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Recently, I’ve been reflecting on the topic of enabling.

What I write in this article is my perception and perspective. I’m not a medical expert and do not have university psychological training. I’m reflecting on the word “enabling” based on my experience and my conduct. I’ve grown in leaps and bounds but on occasion it still rears its ugly head.

The hardest part about admitting I’m an enabler is looking at the intentions of my conduct. My perception tells me I’m being loving, thoughtful, accommodating, understanding, forgiving, looking-the-other-way, empowering and supportive.

How can that be wrong? How can I possibly be labeled an enabler?

It’s not these characteristics that define enabling. It’s the conduct and motive behind the behavior. The root of ‘why I do what I do’ is the enabling part.

Sorry to break it to ya, but fear is the root of all enablers. And fear distorts our lens on reality and we end up responding in a way that is unhealthy.

If I don’t show support, the person will think I’m selfish.

If I don’t show understanding, the person will think I’m controlling.

If I complain, the person will think I’m high maintenance and needy.

If I get upset, the person will think I’m irrational.

If I express my honest thoughts, the person will think I’m picking a fight.

If I feel hurt, the person will think I’m projecting my issues.

If I say no, the person will think I’m unloving.

If I don’t agree, the person will get mad at me.

So I better not act in these ways, whatsoever! After all, I don’t want people to think of me in this light.

An enabler is worried of how they’ll be perceived.

Will you think I’m selfish?

Will you think I’m controlling?

Will you think I’m needy?

Will you think I’m irrational?

Will you think I’m picking a fight?

Will you think I’m projecting my issues on to you?

Will you think I’m unloving?

Will you think I’m causing problems?

Will you think I’m unsupportive?

Will you think I’m thoughtless?

Will you think I’m inflexible?

Will you get mad at me?

It was 2009 when I went through counseling and at that time was told I was an enabler. This diagnosis was a true gift. What enlightenment! Thank you doctor! I had no idea! It transformed me and launched me on a new path; a path where I learned to find my voice.

How do you stop being an enabler?

  1. Seek professional counseling. The doctor will move you through this healing much faster than you can do it on your own.
  1. The phrase I started to say, and continue to help others say who struggle with this similar vice, is: “This is not ok with me.” By using this simple phrase, it allows opportunity for conversation. You are not projecting. You are not being unloving. You are not being unsupportive. You are merely stating how it makes you feel. In a healthy relationship, the person you are speaking to will want to hear more and the conversation will have a mutual dialogue, a mutual engagement. Start with this simple phrase and grow your confidence.

Mutual empowerment on how we feel and think is healthy. One person catering to another’s wishes, thoughts, actions, wants, needs – but is not reciprocated – is not healthy. If the game is one-way, you may want to explore the dysfunction of enablement.

Karen Thrall




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