How To Support Someone Without Enabling Them, From A Therapist

Have you ever had the urge to help someone you love, followed by a nagging feeling of doubt? Maybe you wondered, “Wait. Am I being supportive here—or am I enabling them?”

If you’ve ever been in this situation and paused to think about it, that’s a great sign. You’re examining your motives in context, and you’re reflecting on whether an impulse that appears to be “good” is genuinely the right thing to do in a particular situation.

Most of us are conditioned to behave in pro-social ways, to be helpful and “good.” At a young age, we learn our behaviors affect those around us for better or worse. And yet it’s common to go overboard with what we learn about what it means to be kind, good, helpful, or supportive. We may get into a habit of being too helpful, too focused on others’ well-being, too compulsively problem-solving or “good.”

When this happens, there’s a risk we’ll actually harm those we most want to help by enabling them rather than allowing them to find their own way, make their own mistakes, and master the challenges life presents them with.

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