An enabler or rescuer is a person whose actions make it easy for someone with an addiction or who is dependent upon something to keep on in their poor behavior. The person you are aiding could be doing any of the following: drinking too much, abusing drugs, getting arrested, gambling, have an eating disorder or even working too much or not enough.
If you are protecting or covering up for another by making excuses or lying for them, you can become overly dependable to compensate for them. The intent is to give support to the other that they might end their substance abuse or whatever it may be that is their addiction. To the contrary, by helping in such a way, you are making it possible for the dependency or bad habit to continue. No matter how well-intended your actions may be, by saving them from unpleasant situations, in reality, you are helping them avoid responsibility they should be taking for themselves and their behavior.
Maybe you find yourself thinking or focusing on the others behavior and problems more than your own or are feeling anxious about their behavior and are constantly checking up on them. Maybe you even blame yourself for their problems. Maybe you're not even conscious of the fact your actions and behavior of becoming a caretaker is enabling the person.
A lot of the time when a codependent enables another it is satisfying a need within them to feel needed and to provide order within what they see as a chaotic situation. Whether you provide the other in some way or sometimes by saying nothing, you are enabling.
Enabling can be a clear sign of low self-esteem. It can be because you haven't acquired the skill to be able to say no. It could be the fear of losing the other person's love. Every time you respond to what you see as negligent behavior, whether you say so by speaking up or not, you become a rescuer and enable their behavior to continue.
As codependents, we struggle with the need for being in search of approval from others. We also fear being abandoned or rejected, which is why we end up rescuing or enabling another. In our minds, we believe we will be found worthwhile and a success because we've helped another. Maybe we're just avoiding conflicts and problems that we know would arise if we were to voice our opinions. As an enabler, we are determined to protect the other person even if we must sacrifice something in our own life. We believe we can "fix" whatever problem the other faces. We always think it is the other person that is the one who needs help. When it comes right down to it, it is both who are in need of guidance.
Once we realize things are the way they are because of our enabling and when we decide to seek help, where do we turn? First, it is important to realize that we are not the cause of the other person's problem. We must realize that we cannot control the other or cure what we see as their problem. It might be hard, but we must stop coming to the others aid. Don't lie for them or try to cover up or make excuses for them. Set limits on what you will or won't put up with or do. Once the other realizes that you won't be coming to their aid or rescuing them every time, they will become accustomed to taking care of themselves more often.
Excerpted from I'm Sorry By Jay Krunszyinsky
When you were a child, did you grow up in a home where your parents or caretakers took little to no responsibility for their problems or behaviors? Did you witness a parent support the behavior of the other regardless of how destructive it was? A parent providing this support was an enabler. A parent bases his or her enabling on manipulation and dishonesty that hurts others in subtle ways. Children are robbed of their ability to see a relation-ship clearly due to the inconsistent messages of the enabling parent. Children are also reinforced for depending heavily on their codependent parent, which robs them of their own development in decision-making.
Angela Miller wrote about the enabler:
When not in check, I will:
Pick up your shoes
Carry your pack
Pay your traffic ticket
Lie to your boss
Do your homework
Remove rocks from your path
And strip you of the joy
Of saying, "I did it myself!"
Do you possess codependent traits? Codependent personalities evolve from attempts to keep some type of order in a hurtful relationship. The term codependency refers to a relationship where one or both parties enable the other to act in certain maladaptive ways. Many times, the act of enabling satisfies a need for the codependent person because his or her actions foster a dependency from the other person or persons in the relationship. Did your family have an alcoholic or drug-dependent parent? To enable the parent with the addiction, the codependent parent makes excuses and lies for the addict, which enables the addiction to continue. Codependency is reinforced by a person's need to be needed. The enabler thinks irrationally by believing he can maintain healthy relationships through manipulation and control. He believes he can do this by avoiding conflict and fostering dependency. Is it rational for someone to think that he can maintain a healthy relationship when he does not address problems and he lies to protect others from their responsibilities? The way a codependent person can continue to foster this dependency from others is by controlling situations and people around him. As a child, you may have been reinforced to comply with actions and decisions of a parent instead of being afforded opportunities to challenge those actions that you found to be wrong. Can you see how these types of messages could foster the development of irrational thinking? The ongoing themes in a codependent home are to avoid conflicts and problems and to make excuses for destructive or hurtful behavior. Scott is a seventeen-year-old boy who knew that he needed to be by his mother's side in order to protect her from his father. His mother told him how much she loved him and needed him. Scott was a well-built boy who was popular in school. Many of the girls in his class liked him. He grew fond of one of the girls and asked her out on a date. Scott's mother did not approve of him going out with the girl. She went to his father and stated that he needed to do something about his boy who wanted to have sex with girls. Scott and his father got into a physical confrontation, resulting in Scott having to go to the hospital to get a cast put on his broken arm. Scott could not understand why his mother lied when the doctor asked how his arm was broken. Scott and his mother's relationship improved once he stopped dating. Can you relate to Scott? Over time, children develop a dependency on their codependent parent to help them through their life. Their codependent parent's need to be needed makes his relationship dysfunctional and filled with hurt. In many instances, hurt can result from the codependent parent's attempts to keep the peace in the family. Over time, the only way a code-pendent parent can accomplish this is by being manipulative and controlling of relationships. He often controls these relationships by provoking the abusive parent to carry out undeserved punitive action to further promote the child's dependency on the codependent parent.
Why does enabling cause so much hurt in a relationship? What is the harm with trying to keep the peace? Part of this was answered in the previous example. The power afforded to the codependent person in a relationship reinforces his need for control even if he uses inappropriate means to fulfill his need to be in control. A second and overlooked reason centers on the inconsistent messages and unclear expectations presented by someone who is codependent. These characteristics contribute to a relationship filled with irrational thoughts and behavior. This kind of relationship has no clear rules to right and wrong behavior. There are circumstances within a family's composition that leads a parent to act in irrational ways. This, in turn, can contribute to the child's irrational thought processes. Did you know that close to sixty percent of families were headed by a single parent in 1994? Did you also know that 75 percent of families with children had both parents working? These numbers demonstrate the various roles and challenges parents take on today. Did your parents take on job and social roles that took their attention away from you? Many parents are forced to work because of the costs to raise a family. In some families, both parents work in the pursuit of more material wealth. Each endeavor is admirable as long as the family is grounded in a morality that places importance on the relationships within the family unit. A child who experiences rejection from his parent due to these factors will make attempts to redirect the parent's attention. If this fails, the child will find other means to meet his needs, many times acting in maladaptive ways to cope with the stress in his life. He may demonstrate addictive behavior, social withdrawal, or even violence.