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ENABLING — 4 Comments

  1. Joyce,
    Enabling, like abuse, can take many forms. It’s like the opposite side of the same coin. And it can be just as hard to see it.

    I think that setting a boundary on what is our responsibility and what isn’t, is the key. No matter how much we’d like to help, we do need to ask ourselves this question first. Because like the butterfly emerging from the cocoon, sometimes the struggle is what makes a person strong. And if you take away the struggle you’ve taken away their opportunity to become stronger and capable of flying.

    My mother would always make me help my little sister whenever she wasn’t happy with her own efforts. It became a knee jerk reaction for me, to do whatever she wanted me to do. Unfortunately, I think it contributed to her sense of being dependent on others, selfish and entitled. She never grew up.

  2. Sky, your response above is so concise but absolutely 110% RIGHT ON, and believe me, while I TOLD MYSELF I was not enabling Andrew or even Patrick, I really was. I really did.

    And it is of course much easier to spot in others than it is in ourselves and while as a mental health professional Ii easily saw it in others, I was BLIND to my own enabling.

    I could set boundaries with the best of them, until it came to my own “friends and family” and then I would voluntarily lie down and let them use me for a door mat. Because I thought that you GAVE YOUR ALL FOR FAMILY, no matter what.

    I have to kind of look back and laugh at myself now (what else can you do?) at how I let those “friends and family” walk all over me and thought I was doing wonderfully by doing so.

    Your butterfly analogy is also right on, by enabling others we take away from them the struggles that help them learn and grow.

    An analogy I also think of is if you had a small child and you never let him walk because he might fall and bump his head, and you always carried him, his legs would wither and it would reach the point eventually he would forever be unable to walk. He might not have a bump on his head but he would be forever crippled.

    It’s a hard habit to break…and finding that fine line between “helping” someone and “enabling” is one I have to constantly watch that I don’t cross over.

  3. Joyce, enabling is an ugly aspect of dysfunction and I agree that it can take many forms as Skylar suggested.

    In my situation(s), my enabling was based upon wishful thinking and/or false hope. I hoped that things would improve without understanding that some things simply are what they are, and nothing would alter the individual OR the situation.

    Then, there’s willful enabling when people actually participate in whatever the disordered person is engaged in, whether they’re “willing” or not. In my first abusive marriage, I participated in a number of unsavory actions that I have long since forgiven myself for. At the time, my objections to the exspath’s schemes were met with intensified abuse, neglect, and intensified abuse of our sons. At that time, I did not believe that I had a choice and I was utterly wrong in this line of thinking.

    Once I determined that my sons were actually being abused (as well as myself) and that the messages that they were getting were 100% wrong, I began to seek options. It was either end the marriage, or enable another spoke in the cycle of abuse to be formed. Even after leaving, I was only able to “save” myself.

    It is, indeed, a VERY hard habit to break, Joyce. Helping someone who is willing to use the assistance to better their lives is quite different from rendering help to someone who consistently throws away the opportunity to change their own lives with both hands.

    I also have to watch myself carefully – to avoid enabling and to avoid allowing others to enable ME. 🙂

  4. Amen, Truthy, we must use WISDOM in deciding who to help (trust) and who not to. I saw a Dateline last night about a young woman who was the kind of person who wanted to help the “down trodden” and she met a woman on a train who was a vetted con woman, probably psychopathic, and that woman and a “friend” of the young woman’s killed her and sold her jewelry, left her body in an out of the way place and the cops didn’t even try to find her, fortunately her parents were well heeled enough they hired ex cops to FIND her and truly investigate, and the cops EVENTUALLY listened when the ex cops PIs actually found the woman’s body. The two people both went to prison for lengthy terms.

    The thing is that we must educate ourselves to distinguish between those that will truly benefit versus those out to scam us….and frankly that “ain’t easy”

    I’ve been fooled more than once by people out to con me. I’m gaining wisdom the old HARD WAY.

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