Let’s Talk

What Is Enmeshment?

Q. Would you please address more about enmeshment and boundary issues?

A. Let’s Talk! Here’s how to “draw” enmeshment. Draw two circles side by side. Now move them even closer where the sides don’t just touch, they cross over the boundary of the other circle and create a shared space. That’s us when we become too entrenched in another person’s life.

It may sound like a good thing to be close and to care deeply for another person – but when the connection goes way outside the normal range, the relationship is not healthy emotionally.

That space can be a minimal or large area, but each enmeshed person has now lost some of his/her own individuality. In enmeshment, the problems of one person become the emotional burden for the other. Even the joys. Enmeshment is a codependency of the heart because your joy is all about and dependent on how the other person is functioning. If this person in your life is okay, you’re okay. If the individual is not okay, you are not okay.

Enmeshment is not two whole and healthy people sharing life – it’s two halves! Think about this: Which is a healthier relationship, a 50-50 relationship or a 100-100 relationship? Two emotionally whole people connecting and communicating is the goal, not two halves. It’s better math! It’s also interesting how a GOOD thing (a tight relationship) can go south. Many have shared with me the pain of enmeshment when their close relationship with someone got TOO close. I welcome your thoughts on how enmeshment has affected you.

For Deeper Reflection

Take some time in the next day or so to read Psalm 139. The plan for our lives is to be individuals, fearfully and wonderfully made.

Helen B. McIntosh has a doctorate in counseling psychology and is a national board certified professional counselor and certified in reality therapy. An educator for 19 years, Dr. McIntosh is an author, a highly demanded national speaker and inventor of the Peace Rug®, an international curriculum for conflict resolution.
You can contact me confidentially at DrHelen@braveandresilient.com

More on Victimization

Q. Would you please share some more thoughts
about victimization?

A. Let’s Talk! Victims are victims because they are being overpowered by someone’s disrespect and for various reasons can’t say NO or say STOP.

We teach children that whether there is stranger danger or someone offering drugs or someone trying to touch them inappropriately – they are to SAY NO, GET AWAY, and TELL SOMEONE. But there are millions of children, teens, and adults who never say no, seldom get away, and seldom tell anyone. Sometimes victimization feels impossible to stop, but we CAN tell someone (or more than one person) until we get the help and protection we need.

The Hazelden Foundation has a document entitled “Continuum of Violence” that is excellent. Picture a horizontal line. On the far left are the nonverbal and nonphysical types of disrespect. Examples are shunning and eye-rolling. Ever happen to you? That disrespect was hurtful, wasn’t it? On the far right end of the continuum is the expected “violence” of hitting, knifing, and raping. In the middle of the continuum are the nonphysical verbal messages of disrespect like teasing and taunting.

In a study I did on school shooters, I found that in every case, the shooters or perpetrators had been victims of ongoing teasing and taunting. They were not able to draw a boundary, didn’t say “stop,” and never got help, but instead stuffed their rage and focused on their bullies and became “like” them. We become “like” what we focus on — it’s called patterning — and these victims then became the ultimate bullies. Teasing is not to be minimized. Next time, I want to talk about what victims of bullying can say to their bullies, whether it is a school or workplace setting.

My point this week is to illustrate again how important our words are. It matters what we say. It matters that we say no to all forms of victimization, that we not stuff words of self-protection. And, it matters what we are thinking.

For Deeper Reflection

Matthew 5:37 “Let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ and your ‘no’ be ‘no’ . . . .”

And even if you feel alone in your victimization, the One who loves you most will be with you.
Isaiah 43:1–3a “But now, thus says the Lord, your Creator, O Jacob, And He who formed you, O Israel, do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine! When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, nor will the flame burn you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior . . . .”

Helen B. McIntosh has a doctorate in counseling psychology and is a national board certified professional counselor and certified in reality therapy. An educator for 19 years, Dr. McIntosh is an author, a highly demanded national speaker and inventor of the Peace Rug®, an international curriculum for conflict resolution.

You can contact me confidentially at DrHelen@braveandresilient.com.