how to avoid navel-gazing
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Charline von Heyl photographed by Matthew Busch
My therapist says I’m a fixer. I’ve been in therapy for a couple of years now, so I’m used to the way it feels like a perpetual excavation of your problems. This is something that irritates me: I understand my problems, and I also know they take time to fix, so do we really have to rehash them all the time? But this therapist, who I like and trust, says something else that I really agree with: we’re not trying to change who you are or what you’re good at. You’ll always be who you are, but I want you to be more comfortable in the world.
I’m a fixer, I’m always going to be a fixer. Is this an issue, or is it a feature? When my friends tell me about how they’re trying to change, I warn them that if you’re focused on the problem it expands to take up your entire field of vision. You start to believe that you are nothing but a series of problems. But of course you are also nothing but a series of solutions, because the way you are is an adaptive response to the circumstances you grew up in, the circumstances you currently exist in. The only way to be perfect is to exist in a void. In the real world, we are too uptight or reckless, too withdrawn or social, too passive or aggressive, untrusting or too trusting. I don’t believe in pathologizing my own personality, but I still believe in my right to feel safe and loved. There’s a balance to be found there.
I like to listen to people talk about their feelings; I like to listen to people talk about their problems. I love to solve my own problems and help others solve theirs. That’s who I am. But I am also determined to not collapse into navel-gazing.