One of our noblest human instincts is our desire to help others, especially those who mean the most to us. Parents want to help their children succeed in school, spouses want to help each other to solve their loved ones problems, work colleagues want to help each other to develop professionally and friends want to give advice with personal relationship issues. Unfortunately though, this well-meant impulse can sometimes have a negative affect.
Do we enable those people we seek to help when we should be empowering them. When people aren’t challenged to do as much as they possibly can to help themselves, they learn to constantly look for answers, remedies, solutions and fixes outside of themselves. They begin to feel powerless, useless, incapable and needy. Sadly, the more they feel that way, the more they attract circumstances that prove them right. The more they attract those negative circumstances, the worse they feel. The worse they feel, the worse it gets. And so this cycle continues…
This can be witnessed in all walks of life, let’s consider helping a friend with a relationship issue. By drawing on your personal morals, values and experiences you give ‘advice’ based on your own filters which, for your intended recipient, may not be the the right or required advice they need. Clinical interventions can be just as difficult, most noticeably in addiction cases. By stepping in to “solve” the addict’s problems, the enabler takes away any motivation for the addict to take responsibility for his or her own actions. Without that motivation, there is little reason for the addict to change. This is similar in exercise rehabilitation with musculoskeletal injuries or as a physical trainer dealing with obesity, advances in our ability to diagnose allows us to attach a label to a person, this gives them an identity formed around their condition so they can then adapt their behaviour in accordance and define themselves by their symptoms taking away their motivation for change.
Enabling creates a sense of powerlessness, often discouraging and de-motivating the person who needs help. It can be difficult to perceive our enabling when deep down our intention is to help or appease. The question we should all ask ourselves is… For what reasons am I attempting to help someone? Am I just problem solving or you attempting to empower that person? Are my actions helping this person to feel more self-empowered? Does this person actually want help and are they motivated for change? What good or harm can come from my intervention? It’s easy to think that we have all the answers and if people just listened then we can shower than with this valuable knowledge.
We have a moral obligation to empower people so they may realise their own potential, people are capable of amazing things and don’t require spoonfuls of our world. Give those in your life an opportunity to express their feelings, talk frankly and as you engage, be open, actively listen, emphasise and keep your personal view of the world in check. By empowering those who touch your life, you will give them a true opportunity to take responsibility and ownership of their situations and experiences.
Carl Rogers, an influential American psychologist and one of the founders of the humanistic approach to psychology once wrote, ‘People are just as wonderful as sunsets if you let them be. When I look at a sunset, I don’t find myself saying, soften the orange a bit on the right hand corner. I don’t try to control a sunset. I watch with awe as it unfolds’.
We all want to help others, be supportive, and care for those we love, however I would invite you all to consider the potential of empowerment.
Information cited from Psychology today, accountabilityexperts.com and Dr. Tad James, NLP Trainer, M.S, Ph.D.