Boundaries: If Your an Enabler, Don’t Cry When You Get Bit


Aesop’s Fables records a story called the, “The Farmer and the Snake” that illustrates why boundaries are important to understand how to live life without rescuing people who may no be capable of rescue.

ONE WINTER a Farmer found a Snake stiff and frozen with cold. He had compassion on it, and taking it up, placed it in his bosom. The Snake was quickly revived by the warmth, and resuming its natural instincts, bit its benefactor, inflicting on him a mortal wound. “Oh,” cried the Farmer with his last breath, “I am rightly served for pitying a scoundrel.”

The greatest kindness will not bind the ungrateful [ self focused individuals].

A lesson to be learned here is that creating boundaries in life to regulate relationships and behaviors is a way to manage how much danger, pain, and dysfunction that you are going to experience in life.  We have boundaries at work, in business, on the highway, and even in the park, but somehow people believe that in relationships  everyone will always make the right decisions without clarifying the terms of relationship.

How Do We Get Into No-Win Situations Becoming an Enabler?

It may be hard to face, but enabling says something about the enabler that needs to be understood. People who are enablers think they are helping someone else when in reality they are creating a disability support system. It is magical thinking — a way of romanticizing life with the idealism that that denies the reality reality of  destructive patterns of behavior, irresponsibility, guilt, pain etc. The enabling parent, husband, wife-believes that somehow through these vicarious acts of rescuing and enabling that it will magically make it better.  It is like when a mother picks up her child and kisses the owee’ and magically all the pain disappears. It is a thinking problem that gets us into no-win situations.  In the core thought processes of the enabler there is a fundamental belief that this kind of thing happens to other people, but not to us– I am not like that–  believe the best about people, my family could not do anything like that. This attitude –thinking pattern– creates naivete’ about relationships that exposes your backside to the sharp teeth of the dog named fate –and when it happens, it is painful.

What Do Dogs Do in an Ideal World?

Like snakes ,when dogs are not kept on a leash and when there is not a understanding of how relationships will occur with individuals to regulate what can occur, it is an opportunity for disaster to happen naturally.  — and they do.  The problem with enablers is that they don’t believe ,snakes bite that dogs bark or pee on the corner of the sofa.  After all, they say, “my dog went to obedience school and knows better, he is a dog of high breeding.”  In an ideal world where people are perfectly balanced and have no dysfunction, family system problems, unresolved conflicts, or emotional baggage, people do not need to be on a leash, but we all know that snakes and dogs will always be true to their nature, no matter how pretty they are –too bad that life does not occur in a ideal world.

Translated by George Fyler Townsend. Aesop’s Fables (p. 19). Amazon Digital Services, Inc.

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