Drainers – Are You Helping or Enabling?
October 26th, 2015
For the kind hearted it’s quite natural to want to help those in need. In fact, more often than not, we will hand over great gobs of our time, money and emotional resources to help someone in need achieve success in whatever area they are struggling with. With that being said, there comes a time when we might feel that all our efforts are in vain. We may feel like no matter how much we show up for them, nothing is changing. Our person remains stuck.
I’ve run across these situations many times in my life and I can confidently say I stayed in them far longer than was healthy for my well-being. I would find myself performing all kinds of gymnastics for them and even pondering their issues throughout my day rather than my own! At the time I thought this was my duty as a good human being because after all, didn’t I need help too sometimes? Yes, for sure. However, there is a vast difference between someone seeking for change and someone choosing stagnation and victimhood.
The Difference Between Seekers and Drainers:
- The Seekers – People who seek for knowledge and wisdom in order to promote themselves out of suffering. They are willing to get uncomfortable while reconstructing a new method of operation. They are grateful for what they receive and neither party feels drained after their interactions. Additionally, both parties feel happy and fulfilled when the seeker begins to see the light and takes necessary steps towards positive forward movement.
- The Drainers – These are folks who exploit your time and attention and continue to stay right…where…they…are. Conversations with them are repeating and energy draining. They are comfortable in their story of woe and as long as we’re giving, they’ll keep taking! There is little to no change happening and oftentimes the helper may feel like they are wasting their time.
It’s important to realize (and take personal responsibility) that the drainer did not waste your time – you gave your time freely. To blame the Drainer for your contempt is misplaced. You accepted the role and chose to stay in it indefinitely.
I applaud anyone who helps another and I applaud those in life who want to see the good and redeeming qualities in everyone. Because truth be known, there IS good in everyone and we all need a little TLC and help from time to time. Drainers are not “bad” people, they are stuck. However, there comes a point when we have to realize what stuck really looks like and that no matter what we do or say, we cannot make change happen for them.
A person has to want change in order to create change for themselves.
Giving to others at the expense of our energy does not create enormous growth in our people. Actually, it often promotes enabling and where there is enabling going on, both parties will inevitably be sucked into the suffering. At some point, we must recognize we are being an enabler and stop doing it by putting loving, but firm boundaries into place. If you’re not sure if you are helping or enabling a loved one, consult the list below.
6 Steps to Recognize if You’re Enabling Someone
- You are frustrated and unhappy with your stuck person because their strife appears never ending.
- You are aware that your “help” is not helping at all. In fact, no one’s help is helping.
- You feel drained in their company and are tired of dealing with them.
- You’ve heard their victimhood repertoire so much you can repeat it verbatim.
- Your person attempts to guilt or manipulate you if you try to change your strategy when dealing with them.
- You start to feel contempt for the person rather than compassion.
As I state in my book From Doormat to Sweet Empowerment, boundaries are beneficial to both parties involved. When we begin to set and maintain healthy boundaries, our person is “forced” to figure things out on their own. They must approach life from their own spiritual center rather than relying on yours (which is only temporary anyway). They will have to learn to become resourceful in their own life and find their own answers – answers that they are comfortable with and are willing to put into action.
Being a massively soft-hearted person, I had to really give boundary setting some serious thought. I had to know for sure that it was indeed the right thing to do before I could do it. I did my research and learned all about boundaries: what they are, what they meant and how to implement them. I was convinced that setting loving boundaries was the best thing for me AND my drainer.
I understand that setting boundaries may feel like turning your back on your person. So, I ask you this:
What if you knew for sure that boundary setting was serving to both parties?
What if you knew for sure that you were only harming them (and yourself) more by staying in something where there is no healthy forward movement or emotional advancement?
Would you be more willing to set a boundary with them?
I remember the first time I set a really difficult boundary with a loved one. It was a drainer situation that I had stayed in for over a year. I stayed because I felt it was my duty. After a year of the same dialogue between the two of us with zero change, I pulled out. I set a clear boundary that I was no longer going to be available to discuss the same situations over and over again. I explained that I had given her all the knowledge and wisdom I had and it was time for her to stand by her own power. It was scary and she did not like it, but it felt really good!
Within 36 hours, she came back to me with a dialogue full of awareness! I was stunned! By taking myself out of the situation, she only had herself to rely on. She pondered all that we had talked about and she took it to her center. She processed what felt Right and True for her and she began to act from that place. I observed my beloved transforming right before my eyes! It was fascinating and humbling to watch.
My role had been to hold loving space for her AND to remove myself when it was time.
You are not bad or wrong for needing to back up or out of a situation where a person is choosing stagnation and draining all your precious energy. Give yourself grace for being there in the first place and for offering your heart and wisdom for their becoming.
We can only do so much for others before we start sacrificing our sacred selves. It’s important for us to know when it is time to step out with love and give ourselves permission to do so.
The rest is up to them.