Emotional enmeshment causes confusion & exhaustion in our relationships. Enmeshment has been a hot topic lately. It can feel tricky but there are answers & you can heal from enmeshment.
Where enmeshment begins:
Enmeshment typically occurs in the family unit, usually originating in the parent/child relationship. Children need to individuate from their parents to become healthy, independent adults.
Individuating from their parents requires healthy boundaries. That is, enough separation in the parent/child relationship to encourage the child’s independence & enough attachment to the parent so the child feels safe, loved & respected.
A healthy family unit creates healthy emotional boundaries.
Healthy emotional family boundaries look like:
- The parents enjoy a private life separate from their children.
- The parents share confidences that they don’t share with their children.
- The parent does not look to the child as a sounding board or counsellor.
- Parents don’t see their children as a source of emotional comfort.
- Parents respect their children’s right to privacy.
- They share only age-appropriate information.
- Children feel supported & respected for their individual preferences & goals.
What Emotional Enmeshment is:
However, the enmeshed family does not have healthy emotional boundaries. There is not enough distinction between the emotional lives of the family members.
After an argument with your spouse, you ask your daughter for a hug because you: “…need one because your Dad yelled at me.” Rather than self-soothing & dealing with the situation directly with your spouse, you put your emotional needs onto your child.
When children repeatedly experience this, they learn that they have a responsibility for their parents’ feelings. Consequently, enmeshed relationships hamper the capacity for children to individuate.
You may suspect you’ve experienced emotional enmeshment with your parent. Or you may be a parent who is enmeshed with your child. Either way, some boundaries need to be made.
Dealing with it head-on is difficult, but you will see that you can generate self-love & trust with time & some effort.
If you suffer from emotional enmeshment, you might be:
1. Spending a lot of time anticipating what others want.
2. Feeling responsible for others’ feelings.
3. Using your energy to meet expectations that aren’t yours.
4. Feeling required to agree with other people’s opinions.
5. Thinking everything you do is inadequate.
6. Avoiding conflict at all costs.
7. ‘Absorbing’ other people’s feelings.
8. Saying ‘No’ brings up a fear response.
9. Not distinguishing your dreams from someone else’s.
10. Getting into a frenzy over someone else’s pain.
11. Difficulty separating your emotional response from someone else’s emotional response.
How To Heal From Enmeshment:
This is a serious issue with more going on in it. But if this post helps to enlighten you a bit & you think you may be suffering from enmeshment in your relationships, seek some further professional guidance for help & also:
- Give yourself compassion: enmeshment is confusing.
- Discover who you are. Start listening to your thoughts & feelings to discover your sense of self. Knowing your feelings & thoughts is difficult at first if this is new to you.
- Enmeshed children learn that it is wrong to “indulge in” self-love or create boundaries. Immense guilt can be a consequence whenever they try to set boundaries in adulthood.
- Seek help in how to stop feeling guilty for someone else’s feelings. Ask how to unlearn the lesson that taught you; you are responsible for how someone else feels.
- Discover that guilt, ongoing drama & self-criticism do NOT have to be an expected part of family life.
- Seek Support. There is HELP available from certified professionals. This type of pain is from the oldest relationship you have in your life. There is no shame in asking for help. Unravelling the beliefs you’ve developed takes time. A different perspective can help you make a plan to move forward.