In today’s episode, sponsored by BetterHelp, we’ll be talking about enmeshment. It sometimes can be confused with codependency, terms which some use interchangeably. We’ll focus on not only enmeshed families or couples, but also parent/child enmeshment. And I’ll offer seven steps to slowly and carefully begin to gain more of your independence and sense of self. Families are extremely different in how well they build safety, love and caring within the family, while also supporting each member through their own development of  unique beliefs and skills.

What are these seven steps? First you have to realize that rarely will you get permission to gain some distance. And you also have to recognize that enmeshment created within an abusive relationship has to be handled extremely – as even setting appropriate boundaries can be punished with violence.

The seven steps are:

  • Realize the overt and covert rules that you are following. Write them down.
  • Realize the beliefs associated with those rules. Again, write them down.
  • Acknowledge what you fear will be others’ reactions.
  • Understand and face your own fears of independence or self-doubt.
  • Write out the boundaries that are more appropriate.
  • Start small. Start creating those boundaries. Ask yourself, “What do I believe I’m getting by reaching out that I can’t give myself?
  • Then figure out a way to provide or discover those for yourself in the world apart from the enmeshed relationship.

Our listener email is from someone who was struck by one of the assignments or the what to do about it in a past episode.. she’d tried it and it had worked! I’m always delighted to hear that…

Important Links:

Article by Sharon Martin in Psych Central on codependency and enmeshment

Psychology Today article.. describing the five family structure within the Beavers Family Systems Theory

A good article on developing a safety plan before you begin separating from an enmeshed domestic violence relationship.

You can hear more about mental health and many other topics by listening to my podcast, SelfWork with Dr. Margaret Rutherford. Subscribe to my website and receive one weekly newsletter including my weekly blog post and podcast! If you’d like to join my FaceBook closed group, then click here and answer the membership questions! Welcome!

My book entitled Perfectly Hidden Depression has arrived and you can order here! Its message is specifically for those with a struggle with strong perfectionism or need for control which acts to mask underlying emotional pain. But the many self-help techniques described can be used by everyone who chooses to begin to address emotions, long hidden away, that are clouding and sabotaging your current life.

And there’s a new way to send me a message! You can record by clicking below and ask your question or make a comment. You’ll have 90 seconds to do so and that time goes quickly. By recording, you’re giving SelfWork (and me) permission to use your voice on the podcast. I’ll look forward to hearing from you!

Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels.




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