“The reasonable man attempts to adapt to his environment. The unreasonable man attempts to adapt the environment to himself. Therefore the unreasonable man is the hope of the world.” – GB Shaw
Richie is a drunk. He gets into fights. He gets thrown out of clubs.
He lost his license at a DWI stop a while back so he hangs out with Fred. Fred goes out to all the bars with him, makes sure he gets home safe and has rescued him several times from getting into scuffles.
Julie is a prima donna at work. She constantly gets into fights with other employees, refuses to take any cristicism whatsoever, and constantly berates her fellow employees. But she’s the daughter of one of the higher-ups. Her supervisor can’t touch, her, has to put up with her. Employee after employee requests to be transferred, or just quits, rather than put up with Julie’s childish rants.
George has a temper. Actually he has a lot of problems, but one of them is that he can fly off the handle at the slightest offense. He’ll be your friend for a while, but when he decides he doesn’t need you around anymore he becomes vindictive and even paranoid. After his final blowup he accuses you of all kinds of evil behaviour you are simply not capable of. But George has a friend, Greg, Greg is a nice guy, and one of George’s oldest friends
Greg takes it upon himself to constantly keep George contained. He even intervenes on his behalf. When a former girlfriend of George’s threatended a restraining order Greg talked her out of it.
If you recognize any of these situations, you are familiar with a certain breed of friend, the Enabler:
Enablers are the enforcers of bad behavior. Without them a person could not get away with behaving badly. With them a person can put off the negative effects of their actions almost indefinitely.
Think about the three situations here. In the first, without Fred Rich goes to jail. Gets help for his anti-social behavior. Becomes a better person. Thanks a lot, Fred.
In the second, if the bosses realized their daughter Julie’s horrible behavior she’d be fired. She would feel the humiliation and all the other effects of her bad behavior. And though she might keep on blaming those around her for her misfortunes, ultimately she will have to face up to her bad social and work habits.
In that last example, George possibly suffers from borderline personality disorder (BPD). People with this condition are often former addicts and alcoholics.They may seem fine for a while, even affectionate and loving. But eventually their personality goes “over the border” and they become filled with rage and hatred for the very people they love.
When Greg keeps the ex girlfriend from getting the restraining order he allows George to carry on his rage attacks. Eventually someone is going to get hurt, and it could very will be Greg.
If the restraining order were in place George might be forced to get counseling, where he would see how his behavior is ruining his life.
In these examples (which are obviously fictitious and in no way meant to depict anyone I have known except maybe in the most general sense), the person who is Enabling is in a “co-dependent” relationship with the person they are enabling.
The person who is addicted or has BPD is known as the co-dependent in these scenarios. It is important to remember that co-dependants often actively seek out enablers! They look to keep people around them who can “save” them.
So if you find yourself being an “enabler” just do one thing: Stop it. Never ever cover up or make excuses for another person’s bad behavior.
No matter what the consequences might turn out to be.
Yes, make yourself available as a shoulder to cry on
Yes, give the person advice and perspective if asked
Yes, let them know they are loved and lovable
Do not try to “Clear things up” between them and another person
Do not tell them that you will be there for them no matter what. They need to know that there is a point at which even YOU could be pushed away.
Do not offer to assist them in any way that will prevent them from feeling the full effects of their bad behavior.
For information on any of the topics discussed here just Google “enabler” “co-dependent” “Borderline Personality Disorder”