By Andrea Knight
Enmeshment is a psychological term used to describe when a parent and a child become intertwined emotionally in their lives to the point where the child can not become totally independent. It may negatively affect the child from moving on and establishing their own relationship or family because the child feels “responsible” for their parent. Some of my clients have come up with some of these issues so I thought I might summarize it and provide solutions one can use to break free from it.
There can be a number of different combinations of enmeshed parent/child relationships although one pattern to note is when the parent has trouble with addictions where the child steps in and feels they need to take care of the parent with the problem. In some cases the enmeshed parents may complain to the child about the other parent, turning the child against 2nd parent, becoming a close best friend to the parent who feels abandoned by their spouse. If the child feels that the parent may hurt themselves from an addiction, they may assume the role of parent caretaker.
In other cases the child may have trauma in school early on and the parents take up the role as friend or protector. If the parent doesn’t let go and allow the child to grow to protect themselves then they may become co-dependent.
Enmeshment is when the emotional states and even empathy (energetic, metaphysical states) are intertwined so much that the child feels the way the parent does, maybe follows in some of their foot prints or feels like they are stuck, unable to separate from the parents. The child may sabotage themselves financially to stay dependent on the parent’s money, or sabotage their relationships so they will be available to take care of the parent, not being able to have a successful romantic relationship.
The solution to this is through separation and disengagement. Realize the symptoms and patterns is the first step. Acknowledge it is happening to you and stopping you from your independence and freedom. Then disengage from your parents. List out what thoughts make you feel stuck such as feeling you have to take care of them otherwise they won’t take care of themselves, needing them as a friend, needing the inheritance money, wanting the jewelry or some material thing they have. Then find solutions on how you can provide that for yourself such as joining a women’s or men’s group, upgrade your look (as you may have been sabotaging yourself) and date, go after that promotion or side hack, buying your own jewelry, or whatever seems to be in your way. Know your parents can take care of themselves and it is up to them to do so, regardless of their issues.
From a metaphysical point of view I have found there are energies that reinforce the symptoms of enmeshment, that may help wake us up to the problem. A healing method you can use is to visualize yourself in the white light, during a meditation and healing session visualize this enmeshment energy however you will (a black cloud or energy stream), and watch it dissipate or leave you to go elsewhere away from you. Reinforce and be strict on the energetic boundaries you have with your parents, disconnecting any energy streams, supporting the thought that it is necessary. Reading more on co-dependence and enmeshment will help you justify your separation and strengthen your own internal resolve on your way to freedom.
A really good book that talks about enmeshment is “Silently Seduced” by Kenneth Adam, PhD. there are many references on the web as well. With so many economic issues in the last couple decades, the increase in real estate prices, and the increased sensitivity in childrearing (being the child’s friend), we may see an increase of this type of issue with younger generations.
Silently Seduced by Kenneth Adam, PhD.