Saturday, May 22, 2010

What's "enabling" and why is it harmful?

I don’t follow a lot of celebrity gossip but sometimes hear about something that strikes me, especially when it pertains to my interest in dealing with difficult offspring.

This week I was channel surfing and landed on a Larry King show about Linsday Lohan. I’ve seen her in a couple of movies and this is a talented young woman. She could have a long future in the entertainment business if she survives this stage of her life. She’s apparently had a lot of different problems, and because she is famous, it unfortunately plays out in a very public way. I suspect that compounds the access to trouble and it’s immediately noted whenever anything questionable arises.

The guests on Larry King said she is estranged from her father but close to her mother. Apparently, her father had his share of problems and is now clean and sober. He has been asking for help, asking his daughter and the courts to send her to a treatment facility, asking that the family go to therapy together. The guests indicated that the mother is not on the same page.

I’m sure someone out there follows celebrity gossip and knows more, but only the individuals involved know the whole story.

The details of this case are less important to me than the fact that this is a family that needs help.

It struck me when two of the guests said that when the parent who is close with the child is an enabler, it’s hard to change the pattern.

So what’s an “enabler”? This is a person in the troubled person’s life who contributes to that person’s bad behavior, alcoholism or drug addiction. It could be a family member or close friend who means well but winds up causing more problems by rescuing, lying for, making excuses for the troubled person. These people mean well, they want to help but wind up causing additional problems.

There are two interesting websites about this topic:
http://mental-health.families.com/blog/are-you-an-enabler
http://www.asktheinternettherapist.com/counselingarchive-enabler-and-codependency.asp

I don’t know the Lohan family but I’ve heard similar stories from people who’ve talked with me about their kids and the family dynamics.

Do you/did you have enabling or codependent behavior in your family and what will you/did you do about it?

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