I was talking to a friend about “Stories” the other day, and I had a revelation. I originally started calling (name redacted) my abuser because I couldn’t think of a name that perfectly captured her essence better than her own. As time has gone by, the mission has become global instead of local. In the global sense, it is truly about bringing behavior to light in the most clinical way I can think, and I refer to myself as having an enabler personality all the time. I also want to show that abusers are three dimensional people. They are so loved because they are so charming and brilliant because that’s just how it is… in public. Behind closed doors are skeletons held behind even deeper closets. It’s a duality that causes pain in a codependency, but that doesn’t mean that they cease to be real people in the process. They are fallible and human, just like everyone else. In fact, I often think that people are abusers because they’re trying to keep people away with barbed wire, locked in their own hell. People become abusers because they have no idea how to deal with their own pain.
Abusers are generally so interested in hiding from their own pain that they live on the dopamine that abusive behavior provides. Enablers live on the dopamine caused by being “the one that helps.” Over time, the abuser realizes that because the enabler is always “the one who helps,” he/she can do pretty much anything to that person without receiving consequences, and the stakes with control get higher. The longer the abuser and enabler are entrenched in the pattern, the harder it is for both parties to get away from the dopamine that feeds them… because the enabler doesn’t realize that they’re making it worse and the abuser doesn’t realize they’re ratcheting up their dopamine levels by actively trying to “get away with something.” The bond gets stronger as the abuser feels the enabler wants to leave, because then they’ll do just enough to get the enabler’s attention, but not enough for the enabler to see that in time, the abuser’s behavior will go back to their normal because the need for dopamine slowly starts creeping back for one. and after a while, for both of them.
Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
Both parties are guilty toward contributing to the toxicity, because once the brain chemicals are in play, the addiction to higher dopamine levels makes everything feel like an alternate version of normal.
Enablers need to take responsibility for letting the dependency get so great that when the cat-and-mouse routine works, it reinforces the dopamine habit and it gets harder for the enabler to talk about what’s going on in their lives.
However, it is not a 50/50 acceptance of fault. Abusers need to start recognizing their behavior and find ways to stop it. Most people don’t intentionally mean to be monsters. They evolve into it. The earlier you catch it, the better.
Over time, both parties learn to get dopamine from other sources, but coming back around to the same enabler, in almost 90% of cases, turns into both parties falling back into old patterns, instead of using the skills they’ve learned with people who’ve never met them before.
It’s hard to admit you’re an abuser, because it means accepting that you agitate people for dopamine. It’s embarrassing to admit you’re an enabler, because it means that you’ve let people use you for dopamine, you liked it because it made you feel important, and you didn’t stop it yourself.
It’s hard to admit what you’ll do intentionally to make yourself feel better, but in all relationships you do it to a certain extent. The problem is when the imbalance becomes too great, and the harm done to both people goes undiagnosed.