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Tips on Setting Boundaries in Enmeshed Relationships

Tips on Setting Boundaries in Enmeshed Relationships


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Healthy emotional and physical boundaries are the basis of healthy relationships. Enmeshed relationships, however, are bereft of these boundaries, according to Ross Rosenberg, M.Ed., LCPC, CADC, a national seminar trainer and psychotherapist who specializes in relationships.

Whether it’s a relationship between family members, partners or spouses, limits simply don’t exist in enmeshed relationships, and boundaries are permeable.

“People in enmeshed relationships are defined more by the relationship than by their individuality,” said Rosenberg, also author of the book The Human Magnet Syndrome: Why We Love People Who Hurt Us.

They depend on each other to fulfill their emotional needs, “to make them feel good, whole or healthy, but they do it in a way that sacrifices psychological health.” In other words, “their self-concept is defined by the other person,” and they “lose their individuality to get their needs met.”

For instance, an enmeshed relationship between a parent and child may look like this, according to Rosenberg: Mom is a narcissist, while the son is codependent, “the person who lives to give.” Mom knows that her son is the only one who will listen to her and help her. The son is afraid of standing up to his mom, and she exploits his caregiving.

While it might seem impossible, you can learn to set and sustain personal boundaries in your relationship. Boundary-setting is a skill. Below, Rosenberg shares his tips, along with several signs that you’re in an enmeshed relationship.

Signs of Enmeshed Relationships

Typically people in enmeshed relationships have a hard time recognizing that they’re actually in an unhealthy relationship, Rosenberg said. Doing so means acknowledging their own emotional issues, which can trigger anxiety, shame and guilt, he said.

However, making this realization is liberating. It’s the first step in making positive changes and focusing your attention on building healthy relationships, including the one with yourself.

In his therapy work, Rosenberg does a “cost-benefit analysis” with clients. He helps them understand that they have much more to lose by staying in an enmeshed relationship as is than by making changes and finding healthy relationships.

Rosenberg shared these signs, which are indicative of enmeshed relationships.

  • You neglect other relationships because of a preoccupation or compulsion to be in the relationship.
  • Your happiness or contentment relies on your relationship.
  • Your self-esteem is contingent upon this relationship.
  • When there’s a conflict or disagreement in your relationship, you feel extreme anxiety or fear or a compulsion to fix the problem.
  • When you’re not around this person or can’t talk to them, “a feeling of loneliness pervades [your] psyche. Without that connection, the loneliness will increase to the point of creating irrational desires to reconnect.”
  • There’s a “symbiotic emotional connection.” If they’re angry, anxious or depressed, you’re also angry, anxious or depressed. “You absorb those feelings and are drawn to remediate them.”

Tips for Setting Boundaries

1. Seek professional help.

A trained mental health professional can help you better understand your relationship and take you through setting and practicing healthy boundaries, Rosenberg said. To find a therapist, start here.

2. Set small boundaries.

Start practicing boundary-setting by creating small boundaries in your enmeshed relationship. When stating your boundary, avoid doing it in a shaming, accusatory or judgmental way, Rosenberg said.

Instead, emphasize your love without judging the person for being wrong, and “offer something in return.” Then make sure you follow through. This way you’re still responding to their need and respecting your own limits.

Here’s an example: Your family wants you to come over for Thanksgiving. But this is the third time in a row you and your spouse have been visiting your parents’ home, thereby neglecting her family. To express your boundary, you might tell your dad, “We can’t come for dinner this Thanksgiving because we’ll be spending time with Sarah’s family. But we’d love to stop by for dessert” or “Next year, we’ll do Thanksgiving with you.”

Here’s another example: A daughter goes off to college. Her mom expects to speak and text with her several times a day. Instead of telling her mom, “Mom, you’re suffocating me, and you need to back off,” she’d say: “I know it means a lot for you to talk to me, and you’re doing this out of love, but I really need to focus on my studies and spend more time with my friends at school. Since I enjoy talking to you, let’s talk twice a week. Then I can catch you up on all the great things happening here.”

Setting boundaries this way avoids the negative cycle of enmeshment: Saying that you feel trapped by your parent’s expectations only triggers their anger or passive aggressive reaction (which Rosenberg calls a “narcissistic injury.”) They exclaim that “No one loves me,” which then triggers your shame and guilt, and you let them bulldoze your boundary.

3. Create connections with yourself and others.

“[P]ractice being alone and spending time by yourself,” Rosenberg said. “Work on the parts of your life that make you feel unhealthy, needy or insecure. And come to an understanding that your complete happiness can’t be met with one person.”

He also suggested reaching out to others and developing meaningful relationships; calling friends; making lunch dates and going to the movies.

“Find something that brings you passion, and you’ve kind of lost because of your over-involvement in the relationship.” For instance, volunteer, join a club, take a class or become active in a religious institution, he said.

“Life is too short to be insecure and fearful and tied down to [an unhealthy] relationship.” Learn the skills to create emotional and physical boundaries, and consider seeking professional help. Foster fulfilling relationships, but don’t let them define who you are.


3-Types Of Boundaries In Relationships

Whether you're going on a third date or trying to maintain a marriage that's lasted decades, setting healthy boundaries is essential for a successful relationship. A partnership of any length will, of course, have its ups and downs, but proper boundaries ensure that neither party feels disrespected. By understanding your established limits and how they affect your partner, you can build a strong, satisfying relationship you both deserve.

Rigid Boundaries

People with rigid boundaries can be cold and closed off. This can be a reaction to previous trauma and sometimes a defense mechanism to prevent the person from experiencing further emotional harm. Living by the belief that if you never let anyone in, you can never get hurt. However, to hold rigid boundaries can potentially damage relationships. Your partner might feel rejected and unsure, and they may feel as if they don't know the real you at all. Having these types of limits ends up being counter-productive because you inevitably experience hurt in the form of a lack of affection from your partner. Once safety and trust are established in the relationship, someone with rigid boundaries might want to start becoming more flexible with their level of openness to strengthen closeness and intimacy in the relationship.

Enmeshed Boundaries

An enmeshed relationship is one in which boundaries are unclear and emotions are shared. Your spouse may be the one who had a bad day at work, but as soon as they come home you suddenly find your day turning dark as well. Your relationship becomes the utmost priority in your life, and soon you've given up all of your hobbies and time with friends in favor of constantly being around your partner. People with enmeshed boundaries lose their sense of personal identity and absorb each other's emotions, resulting in a tense atmosphere and frequent arguments that are rarely resolved. Enmeshed boundaries usually signals codependency in the relationship, and practicing setting clear boundaries to protect your personal identity and self-worth can be beneficial.

Clear Boundaries

People with clear boundaries are open and accepting of their partners without giving up their own personal identity. You can feel and express empathy for your spouse's bad day, but you don't let it bring you down with them. You state your feelings in a non-confrontational way, letting your partner know your needs without starting a fight. You also give yourself permission to have reasonable limits and to expect these limits of your partner, knowing that being straightforward is what's best for the relationship. The overarching theme of clear boundaries is mutual respect for both your needs and your partner's needs.

Meeting in the Middle

It can be tempting to want to be around your partner constantly when you're in love, but getting too enmeshed will potentially cause muddled emotions and frequent bickering. Likewise, being cold and closed off can lead to mistrust and lack of intimacy. By setting up clear boundaries both sides of the relationship can build respect and understanding for each other, resulting in a healthy, mutually satisfying relationship.

**** Written for Meridian Counseling by: Saba Kerendian, AMFTRegistered Associate Marriage and Family Therapist (AMFT 88936)


Symptoms of Enmeshed Romantic Relationships

Because love addiction can often exhibit itself in the form of enmeshed relationships, and because enmeshed relationships can be so potentially unhealthy for people in recovery, it’s good to know the signs. In his 2013 book, The Human Magnet Syndrome: Why We Love People Who Hurt Us, Ross Rosenberg listed six symptoms of enmeshed relationships:

  • Neglecting other relationships because of obsession or concern about one relationship.
  • Happiness is contingent upon the relationship.
  • Self-esteem is contingent upon the relationship.
  • You feel excessive anxiety, fear or a compulsion to fix the problem whenever there is a disagreement in the relationship.
  • A “feeling of loneliness pervades [your] psyche” when you are unable to be with the other person. This loneliness can “increase to the point of creating irrational desires to reconnect.”
  • You feel a “symbiotic emotional connection.” In other words, if your partner is angry, upset or depressed, you become angry, upset or depressed. You feel the overwhelming need to fix his or her situation and change his/her state of mind.

Tips on Setting Boundaries in Enmeshed Relationships

Healthy emotional and physical boundaries are the basis of healthy relationships. Enmeshed relationships, however, are bereft of these boundaries, according to Ross Rosenberg, M.Ed., LCPC, CADC, a national seminar trainer and psychotherapist who specializes in relationships.

Whether it’s a relationship between family members, partners or spouses, limits simply don’t exist in enmeshed relationships, and boundaries are permeable.

“People in enmeshed relationships are defined more by the relationship than by their individuality,” said Rosenberg, also author of the bookThe Human Magnet Syndrome: Why We Love People Who Hurt Us.

They depend on each other to fulfill their emotional needs, “to make them feel good, whole or healthy, but they do it in a way that sacrifices psychological health.” In other words, “their self-concept is defined by the other person,” and they “lose their individuality to get their needs met.”

For instance, an enmeshed relationship between a parent and child may look like this, according to Rosenberg: Mom is a narcissist, while the son is codependent, “the person who lives to give.” Mom knows that her son is the only one who will listen to her and help her. The son is afraid of standing up to his mom, and she exploits his caregiving.

While it might seem impossible, you can learn to set and sustain personal boundaries in your relationship. Boundary-setting is a skill. Below, Rosenberg shares his tips, along with several signs that you’re in an enmeshed relationship.

Signs of Enmeshed Relationships

Typically people in enmeshed relationships have a hard time recognizing that they’re actually in an unhealthy relationship, Rosenberg said. Doing so means acknowledging their own emotional issues, which can trigger anxiety, shame and guilt, he said.

However, making this realization is liberating. It’s the first step in making positive changes and focusing your attention on building healthy relationships, including the one with yourself.

In his therapy work, Rosenberg does a “cost-benefit analysis” with clients. He helps them understand that they have much more to lose by staying in an enmeshed relationship as is than by making changes and finding healthy relationships.

Rosenberg shared these signs, which are indicative of enmeshed relationships.

  • You neglect other relationships because of a preoccupation or compulsion to be in the relationship.
  • Your happiness or contentment relies on your relationship.
  • Your self-esteem is contingent upon this relationship.
  • When there’s a conflict or disagreement in your relationship, you feel extreme anxiety or fear or a compulsion to fix the problem.
  • When you’re not around this person or can’t talk to them, “a feeling of loneliness pervades [your] psyche. Without that connection, the loneliness will increase to the point of creating irrational desires to reconnect.”
  • There’s a “symbiotic emotional connection.” If they’re angry, anxious or depressed, you’re also angry, anxious or depressed. “You absorb those feelings and are drawn to remediate them.”

Tips for Setting Boundaries

1. Seek professional help.

A trained mental health professional can help you better understand your relationship and take you through setting and practicing healthy boundaries, Rosenberg said. To find a therapist, start here.

2. Set small boundaries.

Start practicing boundary-setting by creating small boundaries in your enmeshed relationship. When stating your boundary, avoid doing it in a shaming, accusatory or judgmental way, Rosenberg said.

Instead, emphasize your love without judging the person for being wrong, and “offer something in return.” Then make sure you follow through. This way you’re still responding to their need and respecting your own limits.

Here’s an example: Your family wants you to come over for Thanksgiving. But this is the third time in a row you and your spouse have been visiting your parents’ home, thereby neglecting her family. To express your boundary, you might tell your dad, “We can’t come for dinner this Thanksgiving because we’ll be spending time with Sarah’s family. But we’d love to stop by for dessert” or “Next year, we’ll do Thanksgiving with you.”

Here’s another example: A daughter goes off to college. Her mom expects to speak and text with her several times a day. Instead of telling her mom, “Mom, you’re suffocating me, and you need to back off,” she’d say: “I know it means a lot for you to talk to me, and you’re doing this out of love, but I really need to focus on my studies and spend more time with my friends at school. Since I enjoy talking to you, let’s talk twice a week. Then I can catch you up on all the great things happening here.”

Setting boundaries this way avoids the negative cycle of enmeshment: Saying that you feel trapped by your parent’s expectations only triggers their anger or passive aggressive reaction (which Rosenberg calls a “narcissistic injury.”) They exclaim that “No one loves me,” which then triggers your shame and guilt, and you let them bulldoze your boundary.

3. Create connections with yourself and others.

“[P]ractice being alone and spending time by yourself,” Rosenberg said. “Work on the parts of your life that make you feel unhealthy, needy or insecure. And come to an understanding that your complete happiness can’t be met with one person.”

He also suggested reaching out to others and developing meaningful relationships calling friends making lunch dates and going to the movies.

“Find something that brings you passion, and you’ve kind of lost because of your over-involvement in the relationship.” For instance, volunteer, join a club, take a class or become active in a religious institution, he said.

“Life is too short to be insecure and fearful and tied down to [an unhealthy] relationship.” Learn the skills to create emotional and physical boundaries, and consider seeking professional help. Foster fulfilling relationships, but don’t let them define who you are.


Tips on Setting Boundaries in Enmeshed Relationships

By MARGARITA TARTAKOVSKY, M.S.
Healthy emotional and physical boundaries are the basis of healthy relationships. Enmeshed relationships, however, are bereft of these boundaries, according to Ross Rosenberg, M.Ed., LCPC, CADC, a national seminar trainer and psychotherapist who specializes in relationships.

Whether it’s a relationship between family members, partners or spouses, limits simply don’t exist in enmeshed relationships, and boundaries are permeable.

“People in enmeshed relationships are defined more by the relationship than by their individuality,” said Rosenberg, also author of the book The Human Magnet Syndrome: Why We Love People Who Hurt Us.

They depend on each other to fulfill their emotional needs, “to make them feel good, whole or healthy, but they do it in a way that sacrifices psychological health.” In other words, “their self-concept is defined by the other person,” and they “lose their individuality to get their needs met.”

For instance, an enmeshed relationship between a parent and child may look like this, according to Rosenberg: Mom is a narcissist, while the son is codependent, “the person who lives to give.” Mom knows that her son is the only one who will listen to her and help her. The son is afraid of standing up to his mom, and she exploits his caregiving.

While it might seem impossible, you can learn to set and sustain personal boundaries in your relationship. Boundary-setting is a skill. Below, Rosenberg shares his tips, along with several signs that you’re in an enmeshed relationship.

Signs of Enmeshed Relationships
Typically people in enmeshed relationships have a hard time recognizing that they’re actually in an unhealthy relationship, Rosenberg said. Doing so means acknowledging their own emotional issues, which can trigger anxiety, shame and guilt, he said.

However, making this realization is liberating. It’s the first step in making positive changes and focusing your attention on building healthy relationships, including the one with yourself.

In his therapy work, Rosenberg does a “cost-benefit analysis” with clients. He helps them understand that they have much more to lose by staying in an enmeshed relationship as is than by making changes and finding healthy relationships.

Rosenberg shared these signs, which are indicative of enmeshed relationships.

You neglect other relationships because of a preoccupation or compulsion to be in the relationship.
Your happiness or contentment relies on your relationship.
Your self-esteem is contingent upon this relationship.
When there’s a conflict or disagreement in your relationship, you feel extreme anxiety or fear or a compulsion to fix the problem.
When you’re not around this person or can’t talk to them, “a feeling of loneliness pervades [your] psyche. Without that connection, the loneliness will increase to the point of creating irrational desires to reconnect.”
There’s a “symbiotic emotional connection.” If they’re angry, anxious or depressed, you’re also angry, anxious or depressed. “You absorb those feelings and are drawn to remediate them.”
Tips for Setting Boundaries
1. Seek professional help.

A trained mental health professional can help you better understand your relationship and take you through setting and practicing healthy boundaries, Rosenberg said. To find a therapist, start here.

Start practicing boundary-setting by creating small boundaries in your enmeshed relationship. When stating your boundary, avoid doing it in a shaming, accusatory or judgmental way, Rosenberg said.

Instead, emphasize your love without judging the person for being wrong, and “offer something in return.” Then make sure you follow through. This way you’re still responding to their need and respecting your own limits.

Here’s an example: Your family wants you to come over for Thanksgiving. But this is the third time in a row you and your spouse have been visiting your parents’ home, thereby neglecting her family. To express your boundary, you might tell your dad, “We can’t come for dinner this Thanksgiving because we’ll be spending time with Sarah’s family. But we’d love to stop by for dessert” or “Next year, we’ll do Thanksgiving with you.”

Here’s another example: A daughter goes off to college. Her mom expects to speak and text with her several times a day. Instead of telling her mom, “Mom, you’re suffocating me, and you need to back off,” she’d say: “I know it means a lot for you to talk to me, and you’re doing this out of love, but I really need to focus on my studies and spend more time with my friends at school. Since I enjoy talking to you, let’s talk twice a week. Then I can catch you up on all the great things happening here.”

Setting boundaries this way avoids the negative cycle of enmeshment: Saying that you feel trapped by your parent’s expectations only triggers their anger or passive aggressive reaction (which Rosenberg calls a “narcissistic injury.”) They exclaim that “No one loves me,” which then triggers your shame and guilt, and you let them bulldoze your boundary.

3. Create connections with yourself and others.

“[P]ractice being alone and spending time by yourself,” Rosenberg said. “Work on the parts of your life that make you feel unhealthy, needy or insecure. And come to an understanding that your complete happiness can’t be met with one person.”

He also suggested reaching out to others and developing meaningful relationships calling friends making lunch dates and going to the movies.

“Find something that brings you passion, and you’ve kind of lost because of your over-involvement in the relationship.” For instance, volunteer, join a club, take a class or become active in a religious institution, he said.

“Life is too short to be insecure and fearful and tied down to [an unhealthy] relationship.” Learn the skills to create emotional and physical boundaries, and consider seeking professional help. Foster fulfilling relationships, but don’t let them define who you are.


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Enmeshed family: What does that mean? 

Imagine two pieces of string that have become intertwined and knotted together in a ball. It can be hard to see when one piece ends and the other begins. When something is enmeshed it has become entangled with something else.

When this word is used to talk about family dynamics it simply means that personal boundaries are unclear and permeable. This is often experienced on an emotional level where family members ‘feel’ each other’s emotions. This can result in there being an over responsibility to one another. If parents become excessively reliant on their children for emotional support or treat them like a little helper with adult responsibilities enmeshment occurs that is sometimes referred to as emotional incest.

The focus of this article is what it’s like when you are an adult with an enmeshed relationship with your family. This can be both with parents or siblings. Here are some characteristics you might notice about yourself if your family relates to one another in this way.

 If you have enmeshed relationships with your family as an adult you may find that you:

  • struggle to make decisions
  • feel shame or rejection if you say no to family members
  • feel your achievements are attached to your families idea of worth
  • sense that going against any consensus within the family is seen as an act of betrayal
  • don’t feel able to be your authentic self
  • believe you can’t achieve things without your family
  • notice that privacy is an alien concept
  • feel pressure to spend time together
  • feel responsible for other people’s happiness

Remember, you are not alone 

If the list above resonates with your experiences, know that you are not alone. The good news is that you can heal from the effects of enmeshment. This may be something that professional support and guidance from a counsellor can help you with.

A core aspect of this family dynamic is that your individuality has been compromised and your autonomy denied.

It’s OK to set boundaries around family

Your well-being and happiness matter. Setting boundaries helps us to have more effective relationships with the people we are close to. However, it might be daunting to consider taking these steps as setting boundaries within our family can be tricky.

You might find it useful to try and keep focused on your reason for wanting change and the aspects of self you’d like to get back. One way of restoring your independence is by setting small, manageable boundaries for yourself.

Getting some support for you 

Family may take offence to the idea that you want separation of any kind as this is a break away from the norm. Perhaps they don’t see anything wrong with your relationship and aren’t used to hearing ‘no’. These behaviours could have been passed down from generation to generation and you going against the grain might be viewed as ungrateful, disruptive, or even unkind.

Working with a counsellor to guide and support you during this transition is valuable. They can help you to work through and better understand any shame or anxiety that might come up as you make these changes in how you relate to your family of origin.

Often when we begin to make changes in our behaviour and show people how to treat us there can be some resistance from others. It can be uncomfortable for us too! Even when we really want to change, learnt behaviour and patterns we’ve come to do almost automatically can be hard to shift. It’s important to practice lots of self-compassion, be kind to yourself and offer yourself understanding for how you have behaved previously within your family.

The boundaries you start to set will be unique to your personal circumstances and what you feel comfortable with. Below are just some ideas to help get you started.


TRANSCENDING THE LINE

This brings us to Sophie’s question: “The teachings of Buddha say we aren’t separate, so why would I need boundaries?” This is an incisive question about a confusing issue. If the tradition teaches that you are not separate, that you abide in unity, then why worry about boundaries? Don’t they create and even glorify the very self you’re trying to transcend?

More than 20 years ago, psychologist and mindfulness meditation teacher Jack Engler tried to address this question when he wrote, “You have to have a self in order to let go of a self.” This points to the importance of being mentally healthy – having a functional reasoning and integrating faculty – in order to develop the skills and insights that allow you to let go of greed and aversion and clear your mind of delusion. As Engler wrote more recently in Psychoanalysis and Buddhism (Wisdom, 2003), “It takes certain ego capacities just to practice meditation or any spiritual practice.” Maintaining healthy boundaries is one such capacity.

Developing and maintaining healthy boundaries is vital to your spiritual development in two ways. The first is in your relationships with your teacher and fellow yogis. In both relationships, strong boundaries are imperative. Weak boundaries can lead to financial, emotional, or sexual exploitation by teachers and can possibly alienate you from your spiritual path. You may either misunderstand the idea of “surrendering to the teacher,” or your teacher may not have sufficiently strong boundaries to resist exploiting you.

If you have strong boundaries, you will not allow a teacher to trespass them. And, paradoxically, the confidence from your healthy boundaries will allow you to “surrender” in the way that your journey truly asks of you – by abandoning your habitual concepts about a “you” and how your spiritual life is to unfold. If you have healthy boundaries with your fellow students, you’re less likely to become enmeshed in their emotional dramas (and they in yours) or sexually involved in a way you may regret later. You also have the necessary balance to stay mindful of what is your practice and what is theirs.

Healthy boundaries can also facilitate spiritual growth once you’re clear about the role of ego and freedom. As Engler points out, it’s a mistake to think that first you solve your ego problems and then you begin spiritual work. It’s equally erroneous to think that if your ego becomes sufficiently healthy, you will automatically become enlightened and your spiritual work will then be complete.

Psychological growth and spiritual liberation unfold separately and on a different continuum, but they can be mutually supportive. Meditation practice can be very beneficial for developing your ego. Likewise, a healthy ego helps with the frustration, uncertainty, and pain of spiritual practice and greatly aids in transforming humiliation into humility. And at each step of your enlightenment, whether it comes all at once or gradually, you still have to integrate what you’ve learned into daily life, which requires a healthy ego with good boundaries.

Through my own practice, I now see boundaries as being about stewardship, which means I have a responsibility for caring for this body and these mental and emotional states. If I’m a good steward, opportune conditions for both psychological development and spiritual freedom will arise, and I’ll cause less suffering for myself and others. Good boundaries are not about “me” or my ego. Nor is there a feeling of “me” or “mine.” Rather, there is harmony and possibility, or there is not. Likewise, being a good steward means showing the same respect for the boundaries of others. I may not always be able to experience boundaries this way, but that’s how I organize and work with my view. Only gradually has it become a natural state, through repetition and habit.

I often urge students to think less about killing their ego and more about not identifying with what it wants. It’s not your ego that causes your suffering, it’s believing that life is all about meeting its endless wants. Treat your ego kindly and help it develop as best you can. Of course, it isn’t easy letting go of attachment. You may have a crossover moment when you cease to be organized around the ego but the ego soon reappears. What is different is that you’re no longer identified with it. You recognize that this ego is neither “me” nor “mine.”

Once you experience a degree of freedom, you’ll also realize that you still have a personality. But you’re not so caught in your desires or so deluded as before. You’ll discover that it’s possible to live in the moment instead of shrinking into thoughts about the past or the future – although you’ll still have thoughts about both. You simply are, the mind resting in freedom – which is a state of being.

When you work with mature spiritual teachers, you may find comfort in knowing they have an acute awareness that you, in your illusion of separateness, suffer anguish and stress, much of which comes from being obsessed with past and future. These teachers understand that you aren’t yet able to be within your boundaries, that you may still be imprisoned by the wants and fears arising from your ego’s unease. Because these teachers don’t identify with their own ego self, they experience no such anxiety their boundaries are fluid and flexible. They are so open that their hearts tremble with your pain, celebrate your joy, and never need you to be other than who you are. Such teachers are modeling and mirroring your own true nature for you. Creating healthy boundaries, understood in this way, is part of the journey toward realizing that true nature.


How enmeshment occurs

"In a functional upbringing, a child would be recognized as an individual, and given the space to develop his own sense of self his own personal identity. The mother would allow the child to set his own boundaries, and she would graciously respect them. She would set her own boundaries, and teach the children the importance of self-sufficiency and independence while offering nurturing encouragement. If the mother is emotionally undeveloped, needy, and incapable of setting and maintaining her own boundaries, the child will grow up playing an unhealthy role. The child will be used to satisfy the emotional needs of the mother. He will grow up believing that his purpose in life is to make sure his mother is happy and okay." - Smother Dearest - Mother And Son Enmeshment by Cayla Clark on the Next Chapter blog.

In childhood , the mother will regularly invade the child's physical and emotional space. This could happen in a number of different ways. The mother could adopt helicopter style parenting. This means being overly protective or taking an excessive interest in the child's life. Following the child closely and directing their movements when they are attempting to play or interact with others. Not allowing the child much freedom to undertake normal childhood activities for fear of injury or danger. Attempting to control the child completely, and not teaching them how to make their own judgments and decisions. Pushing the child into being what the mother wants them to be with little consideration of the child's individual talents or likes. Doing everything for the child, well into teenage years and beyond leaving them with little knowledge of how to cook, clean or do everyday tasks.

The mother could attempt to become the child's best friend or alternative for adult companionship:

"When I was a kid my mom would pull me out of school some days, not for any reason other than she seemed to want my company. I would just get dragged along while she shopped, and then we’d have lunch somewhere, with me listening to her talking about her life with my dad and how she was feeling about their relationship. Sometimes she would take me to the movies with her – not kid movies but grown-up stuff. My dad was always working or drinking, and she didn’t have many women friends, so I was her fill-in. And in a way that wasn’t so bad. I liked skipping school and eating out and getting see to movies that other kids didn’t, but at the same time I always felt a little bit weird with her. She always seemed to sit a little too close to me, and she commented on my body all the time, especially when I was a teenager. Sometimes she’d walk into the bathroom when I was in the shower to put away towels or some stupid thing that could easily have waited until I was done and dressed. Lots of stuff like that. I had no privacy at all. Even if I was in my room with the door locked she could be right outside, listening and asking me through the closed door what I was doing, was I OK, did I need her for anything. All I really wanted was for her to leave me alone." - Childhood Covert Incest And Adult Life by Robert Weiss on PsychCentral.

Here the mother will over share adult issues with the child, for example complaining about issues with the father or other adult relationships, worries about work or financial matters. The mother may provide excessive adulation or affection for the son, almost putting him on a pedestal. The mother will constantly ask the son to keep her company, she will often have a lack of other adult relationships or social contacts to keep


Watch the video: Πως βάζουμε όρια στους άλλους; Η σημασία των ορίων στη ζωή μας! Ψυχολογία (May 2022).


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    Rather valuable idea

  4. Jullien

    You are not right. I offer to discuss it.

  5. Kazrarr

    there are still some gaps

  6. Cyning

    Interesting note



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