Enabling & Rescuing vs Tough Love
“We cannot begin to make progress in learning to Love ourselves until we start being kind to ourselves in healthy ways. A very important part of being kind to ourselves is learning how to say no, and how to set, and be able to defend, boundaries.
Unconditional Love does not mean being a doormat for other people – unconditional Love begins with Loving ourselves enough to protect ourselves from the people we Love if that is necessary.”
“We live in a society where the emotional experience of “love” is conditional on behavior. Where fear, guilt, and shame are used to try to control children’s behavior because parents believe that their children’s behavior reflects their self-worth.
In other words, if little Johnny is a well-behaved, “good boy,” then his parents are good people. If Johnny acts out, and misbehaves, then there is something wrong with his parents. (“He doesn’t come from a good family.”)
What the family dynamics research shows is that it is actually the good child – the family hero role -who is the most emotionally dishonest and out of touch with him/herself, while the acting-out child – the scapegoat – is the most emotionally honest child in the dysfunctional family.”
(All quotes in this color are from Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls)
Enabling is a term used in 12 step recovery to describe the behavior of family members, or other loved ones, who rescue an alcoholic or drug addict from the consequences of their own self destructive behavior. It also relates to rescuing anyone who is caught up in any of the compulsive and/or addictive self destructive behaviors that are symptoms of codependency: gambling; spending; eating disorders; sexual or relationship addictions; inability to hold a job; etc.
Codependency recovery is in one sense growing up. As long as we are caught in unconscious reaction to our childhood wounding we cannot become mature responsible adults capable of healthy, Truly Loving relationships. The person who is caught up in self destructive compulsive/addictive behavior patterns behaves in an immature and irresponsible manner.
[As I note often in my writing, codependency involves extremes of behavior. The immature, irresponsible, self destructive codependent is one extreme of the spectrum – usually the person who is genetically an addictive personality. At the other extreme, is the codependent who is over responsible and/or other focused – and can appear to be very mature and successful, with no need of being rescued. This is often the adult who as a child was being the parent in the family – rescuing and taking care of their own immature parents from a very young age. The family hero or caretaker who defines themselves by external accomplishments, popularity, possessions, superiority to others, etc.
This person can be a workaholic, or exercise/health fanatic, or religion addict, or a professional caretaker (therapist, nurse, etc.), or “kind hearted” martyr (who is passively controlling by avoiding conflict and thus set up to be the “wronged” victim) – some type of controlling personality who feels superior to others based upon their seeming ability to be in control of their lives according to certain external criteria. The external criteria can range from being financially successful to being successful in never getting angry – and are dysfunctional codependent measures of worth based upon comparison to, upon feeling superior to, other people. These varieties of codependency are not capable of healthy, Truly Loving relationships either.]
A person who is acting out self destructively has no reason to change if they do not ever suffer major consequences for their behavior. If they are rescued from consequences, they are enabled to continue .
An intervention is a confrontation of self destructive behavior by the addicts loved ones. It is often professionally facilitated – although that is not a necessary requirement. It involves the family and friends of an alcoholic/addict confronting the self destructive behavior