In the true sense of the word, to enable is to supply with the means, knowledge, or opportunity to be or do something -- to make feasible or possible.
In its true form, then, enabling behavior means something positive. It's our natural instinct to reach out and help someone we love when they are down or having problems.
However, when we apply it to certain problems in living - addiction, chronic financial trouble, codependency, certain forms of chronic depression -- enabling behaviors have the reverse effect of what is intended.
Here are some examples...
- Repeatedly bailing them out - of jail, financial problems, other "tight spots" they get themselves into
- Giving them "one more chance" - ...then another...and another
- Ignoring the problem - because they get defensive when you bring it up or your hope that it will magically go away
- Joining them in the behavior when you know they have a problem with it - Drinking, gambling, etc.
- Joining them in blaming others - for their own feelings, problems, and misfortunes
- Accepting their justifications, excuses and rationalizations - "I'm destroying myself with alcohol because I'm depressed".
- Avoiding problems - keeping the peace, believing a lack of conflict will help
- Doing for them what they should be able to do for themselves -
- Softening or removing the natural consequences of the problem behavior
- Trying to "fix" them or their problem
- Repeatedly coming to the "Rescue"
- Trying to control them or their problem