“My son brings his laundry over. It’s like five loads. I don’t have time to do that, so I take it over to the dry cleaning.” “Wow” I say… as I am thinking, why doesn’t she just make him do his own laundry? And then she said, “Yeah, it’s that sense of entitlement in that generation.” I agreed, but I also thought she is contributing to that attitude by enabling his behavior to continue. It seems so easy to blame without looking how we are causative to the circumstances.
Don’t get me wrong. She is an absolutely lovely woman; sweet, considerate, and laughed about the whole situation as we talked in the community laundry room. She knows deep down the true essence of what is happening with the dynamics between her and her son, but it stems from her generation where her parents were busy working, emotionally unavailable, and required her to do chores as part of the household. I know because I am from the same generation.
My parents worked hard, struggled financially, and disciplined me to clean the house for $5.00 a week. It instilled values of working for my money, saving, and respect. However I was so obedient in my efforts because I longed and hoped of receiving more of their time, attention, and love. I was a pleaser, an enabler, looking for my emotionally lost parental figures.
This pleasing behavior in hopes of fulfilling a void from my generation and the woman who does her 20-something son’s weekly laundry has created the same entitled generation we so quickly complain about. It is not only our fault, but our parents fault, and the current generations fault. It is trans-generational neglect, abuse, and constant seeking for approval from others in hopes of fulfilling personal voids. These are the unconscious drives that aren’t being talked about. The unpleasing behavior and consequences are discussed, but not the underlying thoughts and feelings.
How do we stop this trans-generational abuse you ask? Well there are several avenues to take. One is seeking therapy with someone whom you trust and formed a close alliance with, another is journaling, support groups, and meditation and spiritual gatherings. Through one or more of these approaches, you can learn to love and care about others without hurting yourself, live without guilt or resentment, allow other people to solve their own problems, and live without the entanglement of obsessions and excessive worry.
To understand what exactly an enabler is, I will explain in the upcoming paragraphs. It is a person who appears powerless but seems to be controlling. It is a super responsible martyr. It is the woman who appears powerless over her son’s command of her to do his laundry even though she has a choice. Inside she is angry as she takes responsibility for everyone else’s actions but not her own.
I do it myself. I blame my parents for not reaching out to me but I can just as easily pick up the phone or send an email as they can. It brings feelings of importance and that I matter; the woman who does her son’s laundry is needed and self-righteous as she “jokingly” complains.
Without help, enablers unconsciously and harmfully facilitate codependent relationships. Codependency is an addiction to someone else’s problems. It is a painful pattern of dependency on compulsive behaviors and on approval from others in an attempt to find safety, self-worth, and identity.
Common traits of a codependent personality are preoccupation of another’s problems and verification of self-worth on others. Persons who are codependent have a soulful desire to be needed, flourish on pleasing others, lose their sense of self, have low self-esteem, and fear abandonment.
To understand what preoccupation of another’s problems is, look at your own thinking patterns. How much time and energy are you taking out of your day to “fix” a loved one? Do you thrive in crisis situations? Do you rush in to fix other people’s problems? Do you feel drained and complain that others are driving you crazy yet don’t do anything to change the situation? If you said “Yes” to one or more of these questions, you are probably codependent.
To understand what a soulful desire is to be needed looks like, look at your childhood history. Did you not get your needs met as a child? Did you settle for being needed instead of being loved for who you are? Do you tend to fall in love with people you can rescue? Do you feel purposeless and meaningless in the relationship and life? Do you not allow the sick or rescued individual to love you? Do you not feel unlovable? Again, if you answered “Yes” to one or more of these questions, you are probably codependent.
To recognize the behavior associated with the passion to please others, ask yourself; is my primary goal in a relationship to make someone else happy to the point of self-sacrifice? Do you have difficulty saying, “No”? Do you neglect your basic needs for love, friendship, and support from others? Do you have difficulty integrating a sense of accomplishment outside the realm of pleasing another? If you answered, “Yes” to anyone of these questions, you are probably codependent.
Do you lose your sense of self? Were you seduced into a destructive relationship and have disowned yourself? Do you suppress your desires, wants, and feelings or even know what they are? Are most of your actions in reaction to another’s? Do you settle for a compromised existence? If you answered, “Yes” to one or more of these questions, you are probably codependent.
Do you have low self-esteem? Do you seek love from others that do not have the capacity to love? Are you angry and disappointed after continually trying everything in your power to gain anything in return? Do you feel you are the problem and you just need to do more? Do you settle for a compromised existence? If you answered, “Yes” to anyone of these questions, you are probably codependent.
To understand what fearing abandonment looks like, ask yourself when was the last time you were able to survive on your own. Do you feel totally dependent on another? Are you cut off from outside support; i.e. friends, family, and peer groups. If you answered, “Yes” to one or more of these questions, you are probably codependent.
Now that you know something about codependency, don’t equate it to an all “bad” idea and existence. Within many cultures, codependency and reliance on family and friends is part of their culture and provides a continuous support system which is something we lack in America. Thus in a relational sense, codependency isn’t necessarily all ghastly, it’s a matter of being aware of internal thoughts and feelings and how they manifest external behavior, choices, and consequences.