web analytics
HomeEnablingTrying to help those who won’t help themselves    Log in


Trying to help those who won’t help themselves — 10 Comments

  1. Thanks for this article Truthy, I can surely relate to the enabling…and denial. I ain’t Cleopatra but Ii am the queen of denial! LOL

    Seriously though, I can look back throughout my life and see many people just like your “friend” who pithed and moaned about their terrible situation, but never made any real effort to get out of the hole they had dug. Never made any real effort to look at REALITY and not stay in that magical thinking of denial that led them into the hole in the first place.

    I have also ultimately found that many of those people were also very narcissistic, and some even turned out to be dishonest as well..stealing from me…because in their mind I had much more than I needed and that entitled them to take some of it for themselves, because after all, they were entitled. Most of it was petty theft but still it was stealing. I imagine if I’d had more to steal they would have stolen more.

    I’m willing, more than willing, to help someone who attempts to help themselves to the limit of their ability. The problem is that many people are not interested in helping themselves, or making positive changes. Of course if someone is UNable to help themselves then that’s another thing. A person who is mentally deficient or severely crippled, I’m not going to expect them to get a job digging ditches to help themselves, but I would expect them to help themselves to the limit of their ability.

    People like Gretchen who will not take good advice and live in denial are not going to be helped by anything we do for them. They need psychological counseling and maybe medication, in order to get better, but unfortunately, many many times the very people who need it the worst will not have anything to do with either counseling or medication for depression, etc.

    Yes, they may have been traumatized as children, and have inherited any number of medical/mental conditions such as bi-polar or depression, etc but there is no way that you or I, no matter what we do, can convince these people they need to change. They are comfortable in their continual pity party and fantasy life. It’s a shame but it is what it is, and the SOONER we recognize what they are doing the sooner we can back out of their lives and let them dig their own hole, because no matter how many shovels we attempt to take away from them, they will keep on digging.

    • Joyce, it was helpful to vent about the experience with Gretchen, and it’s truly been a pattern throughout my lifetime. I’ve been addressing this in therapy, and I’m learning how to maintain my compassion WITHOUT letting myself get sucked in.

      Interestingly, when Gretchen realized that she wasn’t able to pay her mortgage, she began to heavily campaign for me to bring Bob and live in her house. Well………I didn’t realize how much her mortgage was until I finally asked her and I was floored. If she were paying her mortgage on her own, she would be left with $400 per month to pay for gas, insurance, cleaning supplies, pet needs, etc. And, her vehicle is over 10 years old and is beginning to fall apart in a big, big way – transmission, emissions, etc. MY job would have been to pay her mortgage if I had relocated to her home.

      And, yeah….this is kind of a vent, again, but she was really pressing me to do this. I don’t want to “share” someone else’s space as a tenant, again, especially with a “friend!” When Gretchen found out that I was applying for disability, she asked me a VERY inappropriate question, “How much will you be getting?” This was after the second time that she had blown up on me, and after she began pressing me to move into her place.

      The bottom line here is that Gretchen wants someone to rescue her. She wants someone to unload on. And, she’s 100% codependent. I am working VERY hard to overcome my own personal issues, and I cannot (and, WILL not) risk my well-being and recovery for the sake of helping someone else. Hayell, I can’t even help myself, most of the time, and I’m just sorting out how to do that! LOL

      When’ we’re dealing with someone who is a criminal (convicted, and never even charged), we cannot “help” these people, no matter what our good intentions might be. Certainly, we don’t want to see someone that we care about fall down the tubes, but we don’t have that kind of power to prevent that.

      I’ve got my own hole and my own shovel that I’m trying to deal with. And, I’m filling it in, one shovel-full at a time. 😉

  2. Truthy, I totally agree. Enabling anyone is digging your own hole and not helping them either. Plus, when you enable people (or try to) you end up frustrated and/or angry that they will not listen to “good advice.”

    I think in a way it is arrogance on our part that we think we can “fix” anyone else’s problems. We feel like we “know better” what they are needing than they do, and when they refuse to listen to our “good advice” we just don’t understand what WE are doing, which is, frankly just as disordered as what they are doing to themselves. We are wasting our time, our energy, on trying to fix someone else, instead of focusing on what we need to fix in ourselves.

    After I cut Patrick off, I started having these “dreams” that had “themes” that repeated and repeated. Now the dreams themselves were not the same, but the theme in the dreams was identical. In the dreams I was trying to help someone who was “helpless” like an elderly person, or an animal, and while I was focused on rescuing these “helpless” people or aniimals, the horse drawn wagon I had with me, was crashed when the horses or oxen wandered away while I was doing my “good deed.” LOL

    Eventually, after many m any nights of this dreams of enabling it finally HIT ME….and I talked to my therapist and she said “Yep, I think you’ve picked it up:” My subconscious was trying to break through to my conscious mind what I was doing.

    I had conversations with my mother and with Patrick in my dreams, and one night I was talking to my wonderful step dad about my mother taking patrick i nto their home when he was 15 and in trouble with the law where we lived, and I bemoaned to my step father that I would have gotten a lawyer and fought her for custody but I didn’t have the money. And in the dream, he said “You never asked me for it.” and he was right, I hadn’t and I think he would have given me the money to have fought her in court. It is odd but sometimes when I don’t know what to do on something, I can say “what would daddy have told me to do” and it is the RIGHT thing. He was a very wise man. He got it about my mom, but he also loved her in spite of it. He also got it about Patrick too. I didn’t really realize just how much he got it about Patrick until just before he died.

    I was programmed by my family to be the enabler to succeed my mom, who had succeed her own mother, whose mother had also been the family enabler, and you know, on that side of the family it went back further generations as well.

    I doubt if I will ever be completely free of that programming, it is my “knee jerk” response, but I am working on that, just as you are. I think the subject of this article is a great example of our experiences. Dr. Berne’s book “Games People Play” is a perfect book for those of us who are into “games’ that are dysfunctional. We must stop playing “games” and learn to live positively and to be able to spot the games that others are playing, such as Gretchen. We can’t fix them, but we don’t have to “play” and when we spot such a dysfunctional person, we need to be AWARE and act accordingly.

  3. Truthy,
    Your story about Gretchen makes me think that she has several different problems. One of them is that she has never been independent. She has depended on others to rescue her. Even when she tries to stand on her own two feet, she lacks confidence. It seems to me that she believes the old saying, “it’s not WHAT you know, it’s WHO you know, that matters.”

    Unfortunately, she’s running out of people to know.

    Her behavior also reminds me of one of my favorite “Peanuts” comic strip themes: the ones where Lucy convinces Charlie Brown to kick the football and she waits til the last moment to pull it away so that he lands flat on his back.

    Charlie Brown should have learned that if you repeat the same behavior, you’ll get the same results. But he never learns. He’s compelled to keep trying in the hopes that things will magically change.

    One might think of Lucy as a spath for tricking Charlie Brown, but I think that the theme is more about Charlie than it is about Lucy. Lucy could be replaced by anyone or anything and Charlie would repeat his mistakes over and over…kind of like his faith in the Great Pumpkin.

    I think there’s a little Charlie Brown in all of us. We were traumatized by events in our childhoods and, because we don’t know what went wrong, we keep trying to re-enact the events again and again. When we choose the same actors and the same circumstances, we get the same results.

    • Sky, at one time, I was 100% “Charlie Brown!!!” LOLOL!!!! I would keep taking whatever was thrown at me because I truly believed that, if I took it like a MARTYR, then the people who were doling it out would recognized “how much I cared” about them by taking their abuse….or, something LIKE that. LMAOLMAO

      And, it’s not only “okay” to make mistakes and errors in judgment, but it’s a human teaching/learning essential! Every living thing makes “mistakes,” and I make them and, finally, am learning FROM having made them.

      Re-enacting the events with different people is, indeed, a recognized symptom of childhood trauma – “normal” levels of self-confidence, self-worth, and all of the other healthy “Self-isms” are simply non-existent. So……yeah…….

  4. Skylar, some great points there. I also think about it like you are in a canoe and you are trying to “rescue” a drowning swimmer and you pull them into the boat and they keep jumping back into the water.

    Gretchen, like you said, is lacking confidence, but also I think you nailed it about her being DEPENDENT…she used her druggie BF to pay the mortgage, she used her husband to get her a kid, then when the kid wants to grow up and go out on his own (at an appropriate age) she goes into a tail spin.

    She’s afraid to make a decision based on logic, like trying to change careers in upper middle age, then getting a degree but failing to take the test to certify. Then trying to get someone to get her an interview for a job in that field where there was no possibility of being hired unless she had a certificate of compentency.

    I’ve known plenty of people like Gretchen, and I’ve tried to rescue my share. You see it when a person hangs on to an abusive person in their life (like I did with Patrick and others) and you want to warn them to GET AWAY but they keep on going back and back and back.

    I think what we can learn from this story is our own part in the situation and to be able to spot this kind of person and to NOT become involved with them or try to rescue them.

    A therapist told me once that “the ONLY LEGITIMATE RESCUE IS TO PULL AN UNCONSCIOUS PERSON FROM A BURNING BUILDING.” LOL I wish I had listened to her advice 30 years ago. LOL But we learn our lessons when we are ready to learn and not a moment before. Sometimes we never learn the lesson. But if we don’t then, like you said, Sky, we just repeat kicking at the football or staying out all night waiting for the “great pumpkin” Great points, Sky.

  5. I believe that I was groomed to be a codependent, as a child. Not that either of my parents woke up, each morning, and discuss new and improved ways to make certain that I would never be an emotionally healthy adult. Of course, not! But, the dysfunctions of the family dynamics and the actual words that I heard, as a child, left me no doubt that I was the sole individual in charge of everyone’s happiness, health, and well-being. Of course, this is not true, one iota, but that’s how I developed.

    Today………I am living in a completely different world where my choices and decisions are tempered and balanced between fact and feeling. Feelings are real, 100%, and it’s important to acknowledge what I’m feeling. But, most of my feelings aren’t really based upon “facts.” So, where “helping” someone goes, I must observe and make a judgment call based upon objective observations – I might care very deeply about that person on an emotional level, but would I want to conduct BUSINESS with them? Would I trust them with my finances? I am learning and working on finding that balance, and it’s quite a challenge, but it can be done.

    So, it may be that I interact with Gretchen some time down the proverbial road, but it won’t be on the same level. I still most certainly care about her, but I cannot devote any more of my Self in helping her because it appears as if she doesn’t want help, at all. It appears (by her OWN words and actions) that she is trolling for someone to rescue her.

    The inappropriate question of how much I might be receiving from a settlement was like getting slapped in the face with a frozen glove – that’s NONE of her business, nor anyone else’s. And, I believe that she was hoping to talk me into RESCUING her property by moving in and paying her mortgage for her.

    Sorry if it appears that I’m selfish, but I haven’t busted my a$$ to survive this far under the circumstances that I have to jump into someone else’s situations that they created for themselves. I won’t do it. Not for Gretchen, nor anyone else, and this would include ANY loved one that did something to get themselves into serious trouble without taking any responsibility for their own actions.

    I think that’s why this article applies to FamilyArrested: we cannot be expected to “save” or “rescue” offenders in our lives when they keep demonstrating that they are irresponsible and take no action to change themselves. If someone has the CAPACITY to rewire their thinking, excellent. I will stand on the periphery to lend a hand, if need be, while they are taking their own steps. But, I will NOT make myself available to anyone who has no interest or ability to help themselves. I just won’t.


  6. Recently, a man my son has known and been friends with since they were both 14 working at Boy Scout camp had the misfortune to have his home burned to the ground by relatives of his girlfriend, leaving him, his daughter and his girl friend and her two kids homeless. They had several dogs and some poultry that they needed to find a place for these animals to stay while they moved into the home with his mother.

    The man would come to the farm several days a week and help out around here with animal care etc. But things began to go south and over the course of several months I began to see that the relationship between the man and his girlfriend was extremely dysfunctional. He had also had two previous marriages in which it was extremely dysfunctional. I advised him to start some therapy which he did, but I also began to see some troubling aspects to this man, one of which was a rage attack and a suicide threat which was caused he said by his mother calling him “stupid.”

    An addiction to drama seemed to be the operating principle in the personality of both the man, his girl friend, his two ex-wives and even his mother. (his father being deceased) .

    While I realize that neither the friend nor his girl-friend were responsible for their home being burned by her family (who are being prosecuted for said crime) they are not making an effort to secure another permanent residence, though they have an income sufficient to support it, they spend their money in such a way that they are “always broke” at the end of each month, and they keep the drama going.

    The friend has departed leaving behind the family’s poultry and pet bird (a very large and loud bird) but I was unwilling to take on the responsibility for caring for their dogs and other animals for the long term. Of course the man became very angry at me because I expected HIM to be ultimately responsible for caring for his dogs and other animals.

    My attempt to “help” these people was a lost cause because they were unwilling to assume responsibility for finding a place to live where they could have the multiplicity of animals and dogs.

    The thing I am proud of though is that I did not become emotionally involved in this drama, but set firm boundaries (which he did not like) even though he became quite angry at me for those boundaries.

    It has taken me a life time to be willing to help someone without becoming enabling of them. Helping someone who has suffered something like their home burning is an OK thing, but assuming all responsibility for them from there on out is not in the cards. Setting boundaries of how much “help” you are willing and able to provide keeps us from falling into enabling.

  7. I recently received an e mail from a woman I will call “Sue” whose daughter has serious mental illness issues that the daughter, whom I will call “Ann,” self medicates with alcohol and possibly other things.

    Ann was recently arrested when she got drunk and/or high in a public place and acted out. The police were called and Ann struck at the officers, so she has several charges that could be severe felonies.

    Ann was placed at first in a solitary “mental” cell but wanted out in the general population.

    Ann’s mother asked my advice on what to do as this was the first time Ann had been arrested. Sue did not want to pauper herself with bail (and I agree that at this point bail would be a bad idea). Ann is now in General population and scheduled to appear before the judge.

    Sue and her husband are devastated and love and fear for their daughter, but Ann doesn’t want them to “control her life” which is a very typical response from the mentally ill toward those who love and want to help and protect them.

    Sue and her husband were allowed a visit with Ann through a glass divider. Ann is now saying she has found Jesus and doesn’t want to mess up her life like some of the women in the general population.

    Someone posted on face book the following statement today and I could so relate to it.

    “When our souls are hungry, we want to believe what we are told.”

    Many times my soul has been so hungry that I believed and “ate” what was offered only to find out it was not what it appeared to be.

    I advised Sue and her husband to take a “tough love stance” with their daughter and if the bail is reduced to where they can afford it, that they might speak to the judge and put some conditions on their daughter about her seeing a mental health professional and taking her medications, and if the judge does not impose these rules on their daughter that they will not take her home with them.

    First off I think this will impress the judge that their daughter is indeed mentally ill and though she did cause a public situation and struck an officer, she has no previous criminal record and the officer was not injured, and that the parents want their daughter to be a functional human being. Along with maybe daily AA meetings, and assign her some chores at home, and actually write up a contract with the daughter that she must sign if she is to go home with them.

    I hope and pray that this family is successful in getting life long help for their daughter and that they can actually help her, but in order for any help to succeed the person must be willing to help themselves.

Leave a Reply