What is Enabling

Discussion in 'Parent Emeritus' started by Tanya M, May 8, 2015.

  1. Tanya M

    Tanya M Living with an attitude of gratitude Staff Member

    This pretty much sums it up.

    https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/27/Easy Child/70/27ec70307ad018bc8062b60115e9feec.jpg
    • Winner Winner x 5
    • Like Like x 3
    • Agree Agree x 1
    • List
  2. Childofmine

    Childofmine one day at a time

    Wow, I love this graphic. All right there, in a nutshell. Very helpful as a focus and a reminder. Thanks Tanya!
  3. pasajes4

    pasajes4 Well-Known Member

  4. recoveringenabler

    recoveringenabler Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Thanks Tanya.

    "Why we do it...guilt, fear, control, (but we may call it love)"

    I especially liked this part because it names something I believe is extremely challenging for us parents to identify......that enabling is NOT love and in fact harms the other and ourselves. That part can remain in the shadows forever, lurking there like the elephant in the room, but never acknowledged....and yet running the show. The never-ending complete focus on our kids keeps us from seeing that truth, thereby staying stuck in the cyclical pattern of enabling. We can't fix what we don't acknowledge.
    • Like Like x 1
    • Agree Agree x 1
    • List
  5. Scent of Cedar *

    Scent of Cedar * Well-Known Member

    We fall into it innocently enough, at first. But all the rest of it is true. It is difficult to know where that line is. We sense it, but we seem to have no choice. We sense that what we're doing isn't working, I mean. (Well, duh!) In the end, we have dug ourselves in so deeply that we cannot see, and at the same time, we cannot not see.

    Recovering is right. We cannot fix what we refuse to see.

    But we can't just say, "Huh. Sucks to be you, kid.", either.

    So we have to be strong, and we have to do that very thing on faith. So here is a question: For those of us who have managed to get to that "Sucks to be you, kid." place...I mean, is that where you got to? Or do you feel that as nothing else is working, this is the position you choose?

    If we (if I) could be that parent who could believe "Sucks to be you." then I could also be that parent individualized enough to celebrate the successes of my children in just that same casual way. Part of my thing is how...okay. How codependent I am with my kids.

    I hate that term codependent.

    I should have known there was too much unacceptance there for it to be anything but denial.


  6. ForeverSpring

    ForeverSpring Well-Known Member

    We can enable others besides our children too. I realized I enabled my sister's choice to stay with abusive boyfriend by spending hours on the phone talking to her about him. I stopped. She was upset and left. But I needed to get off the crazy train as it was affecting MY Stress level.
    Not my circus. Not my monkey. When ur problems stress me out and u do nothing to change...at some point I have to get out. This applies to all people you deal with, kids included, but not just kids.
    • Agree Agree x 3
    • Like Like x 1
    • List
  7. recoveringenabler

    recoveringenabler Well-Known Member Staff Member

    I believe enabling/codependency/rescuing/enmeshment or whatever name we want to call it, is an issue that develops in those of us who are impacted, very early, long before our kids are involved. It is a way of being in the world, born out of unhealthy families where who we are is dictated by performance and conditions, not love. My understanding is it is fear based. We are not aware of it in ourselves. Not to say love is not involved, but it is contaminated by unhealthy boundaries or no boundaries between ourselves and "the other."

    I think there is a vast area between enabling and "it sucks to be you." That feels more like "either/or" thinking which would tend to keep one stuck because both options are not healthy or appropriate. Plus, "it sucks to be you" sounds like a lack of compassion and caring, which is not the case at all.

    For me, it took time and a lot of professional support to begin to decipher the boundary between me and "the other" the lines had been blurred for so long I really had no idea where I ended and someone else began. As a result, my preoccupation with "the other" was enormous and in particular with my daughter, her well being, her choices, her lifestyle, somehow became all about ME. I couldn't distinguish the boundary. As I began to heal from it, I could distinguish that boundary and stop taking everything personally about her life. Once I could identify that, letting go of her was a natural occurrence. Then she and I were both free. That freedom allowed her to make choices not based on my approval, or judgement or anything about me, but choices she needed to make for herself. And, I also had that freedom. My freedom was not based on my perceptions of what kind of mother I was or if I had failed nor did my daughter's choices or lifestyle somehow determine my worth...... now my worth is completely my own, based on who I am, not what I do.

    I don't think it's a "position you choose" I think as we heal ourselves, as we recover from enabling (or whatever you want to call it) we naturally move into a healthier way of being which includes learning to love in a different way. In a way that allows the other to to be themselves, whoever that may be.......without our control, our judgments, our blame, our responsibility, or duty, or really, anything about US. The boundaries become obvious and that allows new life to grow for everyone concerned, even if that new life is way different than how we thought it SHOULD turn out.

    In my experience, the healing of this thing we call enabling is not about our kids, it is about us. When we become aware of that and look inside ourselves as opposed to the external view, that's when we can shift the whole thing ......and for me, it was way beyond my daughter, it changed my whole life in almost every possible way. Without the drivers being fear, control and guilt, the level of liberation is extraordinary.

    It is very difficult, in my opinion, to heal from this without someone pointing to it in you when you go into those unhealthy places......for me, I was so used to being a certain way and thinking a certain way and feeling a certain way, especially about myself as a parent, as a mother, that my thinking was so cemented I needed a number of people outside of my sphere to continually support that tiny little part of me that really knew the truth. It is very, very easy to remain in or continue to visit the FOG. Part of the FOG is a determination NOT TO SEE THE TRUTH. In this particular case, the truth will indeed set you free, but not before it takes you out with what feels like something you really don't want to see about yourself. It really messed with my perception of myself as a "good" person, as a"good" mother. So much of my identity was locked up in being a certain way, and that is the part that is necessary to let go of in order to see the truth. Our investment in those "roles" is very strong and the changing of that, the healing of that, feels bad because that false persona has to crumble in order for the healthy self to emerge. Often it requires a safe place where one can allow that process to happen gradually, as we can learn to let go.

    Perhaps if we throw the words enabling, codependency or whatever term is offensive away and simply look at it in a simpler way, it might be easier to understand. For me, in the final analysis, it is learning how to love in a different way, in a way where I am over here and you are over there and love moves freely between us. Love accepts, love allows, love forgives, love doesn't judge or blame or condemn, love doesn't have conditions, it just is. Learning that saved my life and I believe saved my daughters life too.
    • Winner Winner x 3
    • Like Like x 1
    • List
  8. Iwantpeace

    Iwantpeace Member

    I'm new here and am very impressed the the wisdom in so many. I am no where near the place that it seems some of you have found. I love the post about enabling at the top and I believe I need to copy a lot of these things I've seen posted and put them everywhere. The bathroom mirror, the frig, my car, my phone screen saver! I'm thinking I need to speak it into a recorder and play it back to myself as I drive. It hurts to let go of the HOPE of Difficult Child future. Will those hurtful words stop playing in my mind? Why am I hurt and not angry? I should be angry after finding out all the terrible things (lies) he has told people for years that I never new. I should be angry after the threats and stress in my life. Maybe I will get to that point, for now it seems like all I can do is cry!! There is still a part of me that is in denial. He works and makes his own money. Never ask me for money. He definatley would use me for anything I ever offered, and I offered a lot. He's never been in trouble with the law. Until now, he did break an injunction with the ex so I am waiting to see what happens. He has had some hurtful things happen in his life. Now the other side-, I'm ashamed to admit. I have already told about my property damage He did out of anger because I wouldn't get grandchild for him to see because I beleived he was out of control with adderol. What kind of person would make threats to hurt me or other people? Some of the things he has said, no mother or person should ever hear come out of anyone's mouth. I can answer my own question actually, he's out of control from adderol and maybe Xanax which is a bad combination.
  9. Albatross

    Albatross Well-Known Member

    I think "sucks to be you, kid" can also be expressed as "That must have been so scary/difficult/sad for you. What are you going to do about it?" One is cynical and the other is more about empowerment and hope.

    I love the part about fear/guilt/control but we may call it love.
  10. Tanya M

    Tanya M Living with an attitude of gratitude Staff Member

    For me if one were to get to the "sucks to be you, kid" they would be void of compassion.

    While I no longer enable my son I do still have compassion for him. It's more of "I feel bad for you that your life is a mess"

    I agree with what RE has said about learning to love in a different way, a healthier way.

    I truly don't think any of us planned on enabling our Difficult Child, it just kind of sneaks up on you. As mothers we have always been the one who would make everything ok for our children. When they would scrape their knee they came running to mommy because mommy would make it better, when they were sick we were the ones who were there with them in bathroom while they threw up. Our children relied on us for everything and we were willing to give it.

    The natural course is for the mother and child to gently separate as the child grows into adulthood but for those of us with Difficult Child something went wrong and before we know it we are stuck in that "mommy" mode treating their drug addiction, abuse, thievery, etc.... as though they had a scraped knee. We do whatever we can to make it better. We enable.

    It is the realization that nothing we do is working, we are exhausted, we have nothing left and it's at this point that we can begin the process of letting go and taking our life back.
    • Winner Winner x 3
    • Like Like x 1
    • List
  11. Copabanana

    Copabanana Well-Known Member

    I met a woman in town. We bonded. She was an urban sophisticate. Not a sophisticate, I am urban. We met several times for lunch.

    Knowing that my SO is of a certain ethnicity, she made several subtly disparaging comments about the group. I cringed, but stayed, doubting I had understood correctly. I told her of a bid I made to buy a house. I had played there as a small child and old Mrs. Alcorn had treated me with kindness (there had been for me, not much kindness in those times...but that I did not share.)

    When next we met she told me she was bidding on the same property. I finished the last few bites of lunch. I said nothing.

    She emailed a couple of days later canceling our date for an all day bridge lesson in a large city nearby.

    What did I want to do? she asked.

    Cancel, I replied. Just that.

    How did I want to get the refunded money? Make a date for lunch? Stop by her house? She could send me the money.

    Don't worry about it, I wrote back.

    "I get it" she replied. I'll donate the money.

    "She's trying to insult you," said my SO.

    Feeling insulted but not knowing why, I wrote back. Don't worry. You don't have to donate the money. Thanks for letting me know.

    Again she wrote back.

    Some nonsense.

    I let go.

  12. ForeverSpring

    ForeverSpring Well-Known Member

    Yep, friends, family members outside of our children, co-workers...we can enable anyone by validating something we know is bad for them or we know is bad for us and allowing t hem to keep doing it.

    Ok, humor me. Dumb question here :) What exactly is an urban sophisticate? The only thing I know about that phrase is that it isn't me...lol ;)
  13. InsaneCdn

    InsaneCdn Well-Known Member

    The picture that comes to my mind is... exactly the kind of person that would be part of a typical sorority.
  14. ForeverSpring

    ForeverSpring Well-Known Member

    LOL, Insane.

    I think more of a city person who is dressed up in designer clothes and feel she is pretty special and intellectually superior.And, yes, she probably had been in a sororiety :)
  15. ForeverSpring

    ForeverSpring Well-Known Member

    Ha, ha, Copa. You rock. It's always best to be yourself :) It was maybe not until thirty five that I admitted to myself that I was more earthy and maybe even (gasp) blue collar than my more academic family and the many who sought to be more sophisticated, wealthy, and upscale than they actually were :) I never identified with THAT, but th e idea of growing up in an upscale suburb where most people valued education and THINGS even more than people, it took me a long time to admit that I really get along much better with those who are just down-to-earth average folks and, like me, know nothing about name brand clothes or the makes of various cars :). I know nothing and care nothing about the latest fashion...that HAS to make me a shame to my community ;)

    As soon as I married, and that was young, I fled the suburb and have no fond memories of, what I refer to as, Snobville, IL :) Some people really had money there. Some wanted to have more than they did.

    I grew up near Chicago.
  16. Childofmine

    Childofmine one day at a time

    I have come to believe that the greatest love is allowing people to be who they are. Not trying to change them. To love them. To be fully present with them and not try to fix or control or manage or direct.
    • Winner Winner x 2
    • Agree Agree x 1
    • List
  17. Copabanana

    Copabanana Well-Known Member

    Childofmine, I am having a lot of trouble with this. I am learning to not enable, to some extent.

    I cannot let go of wanting things to be better for him. That he not think in terms of better people, worse people; go back to school; not use people; not act the martyr; following through on necessary medical treatments.

    Each of these wants is a hook. When I speak with him on the phone...the absence as a priority of any of these, crushes me. In fact, it feels degrading. It is as if I feel abused by my son.

    It is if I cannot bear the person he is choosing to be. My love for this child, now a man who almost, I do not like, was the strongest thing in my life.

    I cannot point to one thing that in fact is an objective reason to cut him out of my life. But, I want to. Because I cannot bear the pain.

    Nothing makes it better. Only worse.

    I think the professional I see (who has not met my son) wants me to accept that my son is the way he is because of profound personality deficits or other psychopathology. My SO who is not a professional but knows him well thinks my son is choosing his behaviors.

    Limited by choice or by pathology, which is better? Almost, I envy those of you where drugs are the main problem. At least a person with potential is there if the drugs are stopped.

    Almost, I think my life will never get better, that I will die like this: in chronic pain, despondent, in bed.

    I was a high-functioning woman. Living in foreign countries. A demanding and respected profession.

    A life, atrophied, because I cannot reconcile living with my son like this. As I lose hope for my son, I am losing hope for myself.

    I can see that as long as I was enabling, I could protect myself from this devastating hopelessness. There was the illusion of control, I guess.

    Is there a bottom to this?

    SWOT talks about her family of origin, FOO, who marginalized her because they did not like how she lived, the choices she made. Is wanting to NOT feel this way, because of my son, the same, cruel choice?

    If my son is not capable of living differently, who can I, the only person in the world he has, distance myself? I chose him, adopted him. To me that is an eternal covenant.

    I do not know a way out.
  18. Childofmine

    Childofmine one day at a time

    Oh Copa, change is so very hard. Staying in the same place is so very hard, too. It's ALL very hard.

  19. ForeverSpring

    ForeverSpring Well-Known Member

    You don't have to distance yourself from your son because of who he is, whether he can or can't make better choices. You can learn to accept him. That is what we have to do regarding anybody we are in a relationship with that we love. He was not born wired to be a top executive. He has been drug affected and had a traumatic brain injury, b ut he is still a person in his own right. If he abuses drugs, that is on him. But not being an executive was pretty much not going to happen and you must have realized this, in the back of your mind, when you heard his history.

    You have to understand...you and your son are two very seperate people. Your son's triumphs are not yours. They belong to him. His failures are not yours. Same thing. In the case of adopted children, of which I have three, they do not even share our DNA so may be extremely different from us, but still worthy of our loving them as they are. I did realize this when I adopted. But I also went into it without lofty expectations too. You can change your expectations and this will lessen the pain. Yes, YOU can.

    I was wondering if you were belittled, abused, made to feel horrible about yourself as a kid, like I was. The sooner we accept our childhoods and how it may be affecting us now, the easier it is for us to see our faulty thinking that stops ups from being happy.

    Your quality of life should not depend on what your son does. The only person who can make you happy is you and whereve you go...well...there you are!!!!

    You gave your son, as we all did, every opportunity to be what he wants to be or is capable of being and this is what he is doing right now. Accept it! You may want to google search "Radical Acceptance." It is an awesome concept :)
    • Agree Agree x 2
    • Like Like x 1
    • List
  20. ForeverSpring

    ForeverSpring Well-Known Member

    • Winner Winner x 2
    • Agree Agree x 1
    • List