They Come in All Ages
And Stages of Life
An enabler is defined as a person who, through his or her actions allows someone else to achieve something. In most instances, the term enabler is associated with people who allow a loved one to behave in ways that are destructive.
As a psychologist, I've seen enablers who contribute to the negative behaviors of their toddler, all the way to the range of those who enable a spouse to continue to engage in substance or physical abuse. In many cases, the enabler does not recognize what they are doing, or that their own actions are harmful to their loved ones.
Not only do enablers fail to recognize that they are contributing to the negative behavior, but they often find it difficult to accept that, with change in their own behavior, they may help the one they are enabling make positive changes.
In my practice, one of the main reasons people drop out of therapy is because they do not see the need for change. There is an old quote, attributed to Albert Einstein that says insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
Another favorite saying of mine is "don't trip over the elephant in the living room". People go to great lengths to not see the core of a problem, even accepting that they are the reason a spouse drinks or abuses them.
Fear of abandonment, or that they will no longer be loved, is, in my opinion one of the strongest reasons the enabler is resistant to change. Those who are dealing with an alcohol or drug addict may fear that if they put pressure on their loved one to quit, they will leave them. And, in reality this does occur because the addiction can be stronger than the love they have for the enabler. I try to convey to individuals with these fears that boundaries must be set, and that to do nothing can be greater than taking a stand for change.
Parents often bring children in when they are faced with behavior problems they cannot handle. It may be the school or youth court who requests help for the child, or the parents may have reached the point helplessness due to the child's oppositional or criminal behavior. It is difficult for them to take this step, but is becomes even more difficult when, in family therapy, they learn that changes in their own behavior is needed before the child's behavior will improve.
Just this morning, I heard a mother complain that it was her fault that her seventeen year old son couldn't mow the lawn. She reasoned that it was because she had not purchased gas for the mower. She didn't take into consideration that the son had his own car, as well as money in his pocket to buy gas for the car.
I've seen women who come into the office with bruises and blood shot, blackened eyes due to abuse of a significant other. Sadly, some of these abused women believe that it is their fault, and come in talking of what they did to cause this behavior. Excuse me! No one deserves to be kicked and punched like a punching bag. Failure to place the blame where it lies only leads to more abuse. It gives the abuser a license to continue.
Fortunately, there are those who exhaust all means of trying on their own who do come into therapy with an open mind. It is these enablers who learn to set boundaries, learn to take care of their own needs, and to place responsibility for negative behaviors back onto the one who does it. When this happens, the chances of improvement for the loved one also increases.
If you feel that you may be an enabler, I encourage you to seek help. I have years of experience working with those who have had problems being an enabler. There are also additional resources such as Al Anon for those involved with someone who is a substance abuser. There is hope for you and your loved one, but the first step is to ask for it.
DR. NONA OWENS
580 SPRINGRIDGE RD.
CLINTON, MS. 39056
Child, Adult, and Family Therapist | Psychologist | Clinton | Jackson| Vicksburg | Brandon | Magee | Depression | Anxiety | ADHD | ADHD Testing | Divorce Recovery | Children in Divorce | Relationship Problems | ACOA| Co-Dependence | Grief Recovery | Oppositional Defiant Disorder | Medicaid