Four Primary Emotions

Why do they keep enabling?

Many times people have questions for us at Intervention Services about Enabling.  “Why do my parents continue to enable my brother?” they ask.  It is important to understand that enabling doesn’t actually come from the person who is doing the enabling.  In actuality it is a learned behavior that is being taught or trained by a substance abuser using specific emotions to manipulate.

four primary emotionsThis first section is not necessarily specific behaviors, but emotions that are used by a substance abuser to “train” family members not to confront them in an uncomfortable way or even to intervene.  In some cases, these emotions already existed within the relationship but were intensified through repeat conditioning by the substance abuser.  In other cases, these emotions were “planted” there through words, actions and other manipulations.  Generally, these are long-lasting feelings that have been reinforced over time through repetitive manipulations.  Over time, these emotions can cause many families become stuck, non-confrontational, and even to wait for their loved ones to change…sometimes forever.  It is also important to note that the stronger the emotional connection between the substance abuser and another, the more effectively these will work.  Someone who doesn’t have any emotional connection with the substance abuser will be relatively unaffected when attempted to be manipulated by using hope, fear, guilt, or sympathy.

In general, the purpose of using emotions to train other people is primarily to do one of four things:

  1. Cause people to enable and give a substance abuser some form of comfort.
  2. Cause people to enable and absorb negative consequences for a substance abuser.
  3. Cause people to enable and assume a substance abuser’s responsibilities for them.
  4. Cause people to enable and assume the actual responsibility of the addiction.

The Four Primary Emotions used by a Substance Abuser to Train Someone to Enable Them

Covered in more detail on the following pages, the actual four primary emotions used by a substance abuser to train people to enable are:




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Intervention ServicesFour Primary Emotions