What is the difference between being "supportive
" and being "enabling
is doing something for someone else that they are unable
to do for themselves. Ex. picking up the kids from daycare because your partner is stuck in traffic.Enabling
is doing things for someone else that they can
and should be
doing for themselves. Ex. calling in sick for them, doing more than your fair share of chores.
When we enable people (addicts, children, friends or family) we prevent them from experiencing the consequences of their own actions. We are also preventing them from realizing they have a problem and depriving them of fully reaching their own potential. Our efforts to help them wind up contributing to them staying sick and dependent on us. The relationship gets worse as both people respond in more and more unhealthy behavior.
Over time the enabler (us rescuer nons) become resentful and angry over how much we wind up helping others. We lose site of how to break the cycle of “helping others”. Also, the “help” provided to others (especially those lacking the motivation and determination to stand on their own two feet), can become a long-term expectation and even an outright demand, where the other person now expects us to "do" everything thing for them. They essentially play the helpless needy victim while we portray ourselves as the self sacrificing martyr.
So why do so many of us engage in enabling behavior?
* Because we confuse helping someone with doing it for them.
* Because we are pressured and manipulated into believing that we should do things for others.
* Because we fear the consequences if we don’t do things for them.
* Because we base our self esteem on helping others.
We tend to want to rescue and protect our loved ones from experiencing any pain or getting angry with us or pull away from us.
Of course, it is easy to see how the Rescuer can become the primary enabler for an addict or alcoholic, but she can also become the primary enablers for the Big Baby, the Victim or the Runaway. Enabling is what the Rescuer does. The definition of enabling here is the unconscious encouragement of another's dis-ability. Not another's disability, but another's dis-ability. In other words, whatever it is that the other person is refusing to do for him or herself, that's exactly what the Rescuer will do. This encourages the other person to continue to refuse to do it for him or herself.
ypically, the first question the Rescuer will ask when this information is given to him is: "Well, how do you know they are refusing to do it; how do you know that they simply can't do it?" The answer? Stop doing it for her and watch what happens. Typically, he already knows what happens because he's seen it several times by now: "She pitches a holy fit!" Or, "She gets really pitiful." Or, she ups the ante by getting sicker or more needy in someway--even sometimes going as far as to threaten or even attempt suicide. It is interesting that the poor Victim, now turned Bully, can put all of this enormous energy into pitching a fit, getting pitiful or upping the ante, but can't find one ounce of energy to save herself.
How many times have your kids told you they were too tired to help out, yet found the necessary energy to go out and play with their friends?
How often have you listened as they complained about their sore back lying in bad all day, while you get home from work, take care of the kids, prepare dinner, clean the house, etc?
Have you been the subject of emotional blackmail, where they tell you to fix/solve/save them or else?
What does support look like to you?
What does enabling look like to you?