- This article describes enabling in its counseling or psychological sense. For enabling in an empowerment sense, see empowerment. For enabling in computer terms where an object or Graphical user interface widget is able to respond to events, see enabled/disabled.
Enabling is a term with a double meaning.
As a positive term, it references patterns of interaction which allow individuals to develop and grow. These may be on any scale, for example within the family, or in wider society as "Enabling acts" designed to empower some group, or create a new authority for a (usually governmental) body.
In a negative sense, enabling is also used in the context of problematic behavior, to signify dysfunctional approaches that are intended to help but in fact may perpetuate a problem. A common theme of enabling in this latter sense is that third parties take responsibility, blame, or make accommodations for a person's harmful conduct (often with the best of intentions, or from fear or insecurity which inhibits action). The practical effect is that the person himself or herself does not have to do so, and is shielded from awareness of the harm it may do, and the need or pressure to change. It is a major environmental cause of addiction.
A common example of enabling can be observed in the relationship between the alcoholic/addict and a codependent spouse. The spouse believes incorrectly that he or she is helping the alcoholic by calling into work for them, making excuses that prevent others from holding them accountable, and generally cleaning up the mess that occurs in the wake of their impaired judgment. In reality what the spouse is doing is hurting, not helping. Enabling prevents psychological growth in the person being enabled and can contribute to negative symptoms in the enabler.
One of the primary purposes of a formal Family Intervention with alcoholics/addicts is to help the family cease their enabling behaviors.
See also 
- Battered person syndrome
- Codependent No More
- Maturity (psychological)
- Victim blaming
- elinewberger.com From the page on 'enabling', by Eli H. Newberger, M.D., referenced by that web page to The Men They Will Become ch.18 "Enabling".
- Enabler: Are You Enabling Drug Use In A Loved One? 2008
- Robert L. DuPont (2000-02-17), The selfish brain, p. 15, ISBN 978-1-56838-363-7
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