Enabling Vs. Helping   Print  E-mail 

Dr. Carolyn Juergenson-Sheets, more often known as "Carol the Coach", on when a loved one cares so much for another that they are obsessing about the well-being of another, and how that can lead them into falling into the trap of "doing too much" for that person to the point that you end up hurting, not helping them...

Often times in counseling, I work with well-meaning clients who find themselves consumed with another person. Maybe their spouse is severely depressed and not participating in the family. Sometimes it’s a parent whose child has severe emotional and behavioral problems; the child is frequently engaged in scuffles with the law, school, or peers.

When a loved one cares so much for another that they are obsessing about the well-being of another they can easily fall into the trap of ‘doing too much’ for that person. When that situation occurs I must teach my client the concept of when you help, you hurt.

If you have a partner who is not doing their share because of alcoholism, workaholism, depression or some other illness, it is very important not to pick up their slack. When you help, you deprive them of the natural consequences of seeing how their behavior affects others.

If you have a child who continually makes poor choices, and you are going into financial debt for the best attorneys you are not helping! As you bail them out of their predicament you are not letting them experience the universal law that when they make poor choices, bad things will happen. As a parent you prolong the inevitable because eventually the child will not have you to insulate them from consequences.

If you find that you are emotionally and financially supporting someone who can’t seem to get their act together, it is you that needs the help, because when you support someone, pay all the bills, pick up the slack at home, and provide all the extras…you are hurting them by helping them. That person is deprived of knowing how it feels to contribute to the relationship and feel good about their contribution.

So often, the helper or enabler wants to stop helping, but they trick themselves into believing if they just help this one last time it will make the difference. My work with helpers like this is to get to the root of the problem, which is always their FEARS.

• A young woman who supports her boyfriend totally in their apartment was afraid that he would leave her if she stopped.
• The parents who kept bailing their child out of trouble was fearful that their child would end up in jail if they stopped.
• The woman who overcompensated for her depressed husband by being the total provider and household manager was afraid her husband would wither away without her.
• The partner who overcompensated for his alcoholic wife was afraid she would walk out of his life and potentially be swallowed up by a dangerous world.

Unfortunately, there are no guarantees that your loved one’s situation won’t worsen; however, helping doesn’t help…it hurts if it’s repetitive.

• You teach them to expect to be bailed out by others
• You rob them of the true reality of life by not letting them experience the natural consequences
• You prolong the inevitable
• You send discouraging messages that they really can’t get their life together.

In these situations, you can only change yourself. Get honest about your fears and let go. Remember the saying, when I help, I hurt. IT’S THE START OF BREAKING IMPORTANT PATTERNS. A PATTERN THAT STARTED WITH YOU.

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