Posts Tagged ‘codependent’

Empowering vs. Enabling

Tuesday, February 12th, 2008

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Dear Jane,
What is the difference between empowering and enabling someone?

I’ve struggled with this in my own life. I want to be compassionate, but how can I know whether I am helping or when I am supporting someone in believing they’re helpless? How do I combine a belief that we are 100% responsible for our thoughts and behaviors at the same time that I increase my awareness of our interdependence?

A few years ago a family came to live with us. They had been evicted from their apartment and because our eight-year-old daughters were friends, when the knock on the door came, we opened up, not just our door, but our hearts. They stayed with us for three months rent free…until at 6:30 one morning, the police banged on our door, arresting the mom for parole violation and theft. Two weeks later a credit card bill arrived totaling $3000+ on a card we had never used and that we thought was still in our desk drawer.

Some details I left out of that story: I knew something was amiss when I was shown the mom’s “ankle bracelet,” her house arrest monitor. On the first day of their stay, she admitted that she had embezzled $32,000 from her employer. She and her husband also admitted that they had defrauded their roommate, making her think that they had used her rent to pay the landlord when they had actually kept it.

So what did I do with this information? I counseled them; I fed them; I drove their daughter to school and events; I cooked for them. Clearly, I was enabling, not empowering, them. Why couldn’t I see that?

I have a habit of assuming the best in people. In other words, I’m gullible. But sometimes seeing something in someone that they don’t see in themselves can bring out the best in them. Hasn’t someone seeing something in you ever made you believe in yourself more?
I also cared very much about their little girl and couldn’t imagine throwing her out into the streets for the sins of her parents.

So, yes, I was an enabler. Yes, I was foolish and disillusioned for a while. I admit fully that I not only didn’t empower her parents; in fact, I made it possible for them to commit further crimes. I could have done more by insisting on their helping more around the house or getting a job or getting drug counseling. But I’m pretty sure that insisting would have made them feel too exposed, and they would have left looking for their next suckers. If I didn’t care about their little girl, this would have been just fine.

Empowering vs. enabling is often distinguished by how people receive our help. When people want to be empowered, not enabled, they don’t ask for pity; they ask for clarity. They don’t give excuses; they overcome obstacles. They show a willingness to change their thoughts and strategies. They take responsibility for their actions. They don’t try to get away with things; they want to get out of their ruts in order to thrive.

Because life is complicated, I still don’t always know ahead of time how my help will be received or if I’m being foolish, throwing away money or energy. I can always hope that good intentions will sow their seeds, even if I can’t know where they’ve been planted or when they will germinate. Maybe, just maybe, this little girl, basking in some unconditional love and living in a safe and secure environment for even a short time will help her not re-create her parents’ life. That little girl is now 15. She still calls us. That feels great. I’ll live with being a fool.

Join Jane at Club Med in Cancun
June 21-28, 2008.
I will be teaching a new, exciting program on Creating Abundance everywhere in your life.
More about this in next week’s e-newsletter.

Handle Stress to Boost Immunity presented by Jane at the KCBS Health Fair in San Francisco with Keynote Speaker Dr. Mehmet Oz
I was honored to be invited as a panelist, along with Melina Jampolis, M.D., host of Fit TV’s Diet Doctor and author of The No Time to Lose Diet; and Dr. Jacob Leone, Naturopathic & Integrative Medicine Practitioner, to discuss Boosting Immunity: Nutrition, Supplements, and Stress. I promise to have the contents of my presentation available for you on my Web site shortly.

About Jane Straus
Jane is a trusted life coach, dynamic keynote speaker, and the author of Enough Is Enough! Stop Enduring and Start Living Your Extraordinary Life. With humor and grace, Jane offers her clients and seminar participants insights and exercises to ensure that the next chapter of their lives is about thriving as the unique individuals they have always been and the extraordinary ones they are still becoming. She serves clients worldwide and invites you to visit her site, Here you will find excerpts from her book, more articles, TV and radio interviews, and clips from her presentations.

She is also the author of The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation,, an award-winning online resource and workbook with easy-to-understand rules, real-world examples, and fun quizzes. Contact Jane at

To Stay or To Go

Sunday, September 2nd, 2007
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Dear Jane,
I can’t stand the relationship I’ve been in anymore. My partner and I have been together for 12 years. I always thought we would make it. We have so much in common and we’ve been supportive of each other. But I realize that I’ve been unhappy, without admitting it to myself, for quite a while. I feel drained by how much he needs me and demands of me. Lately, I can’t stand the thought of him even touching me. I fantasize him dying or him saying he wants to end the relationship. I know this is because I don’t want to be the one to make the decision. What should I do? I feel like I’m dying inside.

What I hear coming through loudly and clearly is your built-up resentment. Resentment kills: It kills relationships and it kills our own spirit.

There must be reasons you were not aware of your resentment until you couldn’t ignore it anymore. Usually, this is a symptom of co-dependence, meaning that you have an unconscious strategy of abandoning yourself to please/keep others until you’re so hurt from feeling wronged or fed up that you suddenly “blow.”

If you simply leave the relationship, which is very tempting at this point, I’m sure, you will find yourself repeating this pattern of self-abandonment – hurt – resentment – desire to leave. Even if you stay single for a while, you may create this pattern within friendships. So although I can’t tell you whether to stay or to go, I can support you in letting go of the illusion that leaving is the entire solution. Use what is in your life right now to heal your issue.

So what is the issue? Generally, we are co-dependent when we believe we will be abandoned or unloved if we ask for what we want or need. What messages did you get as a child about being lovable? How much security did you have? How has this impacted your current relationship? What have you been holding back? How have you sacrificed yourself in the relationship? Once you realize that the fear of abandonment and the sacrificing of your own needs is how your current difficulty arose, you can begin experiencing healing.

It takes practice to perceive yourself as worthy of love regardless of whether someone else can or is willing to provide it. Often, we have to address childhood traumas and beliefs to heal this dependency on others for our self-worth. The first step is trusting that you deserve to heal any mistaken beliefs that you are anything less than worthy of respect, compassion, and love. Once you question your painful, limiting beliefs and your old authorities and begin to affirm your own worthiness, you will notice three amazing results: 1. You will stop abandoning yourself. 2. You will no longer feel so threatened by others abandoning you. 3. Others will begin to mirror back to you your worthiness. All of these results will help heal your resentment.

In Enough Is Enough!, I write about how resentment is disguised regret. The resentment you feel towards your partner is really a regret that you haven’t treated yourself with the respect, compassion, and love that you wish he would provide.

So whether you stay in this relationship or leave, acknowledge that you have been a co-conspirator in the setup that has caused you to end up so resentful. Let yourself drop down into the underlying regret. Once you can take 100% responsibility for your part (responsibility = ability to respond) and take 100% responsibility for affirming your self-worth, the dynamics of your relationship will shift. As you love yourself, you will find both peace and clarity.

Jane’s Coaching and Training

Jane Straus is the author of the popular self-help book, Enough Is Enough! See her TV interviews, read her articles, and order the book by visiting

For over 20 years, Jane Straus has coached individuals and groups, facilitated organizational retreats, conducted training programs, and presented keynotes for corporations and nonprofits nationwide.

To get exceptional results from coaching and training, you need someone who knows how to assess blind spots as well as enhance strengths. Jane’s coaching helps individuals and groups maximize their potential. Jane works to ensure that each client receives the wisdom, skills, and support he/she needs to succeed and thrive.

Contact Jane directly at to discuss your coaching or training needs or visit for more information and testimonials.

5 Keys to Abundance

Sunday, March 18th, 2007

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Print Version of Podcast

Are you really open to abundance in your life? Recently on Oprah, I heard a shocking statistic: Over 70% of people who experience a financial windfall from such strokes of luck as winning the lottery or inheriting a large sum of money tend to be back to where they were financially within just a few short years.

Most of us think this would never happen to us. Our thoughts probably run along the lines of, “If I won a million, two million, ten million dollars [take your pick], it would change my life forever. All my worries would be gone. I’d be happy.”

How can it be that what seems like an inevitable happy ending just doesn’t turn out to be true for such a large majority of people? Are those who come serendipitously into wealth dumber than we are? Are they all spendaholics, compulsive gamblers, inept business people, or at the very least so codependent that they can’t say “no” to family and friends who ask for handouts?

It’s true that many of us who are not used to handling large sums of money are inept with it. It’s also true that a lot of us are codependent enough to fall prey to wanting to be loved by giving everything we have. If we’re already doing that, we’ll probably do it more, not less, if given half a chance. And if some of us aren’t spendaholics now, like kids in a candy store, we certainly might become crazed with buying the first time we have a wad of cash in our hands. But even these shortcomings and lapses in judgment don’t explain the expected fate of 70% of us who would end up no better—and possibly worse emotionally due to shame—than before our sudden wealth.

Many of us don’t budget at all, claiming that there isn’t enough money to do so. We pretend we aren’t choosing to use up our available resources with the argument (while our debts mount), “I work hard for my money. I should get to enjoy it.” We fall deeper and deeper into debt, feel incredible stress, depression, and shame, and wind up having to work harder and longer. And still we continue to shoot ourselves in the foot arguing that we deserve to spend our money any way we want to. We treat ourselves like entitled brats, demanding that reality fit our fantasy. But underneath this façade of entitlement, we are deluded by what I call The Big Lie. More about that in a moment.

There is no one roadmap to creating abundance, just as there is no single roadmap to creating a loving relationship. To find a relationship, you can date online, join a club, hang out at your favorite pub, buy a dog, or ask friends to set you up. To make more money, you can find a better-paying job, go back to school, learn a new skill, ask for a raise, gamble, or play the lottery. Getting isn’t the biggest problem for most of us, whether it’s a relationship or money; the trick is to learn how to keep and build upon what we get.

Until we open up to abundance and become “spiritually fit” to receive, the truth is that we are just as likely to deplete our treasure chest the same way our neighbors do and just as likely to find ourselves continually short on cash and long on debt. So here are five keys to building, maintaining, and enjoying abundance:

1. Embrace the true meaning of abundance: Abundance is that which already exists. In an abundant state, we understand that we are dipping into an overflowing well. Abundance is everywhere. Equally, it is within us. We are abundant. We don’t have to seek abundance. We can say yes or no to this belief. It is up to us.
2. Stop using the world as a reflection of your worthiness: The Big Lie I mentioned earlier is the belief that we are unworthy. Most of us decide base our worthiness on outside barometers such as who likes us, what kind of house or car we have, how much money we make, how much education we have, or what clothes we wear. As long as we measure our worth based on outside factors, we our happiness is at the whim of others.
3. Practice worthiness as though it’s a skill: While some of us were born believing we were worthy, life experiences may have convinced us otherwise. To retrain our thoughts, we must change our behaviors. Ask yourself what you would be doing differently right now, today, tomorrow, next week, this year if you already believed you were entirely worthy. What behaviors and activities would you stop? Which ones would you start? Make a commitment to yourself to “fake it ’til you make it.” Practice your new behaviors until they become second nature, replacing the old habits you are shedding. Change your actions and your thoughts are sure to follow.
4. Recognize what your jealousy is telling you: Jealousy is what we experience when we don’t believe we will have (or deserve to have) what someone else has. Therefore, jealousy comes from a belief in lack. If we put the first three keys into active practice, our jealousy will dissolve into gratitude for that which already exists. Gratitude doesn’t mean that we become complacent. It means that we strive, not from fear and lack, but from the joy of thriving.
5. Be generous now: If you wait until you “have enough,” whatever that means to you, the message you are telling yourself is that there is lack within and around you. Abundance thinking is a leap of faith for many of us. Faith, by definition, is only validated once we have made the leap. My friend had promised to tithe to his church and then “cheated” because he was broke. One day of scarcity led to the next until he woke up one day and realized that he was not trusting abundance (or God) at all. He was waiting for proof. How could waiting for proof be an act of faith? That day he took a deep breath and emptied the change from his pockets into the church’s coffers. Immediately he felt the peace that goes along with keeping an agreement with oneself, no matter how difficult it is. He also felt strength in choosing to decide to have faith. Almost immediately, his phone began ringing off the hook with work offers. For him, this was wonderful evidence. But even more lovely, he didn’t even need the evidence at that point. Since he already trusted, he was less fearful about the ups and downs of business and felt more relaxed about experiencing abundance however it presented itself.

Will you get rich by practicing these five keys? Nobody knows what the Universe has in store for us. But you can begin to define rich in new ways that give you appreciation for the abundance that already exists. You are already a wealth of knowledge, support, energy, artistry, compassion, and ideas. How can you maximize and share your abundant wealth today?