A functioning family will have strong familial relationships. A good family dynamic often has shared ideals and perspectives. However, having too much of a good thing might have unfavorable effects. The blurring of boundaries and duties within a family dynamic is known as familial enmeshment. Family members are encouraged to sacrifice their personal demands for the “greater good” of the family. Enmeshment frequently happens when parents govern their children via both explicit and implicit norms in a parent-child relationship. Resistance, emotional abuse, deception, and guilt are all consequences of infringements. Children who grew up with fuzzy or flexible boundaries may have been intertwined in their families, which can result in enmeshment trauma.
What is Enmeshment Trauma
Enmeshment is a sort of intense intimacy between people. Enmeshment can occur in any social or romantic connection, but it frequently occurs in family relationships, such as those between parents and children. It entails high degrees of improper closeness and low levels of autonomy or independence. As instance, a parent could frequently vent to their child excessively about their own adult difficulties and use the youngster as a sounding board to affirm their sentiments.
Enmeshment Trauma refers to having too much of something or becoming overly emotionally attached to family members. Enmeshment families are frequently blamed for traits like little autonomy and excessive levels of improper closeness. A parent’s and child’s emotional connection is often seen as favorable, but if there is an excessive dependency between the members, it can have negative implications. A child’s emotional independence from their parents may be limited in an entwined household where parents may rely too heavily on them for assistance. Enmeshment Trauma can gradually exert an adverse impact on one’s mental health over time.
Signs of Enmeshment Trauma
- kids will always be their parents’ best friends
- Parents overshare personal matters with their kids in an effort to provide them with emotional support
- Lack of Boundaries
- Extreme invasion of a child’s or parent’s privacy in their physical or emotional space
- Parents regularly interfere with their kids’ life and deny them enough privacy.
- Children feel accountable for their parents’ emotions.
- Avoidance of conflict
Enmeshment patterns may be developed by people who have gone through childhood trauma, such as physical or emotional abuse, neglect, or abandonment, as a means to deal with the absence of protection and support during their formative years.
Enmeshment can emerge as a result of growing up in a home with poor boundaries and dysfunctional communication styles. Family members may feel responsible for each other’s feelings and well-being and may not be encouraged to show their uniqueness.
Enmeshment may be more likely to occur in those with insecure attachment patterns, especially anxious attachment. To feel safe, they may rely too much on the proximity and assurance of others—often at the price of their own individuality.
Strong dependency within families may be encouraged by certain cultural or religious traditions, which can result in enmeshment, particularly if individual needs and aspirations are not sufficiently taken into account.
When partnerships lack appropriate boundaries, enmeshment frequently results. People could find it challenging to distinguish between their own feelings and those of others, which can lead to a tangled emotional web.
Long-Term Psychological Consequences
1. Avoiding conflict out of fear
Avoiding disagreement out of fear or just giving in, appeasing others while stifling their own demands in an effort to keep some semblance of peace, are two prevalent responses to conflict.
2. Problems With Relationships
Relationships among children who grow up in entangled homes frequently deteriorate as a result. Friends or romantic partners may perceive the person’s closeness to or even intrusiveness with their family as being inappropriate
Some issues in romantic relationships may manifest as one party routinely seeking inappropriate counsel from a family member outside of the partnership. It’s possible that this family member doesn’t have the best interests of the advice-seeker in mind and views this behavior as a way to maintain power and influence over them.
3. Low self-esteem
People with poor self-esteem could believe they don’t have much to contribute and have a hard time accepting compliments. This can be as a result of the emotional abuse they endured as children or a life-changing event that made them doubt their own abilities. In enmeshed households, the strong emotional dependence on others can lower self-assurance and autonomy.
4. lacking a sense of self
It could be challenging for someone who was raised in a close-knit family to physically and emotionally leave the group. For instance, an adult may have poor decision-making skills or rely excessively on their parents’ counsel. Because they don’t feel ready or equipped to “adult” on their own, they can return to living with their parents.
5. Trauma Bonding
Trauma bonding” refers to the link between the abused and the abuser. Usually, trauma attachments are what keep people caught in a pattern of remaining in or going back to an abusive relationship. It can be difficult to break a connection with someone who has grown involved in or dependent on another person since they can think that person is essential to their existence.
Most likely, the abuser or the person in charge has been making decisions for them, whether consciously or unconsciously. Enmeshment prevents the establishment of boundaries, and targets in trauma-bonded relationships will lose control when they entirely detach from themselves. They could even lose their sense of reality.
Types of Family Enmeshments
1. Romanticized Parent:
Parental over-involvement in their children’s lives can blur the lines between what is suitable and put the identities of both the parents and the children in danger.
2. Helicopter Parent:
Although helicopter parents may appear nervous and concerned, their actions really serve to calm their worry and make them feel in control, all at the expense of the child. Helicopter parents lead their children to be dependent, to grow slowly, and to lack the ability to cope.
3. Incapacitated Parent:
When one or more parents are mentally or physically unable to care for themselves, the other family members become unduly involved in their care, obstructing healthy boundaries and personal autonomy. This is known as “incapacitated parent enmeshment.” When a parent has a serious sickness, disability, or mental health problem that prevents them from functioning independently or taking care of their basic requirements, this circumstance frequently occurs.
4. Favoritism and Scapegoating:
Favoritism and scapegoating of children in families refer to quite different approaches to them. While the preferred kid seems to be immune from damage, the scapegoat child may be held responsible for family problems. In an effort to “make up for” poor parenting, a parent may use one kid as a venting mechanism for displeasure with the other.
Therapeutic Approaches to Treat Enmeshment Trauma
- Family Therapy
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
- Attachment-Based Therapy
- Trauma Focused Therapy
Tips to Heal from Enmeshment Trauma
It might be challenging to separate from an intertwined family and discover who you are as an individual, but there are effective methods to find support and experience PTSD recovery. Setting boundaries, rediscovering who you are, and getting professional assistance from a therapist are all ways to recover.
1. Create boundaries:
We may feel that saying “no” is improper, harmful, or unethical, which makes setting limits challenging. But over committing yourself to someone is also inappropriate .
2. Discover yourself:
Discover your likes and dislikes. Attempt new things. Rediscover who you are.
3. Seek Professional help:
We discover thought and behavior habits that are not beneficial and that require analysis and reworking. It’s crucial to locate a therapist with experience in handling problems related to abuse, neglect, and childhood trauma.
4. Be Patient:
When revisiting challenging memories, it’s crucial to be kind to oneself. While you are deciding what is best for you right now and in the future, it might be beneficial to acquire techniques for managing your discomfort.