Enabling behavior is born out of our instinct for love. It’s only natural to want to help someone we love, but when it comes to certain problems — helping is like throwing a match on a pool of gasoline.
According to Webster, “to enable” is to provide the means or the opportunity, to make practical or easy, to make feasible or possible. Enabling can be a positive behavior; it is instinctual to want to help our loved ones when in need.
So what’s wrong with helping when someone you love is participating is self-destructive behaviors? Whether it is drugs and alcohol, or texting while driving, enabling can exacerbate the problem.
As stated at the beginning, enabling is defined as making possible or easy. In this case, behaviors by family members allow individuals with self-destructive behaviors to avoid the negative consequences that may accompany their actions. There are many ways in which this behavior can manifest. In addition, enabling behavior can be instigated by various individuals such as parents, friends, doctors, therapist, the police, attorneys, judges, neighbors, co-workers, boss, etc.
The problem with enabling is that you may provide the means or the opportunity, to make practical or easy for the person with the self-destructive behavior to get worse and perhaps lead to their incarceration, or even their death.
Some examples of enabling are:
- Rescuing – trying to fix the problem – denial that the problem exist.
- Blaming others for the problem defending the self-destructive behavior, allowing it to continue “If his coach was not so hard on him – I’d want to escape too” Doing for them what they can do for themselves.
- Excusing their behavior – “it’s just a little pot – she could be doing more.”
- Ignoring the problem to avoid the ensuing argument and emotional and sometimes physical attacks.
- Repeatedly bailing your loved one out of legal, financial or any “rock or a hard place.”
- Never letting them go to the Hard Place.
- Can’t beat them -joining them in their destructive behavior.
- Accepting their justifications, excuses and rationalizations.
- Generally covering the tracks of the individual in question whether it be by giving/loaning money, finishing up work, or just generally ignoring behaviors that should have repercussions. Usually the enabler stays silent when faced with repeated inappropriate or destructive behavior.
- Calling your spouse, child, significant other off from work or school when they clearly participated in self destructive behavior.
- Trying to fix and control the problem
- Giving them “one more chance- maybe this time he/she change”. Then giving them another “this is your last chance – and another and another – wishing the problem will magically go away.”