
Thank you 🙂
Do you have a webcam 😉
I’m definitely a mess, and as much as sometimes it is really frustrating to be a mess and I’d like to be otherwise, or at least pretend that I am to myself, I’m rather proud of my messy status and always smile when someone else spots it. It’s a relief to be seen as I am. It’s very anxious-making when something thinks that I have my shit together and I’m all tidy and whatnot.
The other day someone said to me with slight embarrassment – I don’t know what I’m doing. I replied – I never know what I’m doing, but I do it anyway. We had a chuckle and life suddenly seemed more free and fun. Being tidy and perfect is a bit of a drag and a party-pooper.
OMG we could almost have the same mother! Except mine doesn’t sigh dramatically when you don’t appreciate her wonderful ‘fixing’, she throws full scale (like a two year old) raging, screaming tantrums and it doesn’t matter who is present. Then she goes into full scale martyr mode. Best thing I ever did was cut her out of my life.
I know those tantrums well, both my parents indulged in those, and in those moments no matter what age I was and what age they were supposed to be, I always felt like the only adult in the family.
My mother never had the tantrums in front of anyone else, it was our little secret, so to speak, because her image of martyr and saviour required for her to appear as though she was tolerance, patience and saintly temperance personified. To her, public displays of temper tantrums were for those who were imperfect and inferior. However they were very much a part of her routine with me, when she was knocking stuff off shelves in my room she was screaming her head off too, after that came the interminable lecture which was punctuated by screams if I spoke back to her in any way at all (including if I apologised for being a terrible child to her perfect parent), but no one else saw what she did with me.
My father on the other hand loved having an audience for his temper tantrums. He enjoyed the public drama and how much it made others uncomfortable.
Ditto on the best thing ever being cutting them out of your life. Someone recently shared with me a blog – http://parentfreebychoice.blogspot.co.uk/ – which I found very interesting.
It’s amazing how similar narcissistic parents are. Sigh! (not a dramatic one 😉 )
Very interesting description of a covert N-similar to my mum really.I really hope she’s not attempting again to fix you through the legal maters you mentioned a while ago.We all need a bit of peace to focus on our lives and maybe fixing ourselves according to what matters for us.
i have learnt from your posts to use writing as a self analysis process, to get rid of what is on my mind, to create something with it instead of being a mashed potato because of it and to read my feelings and moods after through it.Thank you for this wonderful gift.
She isn’t attempting to fix me in the legal matters, but she is doing her Mrs. Fix-it routine which is making a bureaucratic mess of something which although complicated was fairly straightforward… until of course she decided to tidy it up because she needed it to be the mess she has created.
It’s wonderful to hear what you’re doing with your writing!!! That gift is yours, given to yourself ❤
Sometimes things need to be left a mess.
Because maybe the mess is not a mess at all. Thanks so much for those words……
Excellent post … powerful quotes.. My Mum was a compulsive tidier upper.. My first real injury was a third degree burn on a caravanning holiday as she had to wash the floors over and leave the bucket just near my dangling foot. . Its not the same as having all your stuff wiped onto the floor. That one got a gasp out of me…..When I read this what came to me was the comment from my ex which always reverberates in my head “you have your shit lying everywhere tripping up your peace”…..I’m not a messy person or hang on I am but I was never allowed to be. maybe why I havent created half of what I could cause I can feel its not okay to be due to this upbringing..well isn’t chaos a generator of creativity? And mess to me like you said.. its just a projection and a value judgement from someone not too comfortable in their own skin
Ursula hope you don’t mind me commenting again… I just think you have given the greatest gift with this post. It led me to write a poem and I’m crying good healing tears.. Thank you so much….<3
Also it worries me as with the Neptune squares I could easily become a martyr myself…..its a subtle hall of mirrors this entire dynamic
I think all of us have the ability to become martyrs and fixers and all the other expressions on the spectrum of traits of being human. Every trait we have serves a natural purpose, what that purpose is depends on who we are, on our personal creative take on it.
For instance when I catch myself being a bit of a martyr I know it’s telling me that I’m either doing something which I don’t actually want to do or my attitude to someone or something needs adjusting (not fixing, but shifting).
Being a martyr requires a certain set of parameters, such as another person who is forcing us in some way (perhaps not deliberately but through our perception of the dynamic between us and that person, and our role in their life/their role in our life) to do something which we don’t want to do but feel somehow obliged to do. There are all these internal conversations which take place, often within milliseconds. We go through our script and choose an option. Most often that option is chosen unconsciously and is based on our programming – but if it takes place consciously we can deviate from our usual response and choose an alternative.
Astrology does give a way to see the dynamics at play, a different way of looking at them, and perhaps find optional ways of relating to our traits and tendencies. My natal Nep square is tied up with my Virgo/Pisces axis on the Asc/Desc – so I’m ripe in some ways to play either the victim or the martyr which are both Pisces/Virgo roles… but what other roles are available in that axis and how else can those roles be played out?
If we find ourselves playing a role such as the martyr, maybe we need to ask the martyr what it is that it wants from us, from others, so that it no longer needs to be a martyr. If we find that it wants to be a martyr, then we need to find out what need that feeds.
We know why we do things, we’re just not always consciously aware of what we know.
Very perceptive….. I have had some really positive experiences last week with saying “no” to a family member. I knew if I did the thing I would be angry with myself for not being stronger and would have fallen into martyr.. The no was received graciously and I gave it graciously. I felt very proud of myself. then I had to say “no” again. I know what you meant about the Neptune/Pisces/Virgo tendencies of self sacrifice/martyrdom. Also sometimes I think we can help out of the goodness of our heart. For me I have gone through so much alone I feel for others going through something alone and when I feel stronger enough and my cup is full I can give. The problem is when it drains us. The other roles could be a nurturer and person of great sensitivity and insight who can see below the surface of the collective waters and then use discrimination (Virgo) in a positive way to define a sense of limits which help and heal not drain and damage. What do you think?
It’s a novel experience to be able to say ‘No’ and have it accepted without sturm und drang. In some ways saying ‘No’ and how it is accepted or not accepted is a measure of whether you’re dealing with someone healthy or someone who may be a narcissist or something similar. Healthy people ask – because if you don’t ask you won’t know – but are able to accept your answer whether it is the one they want to hear or not. They know that ‘No’ is an equal option as ‘Yes’ as an answer. It’s very liberating to give the actual answer you want to give and find that it is accepted graciously… and the world doesn’t come to an end.
Kudos on claiming the power of saying ‘No’!
One of the things which astrology gives that I love very much is a balanced view of traits. It presents each thing as a whole, containing both positive and negative with many combinations in between.
Humans tend to prefer things in black or white, good or bad, etc, because we want a quick answer. We want to be certain of something. Grey areas create too much doubt and doubt is considered ‘bad’ more often than it is appreciated for its ‘good’ side.
Yes, Neptune/Virgo/Pisces can incline towards sacrifice/martyrdom, but only when they tip the balance over into one extreme. The very influences which incline towards sacrifice/martyrdom also have other aspects and those can be admirable, especially when applied with awareness.
So, like you said, you’re tuned into the subtle and sensitive, and able to understand it. Your Neptune/Virgo/Pisces also works in a harmonious and nourishing manner.
You can sense what someone may be feeling which they may not have expressed in words but have expressed in a sensory manner, and this may influence your decision as to whether you say ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ when they ask something of you. You’re weighing things up to be fair to all involved. And as long as you are fair to yourself too, all is copacetic.
The draining part often occurs when we tip the balance, usually in favour of giving too much when we know we should be saying – at this time my energies need to be replenished. We’re not being fair to ourselves. But why are we allowing a drain to occur? What do we get from giving until we are drained?
Those are the sort of questions Virgo can answer as long as Virgo is operating in a balanced manner and not set to critical mode or serving without discrimination mode.
I was recently playing idly with my chart. Virgo’s motto is ‘I Serve’. So with Virgo rising – I serve – but what do I serve? With Moon in Virgo (conj Asc) I serve perhaps analysis of emotions. And with Pluto in Virgo – I serve change/transformation. I was doing this idly so I didn’t go into this much further than that, but I did think that maybe there was an angle here which I haven’t explored. A dialogue worth a chat.
So there is always room for seeing other sides to add to the sides we think we already know 🙂
Beautiful poem! And here’s the link – http://emergingfromthedarknight.wordpress.com/2014/07/26/i-am-not-broken/ – thank you for sharing ❤
I have so many stories of the havoc created by my mother’s obsessive need to tidy everyone and everything. Each one gave me an insight, which at the time I did not quite understand, but putting it all together later on… I see her more clearly and the motives pushing her to be that way. I can see how none of it was about me or anyone else and all of it was about her. She was desperately seeking something which was always out of her reach… so no one else could have it either.
Chaos is very creative, especially when it is our own and we embrace it. There is a natural order in chaos!
Reblogged this on Healing my codependency and regaining my life ! and commented:
Relating to this so much !
Thank you very much 🙂
Reblogged this on The Codependent Guy and commented:
Wow, much of this hit home for me…..especially the aspects of feeling broken when someone else had a need to fix.
Thank you very much 🙂
[…] Mrs. Fix-It to the Rescue […]
Byron Katie has a quote that goes: How can I manipulate people if I’m not a victim – there goes all my power.
I never thought of that before until I recently met my real mother: the eternal victim, the eternal martyr.
The thing is, I was ‘the fixer’. Or perhaps ‘damage controller’ fits better. Even as a small child, I did my best to comfort her, to try and get her out of her misery, whatever the cause was, even if I wasn’t involved at all. She never fixed anything or anybody, she didn’t care to do that, but she definitely (still) tries to fix herself by breaking others -those who allow her to. Like I did. Maybe she wasn’t as active producing chaos as yours, or maybe she was and we didn’t notice, but the result is very similar: one feeling one’s a mess and really guilty about it. Like you are not, and never will be, enough. And her being entitled to all our efforts and love -to absolutely no use.
I have also noticed (this about your comment in other post about the commonness of the awareness of this issue) that more and more people dare to open and express their experience. From going from ‘I’m the only one in the world who feels like this, -which I don’t even know what it is, but hurts’, to meeting not only online, but also in RL, so many others that have had similar experiences with parents, friends or partners. Sometimes I think it’s a plague, sometimes that it has a reason. Sometimes I envy those who have had real parents, parents who loved them, sometimes I’m glad I had these experiences because they have taken me where I am now. And if this means I’m confused, well then I guess I am, but at least now I’m a much happier mess. And I learned that the knots of this mess do not get disentangled by pulling the ends of the rope, as in Buddha’s story of the knotted handkerchief. So I don’t try too hard to solve them, for me exposing them to consciousness and dealing with the consequences of that exposure is enough :-).
P.S. My connection keeps failing so I apologize if I’ve post double! (or triple)
My mother played the victim too, a very aggressive victim – her ‘fixing’, her martyr and saviour roles had an undercurrent of victimhood. She would not need to be a ‘fixer’, a martyr and saviour, if she wasn’t the victim of other people’s brokenness. Her message was always – I’m doing all of this because of you, you’re the problem, you’re the root of all the evil in my life!
It is all part of the complex story of a narcissist. They switch roles, do the chameleon thing, according to which role will keep them centre stage and get them the supply they are craving. Even when they are urging us to ‘fix’ them, fix their problems, save them from some ‘dragon’ who is threatening their ‘damsel in distress’, they’re still ‘fixing’ us because we are still broken as far as they are concerned – we’re the knight in shining armor who just isn’t up to the task of saving them and we need to try harder or we save them from one dragon but there’s another one, and another one, until we become the dragon who someone else needs to save them from – that last scenario was one I didn’t see until one of my mother’s friends enlightened me to the stories she told others about me, similar to the stories which she told me about others.
You can spot a narcissist mother from the way she talks about her children (applies to narcissist fathers too). She is always the ‘victim’ of her children in some way and it’s never her fault. How her children are is never about what kind of a parent she is and has been. It’s all magic and myth.
I like the knot analogy because it ties in with a book which helped me sort some of my own knot out. The book used the Gordian Knot story to explain the problems faced by a child who grows up with parents like narcissists – sometimes we just need to do what Alexander the Great did and use a sword to cut ties and get rid of the knotty problem.
That sword is us, our awareness, being consciously aware and willing to see. That’s what you are doing and have done. You vision is your sword to cut through the knot of confusion.
Trust yourself even when doubt is present. Doubt has a purpose and sometimes its purpose is beneficial 🙂
Thank you, I’m trying, and it’s getting easier 🙂
Yes, everyone invariably turns into a dragon at some point, depending on how long you are willing to wear the shining armor she invested you with together with the honors of knighthood. It always surprises me to see myself in that guise all of a sudden, flames and all, but once you realize she wasn’t not a princess after all, more like a Madam Mim, able to transform anybody into anything, and that the only knight who can help them is inside themselves (as is the case with the rest of us), you can renounce to your vows and just let her transform herself into whatever she needs 🙂 I’m still learning how not to fight, but whatever I do or not do, I’m there to remind her. A little distance is good until you have yielded completely I think. You might resent the dragon costume and miss the shiny armor, but then you remember it wasn’t real either!
In the book I’m reading at the moment, and by ‘reading’ I mean dipping in and out of it when I have time, I came across this:
“There’s a whole series of things which have to happen, and they begin with awareness; you don’t do anything without awareness – you don’t do anything unless you’re aware that there’s something that ought to be done. But real awareness comes about through practice and experience with the world. It’s not first you become aware and then start doing things; you become aware through doing things.” – Noam Chomsky.
Life’s an experiment through which we learn and evolve. We have experiences and they inspire us one way or another, and we try things out, attempt different ways of dealing with things and each thing we do informs us, that information which we gather gives us more ideas, we adapt, adjust, then put into practice our new awareness which enables us to see what works, what doesn’t, and gain new perspectives, insight and more information and ideas.
You know that saying – if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again – narcissists tend to interpret it as meaning doing the same thing over and over again until you get the result which you want. Basically bashing their head against a wall until the wall gives way. Which is what they do to people, and also their approach to living life. I think most of us realise that approach is being stuck in some form of insanity because we’re supposed to learn from our experiences and if something is not working then it doesn’t work, it needs to be changed, adapted, adjusted, reviewed before we try again, once we have a new strategy then we try again, and learn some more from the results of that.
The narcissist repeats the same behaviour in a relationship over and over, so as long as you’re in a relationship with them they keep you stuck the way that they are stuck going around in a circle. However once we recognise their pattern we can step out of it – it can takes us several goes, but each time we learn a bit more and eventually we step off the merry-go-round. But to interact with them we have to step back on it in some way, because they are stuck there – however we’ve changed so our experience will change, at least from our end of it.
Always trust your path because it is yours and only you can walk it, only you experience it from the inside out 🙂
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