In counseling and therapy, enabling has always had a very positive connotation, or a very negative connotation, depending on how you look at it.
Many people believe that enabling, while not an actual behavior, is an essential component to be successful in all areas of life, including personal development, social skills, and psychological healing.
What the “good” side of enabling often comes down to, is the belief that it can be used to help people who have trouble with an action that comes with a negative meaning. So, in counseling and therapy, enabling is a “good” thing to do. Some people use enabling to help them overcome bad behaviors, while others use it as a way to change other people’s negative behaviors toward them.
The “bad” side of enabling is usually associated with the negative connotations of being able to “help” someone else “do what’s right.” You will often hear the phrase “I enabled that behavior,” or “that person could only be helped by me.” So, if a counselor says, “My client was acting out because she was afraid, and now she knows she is OK,” the enabling is seen as something that helped her to do what’s right. The therapist doesn’t actually like the idea that she can’t do something herself.
The “good” side of enabling, however, is that enabling brings a lot of positive benefits to both the person who is enabling and to the people they are helping. Let me explain.
By using a good example, let’s say that a counselor in a school district sets up a game that encourages students to use one of their most creative, yet most disruptive behaviors in a way that helps everyone. A student in a class where she might have been disciplined for this disruptive behavior can take advantage of a game to learn how to communicate in creative ways.
With a good game to help her work on this behavior, the student might be more likely to develop the skills to communicate and think outside the box when in social situations. This might make it easier for her to deal with situations where she may feel like a member of the group isn’t accepting of her disruptive behavior. The group might be a small one – she might be in a single-person class, but the group can include many different people – and all of them will benefit from this activity.
In a case like this, the district’s administrator might see this example and think that by helping the student to improve her communication skills, she is helping her as well. and helping her group of students to become more accepting of each other.
Now imagine a different bad example.
Suppose that a teen’s behavior is disrupting the social activities of her friends, and she is scared to go out of her house, because of her bad behavior, she is afraid to leave her room alone, and she cannot communicate with the rest of her friends.
In a therapy situation, the counselor can help the teen to create a game that allows her to show her friends how to express her creativity without doing something that will upset the group and then help her to find ways to let go of her bad behavior by using her imagination and creativity in her life instead. Then, as a reward, the group can let go of the idea that letting go of her bad behavior is going to solve any of the problems.
This example illustrates how we can get so much good, even if we take some of the negative aspects of our behaviors out of social settings and our interactions. When we encourage others to let go of what makes them bad, they are more likely to take responsibility for themselves and for their behavior.
Even in social groups, we need to let go of what makes us uncomfortable in order to grow as people. It is easier to do that when we are not afraid of having to hurt another person or hurting ourselves in order to do so.
As a result of this, we are more likely to help each other, and to learn how to help ourselves. in a variety of ways. Our ability to help others will grow and become more rewarding, not just as adults, but also as people that we can become closer to as we interact with them in future situations.