Best of 2016: Are you an Enabler in your Daily Life?

When we think of the word "enabling," we often think of its use in addictions. You enable an addict when your attempt to help them, hurts them instead. For example, if you decide to pay the rent of a person addicted to a substance, you allow their drug use to continue. They should be paying their own rent and if they cannot, they must suffer the natural consequences involved. If you pay their rent for them, they are allowed to keep using their money however they desire (and inevitably, they desire drugs).

When I discuss enabling with my clients, I usually have to discuss it in the context of addictions first before I can convince them that enabling also happens in other situations. Say for example, that your partner is notoriously known for avoiding conflict. If you generally do not avoid conflict but do so to protect your partner’s feelings, YOU ARE ENABLING YOUR PARTNER’S BAD HABIT, plainly and simply.

What I'm trying to say is that you can enable anyone's bad pattern by letting it happen over and over again without saying a word. Unless they seek counselling, they will behave in this manner indefinitely. So think about it? Are you enabling anyone in your life today? A parent? A child? A colleague? A neighbour? A friend? Do you have an adult child still leaving with you? Are you constantly lending your neighbour money? Are you always finishing your co-workers tasks? These are all examples of enabling outside of an addiction context and they are all common and significant. If you are enabling someone in your life to some degree, it's time to identify it and put a stop to it.  Set your boundaries and honor them one step at a time.

Anna-Maria Tosco, or our Sassy Psychologist, has two masters degrees in the field of psychology and has studied and worked coast to coast. She has worked in both psychiatric and community settings in some of Montreal's most respected healthcare organizations and institutions, and has also given a variety of talks and workshops on neuroplasticity, meditation, and uncovering barriers to love.