A friend was recently telling me about a painful pattern in her marriage, and used the statement, “It’s my fault, I enable him to…”. The statement struck me because of the use of the word ‘enable.’ To enable is to empower another, to give tools and resources in support of positive or constructive behavior. Growth.
It would be more accurate if she were to have said, “I disable him because....” because that is actually what is happening. When we participate in a pattern that maintains harmful or painful energy, it is *disabling* to all involved.
To say it enables gives an almost noble quality to our suffering, makes us a martyr. It minimizes the destructiveness that is actually occurring. When we don’t call things what they really are, we minimize, discount, disassociate, from what is actually happening. And, it enables *us* to not actually look at what we are doing to ourselves, to take complete responsibility for what we are doing to ourselves.
And, in this context it inflates one’s own sense of power in any given situation, as it relates to another’s agency. One feels a bit superior, that one can actually control or influence another’s behavior. We can’t, and this ignores the agency of the other person, who is going to do what they are going to do for all the reasons they are going to do it, with or without your support.
Here’s what’s even more true: It disables me when I participate in a painful energy pattern. I disable myself when I not address something a situation that feels painful. I am trading my peace for something, and I am unwilling to look at what that is. I prefer staying small to taking complete responsibility for seeing and using my agency in this situation.
We can’t change anything if we don’t see our role in it, if we feel powerless to the behavior of others.
Our power is found in calling things what what actually are, and taking responsibility for that which is ours in the situation.
Norma Van Horn