Joe’s relationship with his teenage daughter Sally is somewhat common. Since the divorce a few years ago, Sally has been regularly disobeying Joe’s rules about how to behave. Sally arrives home later than agreed, brings friends over without permission and pushes Joe’s limits almost every day.
Joe has tried talking with Sally about this, but finds that when he is alone preparing for the discussion, his energy levels and determination are way higher than when he confronts Sally. With Sally, he finds himself going silent or only saying things in a much milder tone than he intended. Afterwards, Joe berates himself for not being more authoritative in his handling of the situation.
Talking with friends, Joe hears time and again that he needs to establish firm boundaries and make Sally stick to them. “I do that”, he replies, “but she keeps on exceeding them anyway. I don’t want to be unreasonable and I want her to still want to spend time with me.”
So, what the solution? Should Joe take some classes in self-empowerment? Should Joe read the riot act each time Sally pushes the limits? Should Joe affirm each day that he is powerful and loving?
Using the model of Fix and Enhance, Joe needs to first deal with how he finds himself when he tries to enforce the rules. He needs to fix whatever is broken there – whatever it is. It does not make a lot of difference if what needs to be fixed is labeled as fear, anxiety, low self-esteem, etc. etc.
Joe does not really need to have a full understanding of the underlying problem and its source, but he does need to fix it. If it is fear, for example, there are many things Joe could be afraid of – losing his daughter’s love, being abandoned, being shamed, etc. etc. So long as Joe successfully resolves that (the fear), he will be moving forward. If he gets bogged down in analyzing the situation, trying to rationalize the reasons why he feels this way, his progress will be much slower.
There are many methods that Joe can use to resolve what is broken, and he might opt for one that is quick and relatively painless or one that takes longer but does a more thorough job. In any case, any fix that does not contribute more problems is worth using.
Joe could try using AER, for example, to release the fear. If it works for him, he could be free of that fear within a few minutes and have no idea of what the fear was nor of what got fixed. If that was enough to allow him to face his daughter and speak calmly but firmly about what was and wasn’t acceptable, then this fix would be considered successful. Joe might have to apply AER again to cover other related aspects of the fear that could surface, but this might be an acceptable approach to him.
The important thing is to correctly identify if something needs fixing, act upon that and then see about enhancement.