Following on from my previous post on enmeshment I wanted to follow up by sharing some quotes from books that I have read hopefully you will find them interesting and informative. Enmeshment is a very important topic because it can be very difficult, for the person who was in the enmeshed relationship, to spot and subsequently accept that they were abused. Enmeshment is covert and wrapped in the guise of a loving relationship with your parent. Much of the research that I have done points towards children being in an enmeshed relationship with a parent of the opposite sex, but this is not always the case.
Enmeshment can be hard to trace because the victim may feel as though they have been violated but they are unable to put their finger on how. I know that in my childhood my boundaries were not respected, my diaries were read, the bathroom door did not have a lock, my mother would eavesdrop on my private conversations and then inform me that she had done the same. From a young age I was always the shoulder for my mother to cry on, my sister and I were allowed to watch age inappropriate films, I gave my Mum relationship advice and my mother did not hold back on sharing the full details of any problems that she had.
It has been found that victims of enmeshment with parent (also known as emotional incest) often struggle with real intimacy and emotional availability in their adult sexual relationships. This link is interested because emotional incest does not seemingly effect the child’s sexuality or self expression, but it does. Victims of emotional incest have wounds and unmet needs that they carry around with them. I believe that these wounds act as a magnet and the victim then ends up meeting an emotionally abusive partner who is just like their parent. Without healing the past and improving your emotional intelligence, any future relationships will be compromised, the work must be done in order to find healthy sexual expression.
Below I have listed some from books that I found helpful along my healing journey:
- “Enmeshment creates almost total dependence on approval and validation from outside yourself. Lovers, bosses, friends, even strangers become the stand-in for parents. Adults like Kim who were raised in families where there was no permission to be an individual frequently become approval junkies, constantly seeking their next fix.” (Toxic Parents, Susan Forward)
- “The boundary between caring and incestuous love is crossed when the relationship with the child exists to meet the needs of the parent rather than those of the child. As the deterioration in the marriage progresses, the dependency on the child grows and the opposite-sex parent’s response to the child becomes increasingly characterized by desperation, jealousy and a disregard for personal boundaries. The child becomes an object to be manipulated and used so the parent can avoid the pain and reality of a troubled marriage.” (Kenneth M. Adams, Silently Seduced)
- “The child feels used and trapped, the same feelings overt incest victims experience. Attempts at play, autonomy and friendship render the child guilt-ridden and lonely, never able to feel okay about his or her needs. Over time, the child becomes preoccupied with the parent’s needs and feels protective and concerned. A psychological marriage between parent and child results. The child becomes the parent’s surrogate spouse.” (Kenneth M. Adams, Silently Seduced)
- “When a parent interferes with a child’s anger response in these heavy-handed ways [ridiculing, ignoring, isolating, goading, punishing, distracting, hitting, joking], the anger increases and is redirected at the parent: now the parent is the one who’s violating the child’s sense of well-being by interfering with a natural and necessary outlet of emotion. Most parents stifle this secondary outburst of anger, too, only this time with more force. […] Instead of allowing the anger to flow through the child’s system the first time it’s expressed, the parent unwittingly fans the anger, then dams it up. The anger becomes trapped in the little girl’s stomach, muscles, and jaw, and becomes an enduring wound.” (Patricia Love, The Emotional Incest Syndrome)
- “There are many situations that will require you to set boundaries so you can be clear on who you are and what you need and want, in relationship with others. This is the most important part of your healing process, allowing for the unfolding of your true, authentic self as opposed to playing the role that was defined for you by your parent. This new defined self will be the compass that directs you in moving forward in your life.” (Kenneth M. Addams, Silently Seduced)
- “Enmeshed families are characterized by levels of emotional closeness that are often seen as constraining. These families use manipulation, usually in the form of overly excessive but superficial expressions of love and unity to demand loyalty from their members. Conflicts are blanketed under the guise of solidarity and great effort is expended in maintaining the status quo. Members of enmeshed families typically describe their families as conflict free, while at the same time these very units are characterized by high demands for conformity. (Barbaron & Tirado, 1985; Williams & Hiebert 2001.)
I hope that these quotes help to offer you further insight on the subject of enmeshment, and also, that if you have grown up in an enmeshed family you can begin to see the patterns and know that it is never too late to break them and replace dysfunctional behaviours with healthy ones. The important thing to remember is that any insight is just for you, because you are the only person that you can ever change. i would love to hear your thoughts.