In Part one of this blog, I discussed the topic of enmeshment within family systems, including what it is and signs for noticing it is occurring. As discussed, growing up in an enmeshed family might mean that you now have replicated enmeshment and codependency in other relationships in your life. In part two of this blog we will discuss four components of reversing enmeshment and becoming a healthier, more authentic version of yourself.
Boundaries are crucial when it comes to changing enmeshed relationships. Boundaries help to create a healthy separation between you and others, whether that be physically (personal space, privacy, physical touch, etc.) or emotional (saying no to things, not answering calls from a toxic person, having your own thoughts and feelings, etc.).
The first step with setting boundaries is recognizing what specific boundaries need to be put in place. You can do this by taking note of times you feel angry, resentful, guilty, or anxious (Martin, 2019). Once you explore what is underneath those feelings, you will most likely find that there was some sort of boundary violation.
Discover who you are.
One of the results of enmeshment is often that it prevents us from developing a strong sense of self, meaning that you might not have a good understanding of who you are, what you enjoy, what matters to you, and more (Martin, 2019). You might just feel obligated to do what pleases other people rather than what pleases you.
A way to combat this and separate yourself from enmeshment is to discover who you really are. What are your interests, values, goals, and hobbies? What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses? What are you passionate about? Your religious or spiritual beliefs? If this is not something you were taught or encouraged to explore, this might be a confusing and uncomfortable process (Martin, 2019). Despite what you might have been taught, it is not selfish to put yourself first, nor is it wrong to have your own ideas and preferences.
Stop feeling guilty.
Guilt is often a common barrier to overcoming enmeshment and doing what is best for you and your life. However, guilt can often be used as a manipulation tactic in enmeshed families (Martin, 2019). We can be told that we are wrong and hurtful for going against what we were taught. This guilt over time can become internalized and cause us to believe that setting boundaries and having our own opinions is wrong.
The first step with this is to recognize that guilt and self-criticism are not helpful or accurate reflections of reality. Begin by noticing how often you feel guilty and how that dictates your behavior. Next, try and challenge these distorted thoughts that keep the guilt going (Martin, 2019).
There is no denying that processing through enmeshment can be a difficult and painful process, especially because these are probably relationship patterns that you have known since birth (Martin, 2019). Getting help from a therapist or support group can be helpful for learning new skills and reducing the guilt and shame that often come with this journey. Try and remember that not everything needs to change at once! You can always focus on one area of growth at a time.
Connect with Symmetry Counseling today to learn more about our family counseling services in Chicago.
Martin, S. (2019, October 28). The Enmeshed Family System: What It Is and How to Break Free.