Enmeshment is a description of a relationship between two or more people in which personal boundaries are permeable and unclear.  This often happens on an emotional level in which two people “feel” each other’s emotions, or when one person becomes emotionally escalated and the other family member does as well.  Enmeshment between a parent and child will often result in over involvement in each other’s lives so that it makes it hard for the child to become developmentally independent and responsible for her choices.

The causes of enmeshment occur as a result of family patterns being passed down through the generations.  It is a result of family and personal boundaries becoming more and more permeable, undifferentiated, and fluid.  This may be because previous generations were loose in their personal boundaries and so it was learned by the next generation to do the same.  Or it may be a conscious decision to stay away from family patterns of a previous generation that felt overly rigid in its personal boundaries.

It is harmful because at the core of it, enmeshment is about control, which can prevent others from being themselves and doing what makes them happy.

Signs of enmeshment

You prioritize other people’s needs first

You don’t have boundaries

You have difficulty differentiating between your emotions and other’s

You find disagreements difficult

You lack a sense of self

You isolate yourself

“Sometimes you put walls up not to keep people out, but to see who cares enough to break them down.”