Are You an Enabler? | 9.1.2021

Do you tend to make excuses for the behavior or choices of others? Do you want to rescue or save others? Do you want to help people and end up feeling exhausted? Are you working harder than the other person? Do you do things for others or stuff your feelings just to keep the peace? Do you rationalize or minimize other people’s choices or behavior in order to keep from being embarrassed? These are all key questions when exploring whether or not you are an enabler. 

What exactly does it mean to be an enabler? Enablers have good intentions of helping other people yet they provide solutions and fix things for others preventing them from suffering their own consequences. Ultimately, people never learn the lessons they need in order to make better choices and grow. Enablers end up doing the work for them and the person floats along without solving their problems.  

There is a big difference between enabling and equipping people. When we equip someone, we give the person the information or guidance and then let that person make their own decisions. We let go of the outcome and understand it is out of our control and the other person has to want to help themselves. 

We also let the person know they can handle it on their own. We understand we are doing a disservice to another if we try to save or rescue them. They have to want to help themselves. We model what it looks like to have good boundaries by saying “no” when necessary. There is an understanding that we are all responsible for our own decisions. We empower others to step into who they are and help them learn from every decision they make.

On the other hand, an enabler tends to want to save and rescue others. Enabling doesn’t allow the other person to make their own choices and understand the connection to the consequences. Many people have to learn from experience in order to not repeat the same mistakes. Enablers have a hard time seeing someone struggle and learn from their own choices. They take responsibility for others' choices and somehow feel responsible themselves. 

We can often see an enabling pattern with parents. The best job we can do as parents equip our children so they can make the best choices. Let them learn from their own choices and understand the cause and effect between choices and consequences both positive and negative. Ask yourself, “Am I equipping or enabling them?” before taking action.

-Kristen D Boice M.A., LMFT, EMDR Trained

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