Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Clingers, Non-Bother Botherers, & Enablers

Clinger - a person who latches on to others; a needy person; dependent on others for self-worth;

Non-bother Botherer - a person who is so afraid of bothering someone that they bother you about not bothering you.

Enabler - a "fix it" type person; wanting to help everyone - often to avoid fixing themselves.

I think survivors tend to fall into one of the above categories. You have the Clingers - they leach onto other survivors for validation of every single little thing they think, say or do. They fart and they want to make sure they're "okay." They have no worth aside from what they get from other people. Frequently their lives are full of drama. They have all these issues and problems so that you can't gain some space - because they need you. Often they float from one person to the next, clinging for all they are worth until they are cast aside, then onto another.

You also have the Non-Bother Botherers (NBBs). These are people that are paranoid of bothering people. They think that breathing is a burden on the world as a whole. They call you and spend twenty minutes apologizing because they are taking up your time or might possibly be interrupting you. Every sentence starts with, "well I don't want to bother you...." In their effort not to bother you, they end up bothering you. You spend half your time reassuring them that they are not a bother.

Enablers tend to attract clingers and NBBs. They get sucked into the cycle of fixing the clingers, helping them out and refusing to cast them off. Guilt consumes them if they loosen the binds at all. Enablers spend endless hours reassuring NBBs that it is okay and it's not a bother. They patiently and repeatedly contact the NBB to make sure all is well, because they know the NBB won't contact them. Guilt invades if they do not make this contact.

I have to take some responsibility for my magnetic attraction of clingers. I'm an Enabler. I'm a "fixer" by nature. Ironically, I really get irked when I'm venting and people try to fix me. Sometimes (most times) I really just want someone to listen. I also get annoyed when I have to constantly reassure someone that they are not bothering me. It gives me a complex that maybe I come off harsh or abrasive and so they really do think they are a bother - when truly it is their own issue.

Recently I've had both a Clinger and a NBB in my life. (and no it is not anyone reading here!) Unfortunately it is the same person. I've never seen such a combo. On message boards, she posts these long events of her life, asks for advice, then lists reasons why it won't work, or she can't do that. Or she leaches onto one piece of advice and stalkers the author to "tell me just one more thing about how to do that." If she doesn't get the response she wants, she huffs and flounces off. She posts all the time looking for reassurance that someone is reading. She posts half the information and just sits back waiting for someone to ask questions or beg for more information. Her life is one drama incident after another.

I've tried not responding. Then I get emails, "have I made you mad?" or "I'm sorry I'm such a pain and a bother. I won't email you anymore." What am I to do but email her back and reassure her that it is all okay?

Recently this person has joined a group that I'm a part of. She's done this before. Joined and then left. It's a good group for her to be a part of. Great role models. But...she joins, sucks people in about how terrible her life is, and gets everyone to feel sorry for her. Then the group comes to me and says "we want to help." I get sucked into organizing it. Then the person gets the help and leaves. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Not this time. I got a call from a group member, "I just heard that Person's house got repossessed and they are out of a job. Blah blah. We should take up a collection." I tried not to be harsh. But this has to stop. Several of us gave her advice. Tried to help her manage her finances. Tried to save her house. Have given her countless leads on jobs. Have offered to babysit so she can interview. Have given her interview clothes. Have helped with her resume. Have given her budget saving tips. Have given her food and hand-me-downs. Does she listen? Nope. She sits at home with her deluxe package cable television, texting on her handheld blackberry while eating bon-bons.

She's a survivor. I try to have sympathy for her. I try to help her out of the tough spot she is in. But I'm getting sucked into the hole too. So it's time to let this Clingy NBB go and quit being an enabler. Wish me luck.

DISCLAIMER - I have had TWO people contact me convinced it was them I was talking about. I assure you it is not. This person is a compilation of two (well maybe 3) different people in my life. None of them read here. So I promise if you are reading this I am not talking about you!!!! One of these people (N) I could care less if they thought it was them. I hadn't heard from them in months until they emailed me today convinced I was writing about them. Why would I write about her now? The other (J) I consider a good friend and I'm very sad that she thought it was her.


beauty said...

It's taken me a lot of years to realize that people who truly want help take it (and use it.) Those who just want drama and attention bounce from one person to the next because they don't really desire a resolution to their troubles.

Sounds like you did the right thing in not continuing to offer assistance to this individual.

lawyerchik said...


Oh, you probably wanted "good" luck! ;) Stick to your guns.

Anonymous said...

Great cartoon. lol

Enola, you know what a caring, soft-spoken person I am. Tell me where the blog is you are posting about and I'll see if I can help her too! :)

You know, of course, that the internet is not the best form of communication. So much is lost in the sheer black and white of it all.

Two people contacted you? Haha, I was glad to see you wrote "she."

Shouldn't your vacation be coming up soon? Is the office staff going to throw you a good by party?

dm said...

Hope you have a great day @ work today :-)

Mssc54- you brought a smile to my face this morning...In my mind's eye, I just saw a picture from the movie "Walking Tall" when you mentioned your soft-spoken caring nature. you have a good day too.

Kim said...

Is it me?? ;oP

It's so important to our own healing to let these types of people go. You've done more than your fair share to try to help. As Beauty so wisely said, people who want help take it and use it. This person/people you describe....drama junkie. Someone who feels the need to live in crisis mode to avoid "being". As survivors, I think it's important that we use what we have been through and learned to help others. But you cannot help someone who doesn't want to help themselves. When helping another becomes harmful to you, it's time to step away. You made a good decision.

How are you feeling about your last day??!?!?

Kahless said...

Have you read Eric berne's "Games People Play"

She sounds like she is playing one such classic game and others are playing with her in her game (enabling)

You are right, quit playing is the only option.

austin said...

I have to laugh at the last part about not caring less if that person thought it was them.

Drama is only good in the theaters. The only people who get awarded for it are actors and actresses yet your everyday drama queen goes on as if they're going to be up for an Oscar. I don't get it. I do however, understand the Borderline type behavior you're talking about here. It's that behavior that keeps Borderlines on the outside of most things. They internalize, they push away, they don't communicate their needs properly and ultimately end up driving others up a wall. Untreated or undertreated Broderlines are no picnic. When they are able to keep these symptoms and behaviors in check then and only then do they find a reasonable level of life satisfaction. Then and only then do people around them stop pulling their hair out.
My sympathies to both of you... her for having to live with BPD and you for being driven up the wall.