"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
(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
[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 practicing their addiction.
I celebrated my sobriety anniversary on January
3rd. I have now been clean and sober for over 18 years. The reason
I got clean and sober was because my parents did an intervention on me and
set a boundary that they would not rescue me financially one more time.
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 and setting boundaries with the person. It is sometimes
described as an example of "tough love."
Tough love is a misnomer. Love that
does not include boundaries is not Truly Love - it is enmeshment, it is
emotional vampirism. If I do not Love myself enough to have boundaries
to protect myself from the behavior of others than I am not capable of relating
to other people in a healthy Loving manner. Rescuing another from
their own self destructive behavior is not Loving - and it is codependently
When we are reacting out of our codependency,
unconsciously reacting out of our childhood emotional wounds and programming,
then we are not capable of being honest with ourselves or others.
A codependent doesn't rescue or try to save someone they "love" for the
other persons benefit - they do it for themselves. A parent who keeps
rescuing a child from self destructive behavior is on some level trying
to be loving - but at the deepest level they are trying to rescue themselves
from the pain of seeing their child destroy themselves. They are being
selfish - which is human and normal - but they are doing it dishonestly
by telling themselves they are doing it for the other person. This
is a set up to feel victimized - and to abuse and shame the child/loved
one for their behavior. "How can you do this to me after all I have
done for you?"
One of the important distinctions to learn
in recovery, is how to draw a boundary between being and behavior.
We can love a person's being and still protect ourselves from their behavior
if that is necessary. To think that loving someone means we have
to accept being abused by them is dysfunctional - and it demonstrates a
lack of Love for our self. If we do not know how to be Loving to our
self, then we cannot Truly Love another person in a healthy way. If
we do not honor our self, show respect for our self, by having boundaries
- then the other person is not going to respect us.
Rescuing someone who is actively practicing
addiction of some kind, is enabling. It is dysfunctional because
it supports the person in continuing to practice their addiction.
A person in recovery working on getting healthier may need some help from
time to time - and that is great, that is being supportive in a positive
manner. Helping someone to continue to self destruct is not support,
it is codependency - it is also not Loving.