If you have tried unsuccessfully on your own to deal with either denial or enabling (or both),
or have tried to help someone else, and feel in need of assistance, there is help here to help
you find long-term resolution for your problems - and assist you in your Emotional, Mental
and Spiritual Healing.
Deerfield, (Yarmouth County) Nova Scotia, Canada, 2000-2019
|Healing & Empowerment:
Workshops & Retreats
Why do people keep on enabling? In part, it is due to those admirable human qualities
of caring, and hoping, and wanting so much for that person to snap out of it, and heal and
recover. So they see what they're doing as attempts at helping. But they're over their heads,
without fully realizing it. Only when the problem has reached a critical stage (has not gone
away, but gotten worse), do they think that they should do something. By then, however,
denial has already set in and it will be much harder to help
Often, they act this way, because they do not know much about such behaviours: or reject
(deny) what they do know; they don't want to deal with it, and they “play along”, and thus
enabling the person to continue with it. Families' (partners') non-acceptance (denial) of the
problem does not help the people with behavioural problems. Families may think they are
helping them by protecting them. However, they soon realize that making excuses
Making excuses, rationalizing and trying to keep the problem hidden only lead to more
trouble. The family (or partner) may attribute the behaviour to a number of things: a bad
childhood, marital problems, or other everyday problems that may happen to everybody,
but that particular person just can't cope with it.
Or . . . they too, may re-label it as an illness or disorder, and thus remove responsibility
(and choice of other options) for the behaviour from that individual.
It is NOT an illness or disorder: it is a CHOICE!
This in turn prevents him/her from receiving the proper help (and responses), but this
also gives support to the denial system. If you are allowing that behaviour to continue you
are an Enabler.
Not only that, you become an accomplice in the con-game. Denial and Enabling in most
cases also result in Codependence.
Addiction counsellors, and often "sponsors" to alcohol "addicts", are often caught in being
"enablers", too. They know that they are doing so - but they continue, because at the same
time they are talking to that person, about things they could give a try at: pointing out
underlying issues that may have caused this and are perpetuating it. They do this in the
hope of getting their client/sponsee to see the light and take that first step back into the
light. It works; but not with everyone. I have been "caught" in that situation many times:
because I refuse to give up on people. There is always hope, and time . . . we never
know when the seeds we plant may take root.
As commonly used, enabling refers to the other participants in the "Let's pretend" - their
part is the "I'm pretending he/she isn't. . . " one. In in this usage, enabling is making
excuses: a case where the others accept the lying, and play along as if it wasn't so: a game
of pretend; - a very sick game - actually, it's their own form of denial. This “enables”, or
facilitates, or makes it possible for, the one with the problem to “get away with it”. It
used to be called “sweeping things under the rug or carpet”. It is also known as "cover-up".
When we compare this to the other, positive use of the word "enable" as the process of
helping someone learn to function better and make better choices, and engage in more
functional behaviours, while healing or recovering from a challenge - or in some cases,
help them adapt to the reality of a challenge that may be permanent - we can readily see
how the wider sense gets lots in the restrictive form.
Returning to the other, restrictive form: a frequently asked question is: why do
people "enable": quite simply, because they love the addict/dysfunctional person (in the
case of alcoholism, the some-time affable, clever and witty alcoholic), they act to protect
them by covering for them: doing the work that they don't get done, paying the bills that
they don't pay, rescuing them from their scrapes with the law and other incidents, and
generally taking up the responsibilities they have abandoned.
The others cover for them by making excuses: For example, in alcoholism, "S/he can't
come in to work today, s/he's got a, err, virus . . . We've got to get him/her out of jail,
s/he'll lose his job! Then what will we do . . . It was my fault, officer, I said some
things I should not have said . . .”
Please note: enabling is not only just connected to alcoholism: it can apply to any
inconsiderate, anti-social, dysfunctional activity, habit, etc.
By doing these things, they are protecting the addict/perpetrator from the consequences
of their actions. S/he never has to feel the real pain caused by his/her drinking.
These well-meaning, but people rush in to put "pillows" under him/her so s/he doesn't
hurt her/himself in the fall. Consequently, the addict/perpetrator never finds out how it
feels to fall. Together, they become Codependents.
Thus, by the time the "disease" has gotten to the crisis point, the "addict" has developed a
support system of family and friends. These people that are close to the person who is
developing an unacceptable behaviour pattern, become adept at overlooking or avoiding
This negative for of enabling is a delusion - with everyone pretending that
the "problem" doesn't exist! Although the dysfunctional behaviour (substance abuse,
or other) has placed them (in their minds) in a helpless and dependent position, the
addict/perpetrator can continue to believe s/he is still independent because s/he has been
rescued from his/her troubles, and absolved from ownership and responsibility, by her/his
well-meaning family, friends, co-workers, employers and sometimes clergymen and
The roles these enablers play to "help" the addict/perpetrator can be just as obsessive and
harmful as the alcoholic's drinking. With these enabling devices in place, the addict/
perpetrator is free to continue in the progression of his/her dysfunction, with her/his
denial intact, until s/he perhaps reaches the point of hitting bottom, at which point even
the most dedicated addict/dysfunctional perpetrator must finally admit there is a problem.
But there is no way for them to ever hit bottom when it's always covered with pillows.
Enabling hinders someone from admitting to, and changing a self-harmful behaviour like
an addiction, self-neglect, or a disabled true-Self, by not confronting them respectfully.
The line between short-term compassion and long-term enabling can be hard to see.
Has anyone ever impeded your growth by withholding some important feedback about
you? Have you ever been enabled and kept from growing and healing?
Are you an enabler?
It is better to become the other kind of enabler- the healing facilitation one.
facilitating the status quo for Addicts and Dysfunction:
Helping others avoid Ownership and Responsibility
|Dawn Cove Abbey
Providing "Roadside Assistance" for your Journey through Life
- Dedicated to helping people return (and maintain) sanity and decency to life -
From, "One! The Journey hOMe", the eBook by Klaas Tuinman M.A © 2007-19
Questions and comments welcomed.
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To "enable", means to activate, initiate, or make something possible,
or to help someone function more capably through a personal challenge
of some sort or kind - or to find, or provide something for them
that will help them do so (including "bad" habits and addictions).
"Enable" is one of those words in our language that has a somewhat
broad range of meaning, and thus like so many others that are that
way, become indistinct, and frequently misused (and/or
misunderstood). Mostly, their "meaning" is meant to become evident
in the context of the sentence - yet they often fail to do so.
The word "enabling is a perfect example of the danger (and limiting
aspects of "labels", because there are often more than one possible
meanings of it. Related article: Communication-Language).
"Enable" in restrictive form - a "label". In recent years the word
"enable" has virtually become more and more like a label, a
restrictive one that is used when speaking about, or dealing with
addictions and dysfunctional lifestyles. And the problem with labels
is that quite quickly after adopting them, most people can't see past
them, and thus lose the wider, more positive sense.
In that context, its meaning describes reactions and actions that
"over-look", or "excuse" the activity or behaviours - it is also used
as a synonym for "rescuing", in that context, and those who do so
are referred to as enablers.