TOXIC PEOPLE, ENABLING AND LETTING GO…OR NOT
TOXIC PEOPLE, ENABLING AND LETTING GO…OR NOT
By: Velinda Peyton
I decided to write this article because it is on my mind…the difference between what people believe to be enabling, helping, or the need to let go. I’ve been called an enabler in the past and when that happens I consider the source. What kind of person is this judging me? Are they someone whom I admire? Are they someone whose opinion or advice matters to me? Would they help a person in need if they were asked to? Do they have any clue of what they are talking about? Do they even know the circumstances and what I or this person I’m trying to help is going through? Do they know me? And the answers usually are that this is not someone I want to listen to!
I know this issue is controversial, but perhaps this is another way to look at what people call enabling as opposed to truly helping someone in need.
Living with toxic people is not okay. I could stop right here. Toxic people will drag you down and make your life miserable. Even when you tell yourself it’s not about you that makes them toxic (which is true), and try to ignore their malicious behavior, it penetrates your psyche and your life negatively in some way. The hard part about eliminating toxic people from your life is that sometimes they are people you love. So can you change them?
“The people you let into your life and allow them to stay will make your live heaven or hell on earth”
I believe that you cannot change people …that they can only change themselves. I believe that a person has to want to change…it has to become a part of their manifesto to want to change. So to try to change another is not possible. Letting go of a toxic person or someone who is struggling with self-destructive issues (like substance abuse) can actually be a powerful motivator if that person has refused to help themselves and get on with life…even if their lack of initiative was because they had an enabling person or situation.
We have all heard this many times…and sometimes we let go of this “toxic person” because we feel this is the absolute universal truth…just “let go”. However, I also believe that I/we can make a profound difference is someone’s life that needs to be set free from the hole they have buried for themselves. Role models, mentors, teachers, sponsors, people who love and care about you, encourage you, and are there for you can be such a motivating force in another person’s life. People who have a positive genuine influence on another person give hope and love to someone who may have given up on themselves and life. I believe we can make a difference because people make a difference every day, and in this way we save countless people who may have succumbed to giving up. People matter to people, need people and want someone who genuinely cares about them.
When you are at bottom, you feel like giving up and you don’t know how to help yourself, it’s comforting to know there is at least one person you can turn to who loves you
So what about enabling? Just to share my opinion…enable is a word I dislike. Enable is overused and I have to wonder if some people even know what it means. It seems to be a catch-all word to blame, usually someone who cares, for the irresponsible, destructive acts of another. Parents, spouses, etc. who genuinely try to help a toxic person are deemed “enablers”, which is not always the case. And the world has come to believe that love is enabling. Enabling is to allow or assist someone in doing something that is not in their best interest or something that is destructive or harmful. We cripple people when we enable and do for them what they are capable of themselves. We help them self-destruct. What enabling is not is truly being there when that self-destructive person genuinely needs and asks for help. I wouldn’t turn someone away under these circumstances if they truly needed my help. I would do anything to help someone I love because nothing is worth the chance of losing them. What is life and love all about if we can’t be there for and help the people we love?
“Sometimes people need us the most when they are at their worst”
Then there is the situation where a self-destructive person is a self-imposed death wish? A person who is so far gone in an abyss they created that they have almost given up. Self-destructive behavior is often a cry for help and we have to make an effort to understand their pain and what they are dealing with. And what if this person is someone you deeply love and don’t want to live without? What if you feel temporary “enabling” is saving their life until…and hopefully…the light comes on and they change? And what if the above is actually true…that a temporary stay, another chance, another day alive will be that magic day that turns it all around? So then is “enabling” actually so wrong if it is keeping this person alive…until they “get it”. Is it even enabling at that point? It’s a hard call and very individual, which is why I question the common belief that situations as described above are enabling (instead of rescuing) and that it is all bad. And, yes rescuing because sometimes people can’t rescue themselves and need help. Understanding what a person’s behavior is trying to reveal gives us a clearer picture of what a person is dealing with. And is there anyone at some time in their life that doesn’t need help?
I still believe it’s necessary, for you and the self-destructive person, to let go of someone who isn’t willing to help themselves. They will never learn to be self-sufficient and live life on their own unless they learn to recognize and resolve their own problems.
So I personally don’t always believe that we should let go of a person who still needs what even a single person can offer in the way of hope, encouragement and a new sense of self-worth to believe in themselves and create a new life. Simply knowing someone loves and cares about you is healing in and of itself.
One of the worst feelings is feeling unwanted
To be set free of anything that is holding one back is to soar with the will to endure and thrive. To be set free from perhaps a difficult past or untrue feelings about oneself is to be reborn. We all need to absolutely know that we matter. People give up on thinking they matter when they feel no one cares. The heart is relational and surviving without love and concern from another is difficult if not destructive to the soul and psyche. That is why too many people sink into nobodyness and feel they are invisible. There are those exceptionally strong people who can look at a heartless parent (for example) and still say “I matter and I will show you and myself that I will transcend your lovelessness”. But most people need the love and concern of those key people to venture out into the world with any degree of self-worth and to be successful at life…success meaning whatever success means to that person.
That is why I created This Brand New Day Beyond Program. Too many people give up and feel discarded by shallow people and thus live an empty life. People give up because they are weak or have been through something for so long that they don’t believe life can be different. People give up because they don’t have the will or strength to deal with difficult issues. Perhaps they have never known anything else. They have not developed the resilience to overcome. I want people to know they matter…to instill in them self-worth no matter where they came from or what they have been through. I want children who have endured loveless parents to know they are not unlovable. I want people to know that they can create a wonderful future, no matter what has happened to them in the past that made them give up on themselves. I want this for people because I was there…I was one of them. Then one day (and I remember the day, time and place) I got fed-up with my lifestyle, my self-sabotaging thoughts and the negative influence my childhood had on me, and decided I was going to change. I know now that people can overcome their history and adversity and change. It took me years to put it all together with what I learned. Now I want to share what I learned with other people who need it.
“What has been in your life up till now…
all the mistakes,all the wrong choices,
all the wrong people, all the missed opportunity,
all the heartache, all the pain…
has nothing to do with what still can be”
The world needs more people who know and believe in themselves. And when these people are free from negative thoughts about themselves, they will find a whole new world.. So because I don’t accept the adage to let go when a person is crying out for help by their actions or behavior (such as with substance abuse, anger, self-sabotaging), I will stand on my philosophy that every human’s basic need is to be loved, accepted and know they matter to at least one other person. So if you know someone in your life that is in doubt of their self-worth and crying out for help, you still can make a difference even if ultimately letting go is necessary to allow them to fly.
Don’t ever forget how much you can make a difference in another person’s life…and maybe even save a life