Why Enmeshed People Are Too Close



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Enmeshment-The Problem of Too Much Togetherness

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Enmeshed Families

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In enmeshed families, individuation is limited. You’re likely to get stuck in an emotionally dependent, child-like state. This creates a strange juxtaposition of being undifferentiated and.

In an enmeshed family, there are no boundaries between the family members. Instead of the strong bonds that signal a well-functioning family unit, family members are fused together by unhealthy. Enmeshment is a dysfunctional relationship style that’s characterized by too-close relationships. This style is usually found between family members.

Although closeness and intimacy in families are positive and important for developing strong bonds, enmeshment takes this closeness to the next level. Being close to your family is usually a good thing, but it’s possible to be too close. Enmeshment describes family relationships that lack boundaries such that roles and expectations are confused, parents are overly and inappropriately reliant on their children for support, and children are not allowed to become emotionally independent or separate from. Enmeshed families are rigid systems that become locked-in over time, and these roles and patterns can be very hard to break out of.

If a family as a whole understands that this enmeshment is unhealthy and wishes to change, family therapy can be helpful in establishing more permeable, flexible boundaries within family relationships. There are a number of different reasons why your parents created an enmeshed environment growing up – mostly, the reasons were unintentional and unconscious. In other words, your parents likely did not deliberately set out to put a stop to your mental/emotional differentiation it kind of just happened. At its most basic, enmeshment is about an unhealthy level of codependence that denies another person independence. While enmeshment can be a problem for couples or siblings as well, here I explain what it looks like in a parent child relationship.

Our tradition of joint family living can make Indian families particularly vulnerable to enmeshed parenting, as the arrangement can enable too-close involvement and control over children’s lives long into adulthood. The Effects of an Enmeshed Relationship. When the roles of a mother and daughter become entangled, this is described as an enmeshed relationship. In an enmeshed relationship, a mother provides her. The causes of enmeshment can vary.

Sometimes there is an event or series of occurrences in a family’s history that necessitates a parent becoming protective in their child’s life, such as an illness, trauma, or significant social problems in elementary school. At this time the parent steps in to intervene. The lack of maternal warmth and validation warps their sense of self, makes them lack confidence in or be wary of close emotional connection, and shapes them in ways that are both seen and unseen.

List of related literature:

Members of enmeshed families place too high a value on family cohesiveness, so they yield autonomy and have little inclination to explore and master problems outside the safety of the family.

“Family Therapy: An Overview” by Irene Goldenberg, Mark Stanton, Herbert Goldenberg
from Family Therapy: An Overview
by Irene Goldenberg, Mark Stanton, Herbert Goldenberg
Cengage Learning, 2016

The enmeshed family is “too close” due to diffuse boundaries between members, consistent with families who exhibit resistant/ambivalent attachments.

“Handbook of EMDR and Family Therapy Processes” by Francine Shapiro, Florence W. Kaslow, Louise Maxfield
from Handbook of EMDR and Family Therapy Processes
by Francine Shapiro, Florence W. Kaslow, Louise Maxfield
Wiley, 2011

Enmeshed families tend to be ‘closed’ to the outside world and are so used to keeping themselves to themselves that they are likely to regard all agencies and professionals with suspicion and disdain.

“Public Health and Community Nursing E-Book: Frameworks for practice” by Dianne Watkins, Judy Cousins
from Public Health and Community Nursing E-Book: Frameworks for practice
by Dianne Watkins, Judy Cousins
Elsevier Health Sciences, 2009

Members of enmeshed families place too high a value on family cohesiveness, to the extent that they yield autonomy and have little inclination to explore and master problems outside the safety of the family.

“Family Therapy: An Overview” by Herbert Goldenberg, Irene Goldenberg
from Family Therapy: An Overview
by Herbert Goldenberg, Irene Goldenberg
Cengage Learning, 2012

In contrast, enmeshed families are characterized by weak metaphorical boundaries in families in which children’s access to resources commonly comes at a price of a loss of autonomy and undue exposure to discord and turmoil.

“Handbook of Developmental Psychopathology” by Michael Lewis, Karen D. Rudolph
from Handbook of Developmental Psychopathology
by Michael Lewis, Karen D. Rudolph
Springer US, 2014

All families can be characterized according to their position on a continuum ranging from diffuse boundaries, typical of “enmeshed” families, to overly rigid boundaries, which typify “disengaged” families.

“International Handbook of Multigenerational Legacies of Trauma” by Yael Danieli
from International Handbook of Multigenerational Legacies of Trauma
by Yael Danieli
Springer US, 1998

Highly enmeshed families are overly cohesive, which can impede the development of independence in individual family members.

“An Introduction to Young Children With Special Needs” by Richard M. Gargiulo, Jennifer L. Kilgo
from An Introduction to Young Children With Special Needs
by Richard M. Gargiulo, Jennifer L. Kilgo
SAGE Publications, 2018

For example, extremely enmeshed families will entangle their members very closely with each other, whereas disengaged families offer more autonomy and may not provide much support to their members.

“Death & Dying, Life & Living” by Charles A. Corr, Donna M. Corr
from Death & Dying, Life & Living
by Charles A. Corr, Donna M. Corr
Cengage Learning, 2012

Enmeshed families are emotionally very close and do not tolerate high levels ofindividual autonomy.

“Family Therapy: Concepts, Process and Practice” by Alan Carr
from Family Therapy: Concepts, Process and Practice
by Alan Carr
Wiley, 2012

These families may be highly enmeshed and bonded because of the expectation for open internal boundaries, leading to a high degree of interdependence among the members.

“Boundaries of Privacy: Dialectics of Disclosure” by Sandra Petronio, Irwin Altman
from Boundaries of Privacy: Dialectics of Disclosure
by Sandra Petronio, Irwin Altman
State University of New York Press, 2002

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  • Hi Jerry,

    This was the most clear, concise and informative video I’ve ever seen on Enmeshment. So much great information here that is easy to understand and relate to. Thankyou!

  • How is this possible? My mother literally called me worthless last week because I spilled something(she said it in the way someone would say something they meant with their whole heart). I deeply internalized it. I even cried about it last night. Thank you for reminding me that I can reject her narrative. I’m a good person. I help others, I rescue animals, and most importantly: I love and take care of her. She’s always been a very critical person and I think it’s easy for me to fall back into my childlike interactions with her. I’m not worthless. Maybe she feels worthless? Regardless, I need to remain in control of my own feelings/reactions. Thank you, Kati. I wish I could repay you for all the help you give to others ❤

  • What can i do if i definitely know that my ex is doing this to my daughter since she was 15 and now turning 21? She doesn’t speak to me at all for 5yrs now cause I divorced her abusive dad. She said he’s sad, all alone and has no-one. She mentioned that she wouldn’t cope if he meets someone. She became his wife and doesn’t know it. If I do something everyone will think I’m a sick bitter ex-wife. Please what can I do? It sickens me to my core.

  • I feel my dad doesn’t respect boundaries and I find it easier to keep away b/c whenever i disagree with him, it can easily turn into an argument. He makes enmeshed comments whenever I do something he doesn’t. For example, he doesn’t eat shrimp but if I say I want a shrimp salad, he’ll say “We don’t eat that!” Also, i stopped drinking chocolate milk because I stopped liking it, but he says things like, “You don’t like this? Who’s kid are you?” So much enmeshment in the family. My other family isn’t that great with boundaries either.

    I need to get better at walking away BEFORE my boundaries turn into an argument.

  • The worst situations I have seen are when people get stuck half way in/out of these covert incest, I have a great friend who hasnt done the work and re-engadged in a new way with his mother, he is stuck in resentment and hasnt actively walked through a cycle of growing up, still in blame for his failure and unable to grow up and be accountable/responsible….she has struggled with the big C for a few years, I try to encourage him too complete the leaving home cycle so he can enjoy the last stage of his mothers life in a closer and healthier way

  • I like the idea of switching the narrative in your head. I’ve been feeling really powerless at work because I have a new boss who yells a lot and it throws me back to being a helpless kid instead of a powerful working woman, and I end up responding the way I would have when I was in high school being yelled at by my track coach (scared, anxious, emotional, overly accommodating, taking things personally). I think I need to work to change my mindset that I AM an adult with agency now and nothing someone at work says can put me back into my “old story” of being a powerless little girl

  • this was immensely helpful and I’m ACTUALLY looking forward to seeing my family in a few days so I can challenge myself to trying these out. thank you!

  • 12 step programs use enmeshment in sponsorship. I like the observer not an absorber. Stop the mission to change others. Sponsors become to enmeshed with people they are trying to help.

  • Found a nice guy but sweet lord…the mother. He calls her his queen. If that crown is taken where would that ever leave me? He moved her in with him. He feels guilty for any feelings outside of her. He constantly talks about her at 52 ys old. He invited me over which was a huge step for him. She was invited to the neighbors…. nope! She wouldn’t go. She treats him like he’s her husband… something feels creepy. I had to walk away which is so hard since we get along so well. I can see how conflicted he is because he wants to be free to be with me but has this battle going on in his mind.
    This author describes this guys situation perfectly.

  • Wow. You just put a very complex struggle I am having into perspective and helped me set productive goals to focus on. You did more in 15 minutes than 8 months of struggle in therapy. I had never even heard the term “enmeshment” before now. Can you recommend anyone in SoCal that can expand on this with me while recovering from severe burnout and long-lasting repetitive trauma? Or would that be in your scope of service? This was super helpful thank you so much for doing this you amazing woman!

  • I had a less than ideal perfect childhood fast forward at 30 I got clean, discovered my authentic self healed many wounds and split off parts of self….then met a woman who has not left home emotionally she is still daddy’s little girl and cannot take any form of feedback, even if its in the form of a request! most defensive person I have ever met. this leaves me helpless and feeling as though my partner cannot show up for me at the, or close to the level of emotional independence. Im in Germany, we have just got a beautiful big apartment with everything…..im gutted at the situation, we’ve been married 3 years, im not sure if I can take it anymore

  • This is a very common mother-daughter dynamic. It does not necessarily involve demands, but covert expectations or need on the part of the parent. We end up feeling that we are abandoning our mothers if we even dare to be happy. Their suffering becomes our priority and we lose our selves. And totally disagree that same-sex sexualisation is less icky. It is traumatising because it feels so twisted

  • Wow thanks for addressing this… these enmeshing parents.. if they can’t enmesh the adult child’s spouse, they will try to ostracize them from the whole extended family group

  • I wish I had learnt this a long time ago. I knew something was wrong and feel it but couldn’t understand or reach out for the right kind of help to understand that what I was feeling about boundaries and enmeshment was not normal

  • Amazing. Thank you so, so much, Jerry. This is the first time I clearly realised that enmeshment is something I need to look into.

  • Have you seen the plathville family tlc documentary? The mother controls her kids to an extreme level. She isolates then to the highest degree. Sounds like enmeshed to me.

  • The reason I am sometimes afraid of them being angry at me, is because their anger is not healthy anger they express narcissistic rage and the rage of a person who does not tolerate frustration the result is agression from them either overt aggression, covert agression including manipulation or passive aggression and that is painful and also dangerous. Oh and the fear of losing the relationship, which happens, when a person starts to set boundries within a dysfunctional enmeshed family system (just as dr.Cloud and Townsend write in their book Boundries) I lost my brother, but I probably never had him. That is very painful.

  • What should one do when a parent doesn’t realize they’re hurting you, even after telling them to stop doing something?
    I don’t feel like I should have to explain to a parent in detail how and why something they say or do hurts me. At the same time I’m in no position to ask them to change, but if this certain parent doesn’t change, I don’t want them in my life.
    I’m 20 years old, and I live on my own, but go home to my parents on weekends. To be honest I mainly go home to see our pets, but it puts me in a very bad mental state because I feel disrespected, discarded and that my loyalty is taken for granted.
    How can I do something about this? Should I even try or give up on the relationship with that parent?

  • Growing up with a borderline mother, failing to mirror my mother’s emotions completely was considered the ultimate betrayal. I felt like I had no right to view a situation differently than her or have my own relationship to people in our lives. Even as an adult I deal with the guilt of simply calling a family member “behind her back” (read: on my own terms). It’s taken a lot of work to reassert and affirm the self that was repressed all throughout my young life.

  • Love this talk. It’s like a class with definitions for terms. Doesn’t a lot of this just boiled down to respect the one’s you love? And isn’t love best matched when they both feel that way and show it?

  • My,soon to be ex-husband,is extremely narcissistic and he’s also heavily bonded to his narcissistic mother,and family,after 20 years of being bullied,cursed at,put down and blamed for everything,that ever happened,He called me a stalker,(I realized,this is true,(looking back over,the way he’s been toward me,I really was acting like a stalker,)So I’m getting a divorce.

  • Oh I need help. Brought up with little family iv never been enmeshed with them. Now I absolutely dont understand my husbands constant daily expectation we revolve around his family. I dont mind occasionally but they dont like me and as time has passed iv grown not to want their company at all. We cant even move out of the area as the rule is he wont move more than a few streets away from them. I seriously need advice. I cant handle it anymore.

  • I have been looking after my parents most of my life, sorting out their problems. Now I’m the bad person and they don’t talk to me anymore. They tell people that I never do anything for them and they are better off without me. This makes me angry and sad. I suffer with anxiety and depression, so the way they are treating me makes me feel worse.

  • Omg, I was just learning about this in-depth.

    Other terms I’ve found to be similar are: emotional incest, parentified child. Maybe I’m wrong, but I believe they are similar topics.

    All my love to everyone struggling with this kind of family history. <3 <3 <3

  • I moved many miles away from my family for my safety and sanity so, to be honest, i am not enmeshed. I have been no contact for many years now. You are right they wanted me to play a role which i refused and just recently because certain people are getting old they are trying to get me back and it wont happen. Many thanks for your video.

  • My unhealthy relationship is with myself and after moving halfway around the world to try and escape me and reinvent myself I’m still stuck in the same headspace I was in at 11 and my coping mechanisms are slowly killing me.

  • This video was so helpful. Thank you.
    I think I was enmeshed with a family member but we’ve worked out healthier boundaries since then. ❤️

  • You loose your unique identity? Tangled up in this individual your obsessed with ����‍♀️ before you know it years have passed and you no longer know who you are

  • I was goaded all my life and this gave fuel to my narc’s, its still hard to undo this, i have no contact now. Many many thanks for all your video’s they are so helpful.

  • Can there be enmeshment for some family members and distance for others?

    Can you also discuss trauma bond between family members and how enmeshment has to do with this?

  • Thanks for this. I find that everything that comes out of my mouth demonstrates enmeshment, even with strangers. I pray that these be the last words I speak for a long time.

  • I have a serious question. I take a few meds for bi-polar ptsd severe depression. Anxiety. Along with a few more things. Between my doctor and my pharmacy I have gone days without any of my meds. I have now gone 3 days without sleep, having terrible anxiety, feeling unusual shock feelings in my brain and my wrists and fingers, lost interest in doing anything with no bright outlook and even some self harm thoughts. I’ll get the meds today finally. But my question is how do I address in a serous manner? They wouldn’t withhold insulin from a diabetic but even with mental professionals I feel like this is a joke or at least an after thought.

  • I just heard you talking about religion relating to enmeshment. So many, if not most of us, in the Christian faith were raised on legalism (Old testament “thou shalt and shalt not” ) instead of with the knowledge of Grace through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Many, if not most of us, might know the Gospel, but still think we’re on a point system, earning our tickets to Heaven. It’s a very burdensome way to live, and, if we believe that for ourselves, we tend to lay that on others, as well. Legalism is not true Christianity. In witnessing, the Bible says to be “fishers of men” and to “sow seeds”, being a light, a good example, out of honor to God, but always respecting the free will of others.

  • God, you’re basically describing my life. I went from foster care to an abusive alcoholic father who ended up leaving me in the care of a severely enmeshed family who were extremely judgmental and critical and emotionally abusive. At 12 i was left to take care of their disabled mother who needed care around the clock. It made focusing in school, sleep, and any kind of normal social life non existent. If I failed to keep her house clean enough or showed displeasure when serving her children when they came over multiple times a week then I’d get shunned and talked about like I wasn’t there. That thing you said about living with your family in your head stopping attempts at disengagement is an every day thing for me. I am 31 now and I’ve been left feeling very lonely yet afraid of close relationships. The older I get, the more obvious the more I am becoming aware of my deficits in just about every aspect of my life. Even typing this out I have this irrational fear of one of my family members seeing this. I made the mistake of mentioning that I started seeing a counselor around one of my aunts and now she the rest of my family know. I saw her a couple of months ago for a family get together and she made a point to tell me in front of everyone that it was ok that I was crazy…It really hurts, thanks to whoever read this.

  • The addiction thing makes me think of Peaches and Paula Geldof. She grew up knowing her mother died of a heroin overdose as a small child and then went on to die the same way. She was probably always thinking about that death in her darkest moments, the same with Sylvia Plath and her son. I think depression probably has a genetic component but when you lose a parent so young in such circumstances as addiction or suicide which are essentially the same thing it leaves an indelible mark on the child’s psyche

  • If I am understanding enmeshment corrrectly people that call themselves empaths as a “psychic” ability are really enmeshed instead?

  • The emeshment is unhealthy for me cuz my dad keeps disrespecting me n keeps crossing boundaries. He never calls me unless he doesn’t hear from me for 3 months.

  • I’m a 21 year old girl who deals with high functioning autism. So I can relate to this. In elementary school and middle school I used to get ignored, teased and treated like I was a pest. I used to get told by other kids that I was weird, annoying, a baby and immature by kids my age and I started to believe it as I got older, and still to this day. I used to be in special Ed classes in public school and had my friends in that class who I can relate to due to similar problems. But kids out of my class used to treat me like crap. I gained a best friend I met when when I was ten in class that I’m still friends with today. In middle school I used to have a crush on a boy in my grade, but he didn’t feel the same way and his friends used to tease me, which led me to loose trust in my peers and give up on trying to socialize in 7th grade. I’ve been in therapy since I was 12 because of my anti social tendencies. When I got to high school things changed when I was seeing my best friend in camp and saw her everyday in class, which made my life very happy. Now that I’m out of high school and don’t see her on a daily basis, it’s been hard for me to find friends in college that I can have the same connection with. While I do have a good boyfriend and I get out and socialize hear and their with my friends in public school, I still feel like I’m in that 12 year old me’s mindset. This video was really good for me to hear, although I have a steady family life, unfortunately I have been letting the negative things I was told by kids in elementary school and middle school define me.

  • I recently started to learn that my father might have BPD. He was always so controlling, abusive, chose to victim role, never wanted to be abandoned and sometimes behaved like a child. What’s worse is that for most of my life I’ve felt responsible for his emotions and making him feel good. Any time he got angry I felt like I was responsible for it and didn’t feel comfortable. Any time he was happy I was feeling okay. That’s probably why I became a people pleaser and it’s been difficult to explore my identity as a gay man and have more relationships with other gay men; they don’t really see who I really am and with straight people I put up a fake straight macho persona that doesn’t represent my true self. I’m glad to start seeing a therapist again and learn Kati’s advice. I am starting to get control of my life and show my true self to the world.

  • As the spouse of a man who is the object of emotional incest with his mother, sister, daughter and now niece is sooooo confusing, disheartening, and painful. Yes, feeling second fiddle, but the truth is 5th fiddle. My husband loves it when the women in his life take care of him and even fight over him. And yes, the competitiveness with me is so sick. What they do for him always seems to be an attempt to outshine me. Ewwww…. it has always felt so dirty. I just didn’t know what to “name” it, but could see it and feel it. Yuk.

  • Thank you Jerry for all the examples and time you put into this with steps how to work on self-differentiation. I took notes! (not the first time I have taken notes by the way…on your videos) Its helping me to understand and take steps to heal. You are a blessing. May you also be blessed in return!

  • Hi Jerry. I want to appreciate you for another wonderful video. I will like to work with you and get over my codependency and enmeshment. Can you please tell me the kinds of programs you have available and also the cost. Thanks and God bless

  • Your words are like a mirror to me. Growing up in an enmeshed family, I always tried to distance myself and then when I had my own child, I repeated this enmeshment within my own family. Everything is quite clear now. Thank you, Jerry.

  • The point about the alcoholism in your family of origin is so spot on! I was like that as a teen and I was absolutely letting the fear of my father’s addiction define me. It’s sort of like if i dont press the red button i’ll be fine, but all you’re thinking about is pressing the red button and it actually brings you closer to the thing you fear. So wise, you need to stay in neutral. It’s a problem when other ppl’s mental health difficulties are defining you

  • Can one person be enmeshed with another, while the other person is not enmeshed with them? Does it necessarily take two? What is it called when it is just one-sided?

  • Restrict your time and interactions with toxic family members for the sake of your mental health. My favorite coping skill is doing activities I loved doing as a child like complete dance cardio workouts and playing jenga.�� ��

  • Enmeshed families are complicated.
    Can you imagine the impact of this dynamic on someone who marries into these kind of families????��‍♀️��

  • Ive actually never heard of this before, i was first introed to the concept of enmeshment by Joe Ryan podcast found on spotify, whos selfparenting episode was initially what drew me.
    Then I discovered this on spotify and wow. My situation is currently so painful! And this feels like a massive connection and lifesaver!
    I come from a very very emotionally damaged family where my circumstances are too fucked up to even describe here.
    But this has helped me apply meanings and words to these circumstances.
    Thank you so much! I will be listening to more episodes for sure, donating, and leaving good ratings.

  • Excellent!! Thank you so very much for these invaluable life lessons! I often have to back up and listen again, and even repeat after you…to help me remember better. God bless you.

  • Thank you Dr.Kirk Honda. Just came here after a very heartbreaking fight with my mom. It helps me to understand my family dynamic a little bit.

  • Hey guys. Just a reminder if you like a YouTuber and continually like and watch their vids make sure you hit that like. It really helps them and it a simple way to show support �� I’m still trying to remember that.

  • You shared the solution to dealing with some heavy traumatic experiences and situations. And you delivered so easily to me what i’d wondered over for long. Thank you so much Kati. Thank you so much

  • i wouldnt say scapegoats “volunteer” i know some scapegoats who were scapegoats from birth onwards and scapegoated for things that are normal/not bad. such as not latching on for breast feeding as an infant

  • Hi Kati,
    I have a problem and I wish you could help me bc I really don’t know what to do. I’m 14 and I have seasonal affective dissorder, but it’s not about me, it’s about my sister. She is 16 and lately I’ve noticed some changes in her behaviour and I think she is either depressed or atleast stuck in a very very deep rut. I wantt to help her but I’m pretty shore she will not believe me and not listen to me, let alone accept my help… So when I tell her what I think, it will probably set me even further from reaching my goal. I really want to help her but she’s been really annoyed with me lately so I’m not even alowed to walk into her room and she will definitely not listen to me. Can you please help!!❤️

  • My family is so toxic… They hurt me physically and mentally since 3 year old… I remember iwhen I young I had thought they ll left somewhere in crowd… It’s so hard for me… Be with them they hurt to level where almost dead one day I asked them why u doing this… I nvr talk to them one day I did they r just making strong… Wow kicked out your girl at night out of home.. At winter night… I hope… One day I ll be good for my kids not like them ��❤��…… But still when ever I see anyone happy with their family I just feel to cry I get jealous coz since from young age I had dream to have family a cute family but my this dream…. They just broke me.. Due to them I stop talking to my frndz…no relationship works coz I can’t trust I feel like one day everyone will left them now I got urge to just runaway… Before they leave

  • This video came at a perfect time for me. I am struggling with this same thing with my adult sister who I live with. She puts me down and I internalize that. I need to remember that she has no power to shape me as a person.

  • So interesting. I love how you explain things. I’m from a very disengaged family and have theories that other family members of mine are in enmeshed families. Would love to hear a podcast more on the disengaged family.

  • Hey Jerry this is Sal the guy you spoke with a month-and-a-half ago I’m doing a lot better now and I appreciate this video of enmeshment because as I did a lot of self therapy and you were one of the biggest helps in my life I see now that too much togetherness too much in measurement was the root of my gaslighting family systems problem now I crave more than ever and been acting all my Cravings to be self differentiated and I’m more happier with my life and being alone appreciate and love more of myself and it’s helped me to overcome being a sld thanks so much for this explanatory video����☺��

  • Thank you for posting this video Jerry. After I watched this video, all elements fits on my husband and his family’s relationship. I would like to have my husband to watch this video but he gets offensive about it. Any solution without making him feels offensive?? Please let me know, I do need your help. Thank you.

  • The “Requirement for Frequent Communication.” I know an extended family that calls that requirement, “report filings.”

    I know a man in his late sixties who had a gift for writing. His mother disallowed it. She was also the top point of the triangle that was his marriage. Tragic, decades long train wreck.

    Some countries, an entire country could be enmeshed! A police state, the thought police.

  • I come from an enmeshed family. I’m the youngest. I have very controlling parents, who overprotected me as a child. They decided EVERYTHING for me. At 13 years old my curfew was freaking 5pm. For some time, when I was much younger, I somehow didn’t seem to mind that. I guess I haven’t tried to, what you call.. “individuate”. But when I got into my 20’s boy OH boy, I started to get reallllyyy rebellious (I still am lol). I wanted MY OWN LIFE. It’s SO true when you said that we have a TREMENDOUS amount of repressed rage. Because I know I do, till today, and I’m turning 30 next month. Right now I can’t stand being too close to my parents, because they suffocate me. I would say that 3 out of 5 times my dad will always have something mean, sarcastic or deprecating to say, and any normal innocent conversation can quickly escalate into an argument blown out of proportions. In the worst cases (which isn’t so frequent now thank God) my dad would bang things, raise his voice and say extremely mean things. Growing up until now, I felt like I could never express my true feelings, as they would never listen and understand. My mum too, who has trouble accepting that I have a different opinion about a lot of things, has a tendency to “indoctrinate” and never back down when she’s relentless on winning an argument.

    It’s true that we become dependant on other people on our needs, I guess it turns into some kind of codependency. I saw this play out in my relationship, where I was just that typical NEEEEEDY girlfriend in the first few years of our relationship. It’s our 7th year now, been through a lot, and now I’m learning to self-soothe and centre myself whenever I feel needy. Anyway.

    I have been dying to move out and I just feel stuck like there doesn’t seem to be a way. My mum definitely has an issue with me living alone, which I find so irritating! Especially with Asian traditions, where the unspoken rule is a child shouldn’t move out unless they get married. I don’t know I just feel that moving away from my parents would make my life better, but perhaps there’s that subconscious narrative that says I’m not worthy of it or it would disappoint my parents holding me back.

    I could go ON and ON and not stop..I’ve barely scratched the surface of my enmeshed family experience in this comment. Now the real question is, how does an affected person overcome the effects of enmeshment, can they do it without going to therapy?

  • When i go home I feel leaned on to go to bed when my mother does. I feel like a child being told a bed time and I hate it. I’m over 40.

  • i love this video!! this is completely unrelated but i have two questions i wanted to ask you today but i didn’t get the time. 1, how does food logging help with ed treatment? my therapist has me doing food logs. 2, if i struggle to think about stuff to talk about in therapy and it actually stresses me out and dosen’t come natural anymore since i went to PHP and have been feeling good, is that a sign i can start spacing out my appointments more?

  • At 20 minutes in my heart broke and I think I might decide to live under my dest for the rest of my life to spare my children from what I am doing that I dont even know I am doing. deep breath

  • Thanks Kati..i do give excusec like that to put up my boundaries but my parents r sooo toxic they just hold me… held me back and say that i must talk about that thing I’m very not willing to talk about!
    It’s more irriatuing now since I’m stuck with them in this lockdown.

  • I would like to add that sometimes the “stories you tell yourself” are incorrect. For example…My adult son acts out on me..is abusive…and his “story” was that I “abandoned” him. After participating in therapy he learned that the opposite sex parent abandoned him…rather than me.. Also, that he was “identifying with the aggressor” when he was abusive to me. So…as you can see…there’s still work to be done…but, the story he had been telling himself was so wrong.

  • Hey Katı would you be able to cover a video on family estrangement/disowned? I’ve been dealing with this for almost 8 years, and it’s something that stills weighs me down. İ am the person who has decided to keep my distance, but I still can’t get over it even though they’re not good for me.

  • Hi Kati.
    I know this is unrelated but I hope you could answer me none the less.
    What disease is someone suffering from when he says he’s an alien (an extraterrestrial) and gives details (like how he is 31 yo in earth years (and looks like 31), but he is actually 84 yo but he never ages, he comes from the planet Tarf and his father was an alien?
    As I’m writing about it, it all sounds o absurd and even ridiculous, but he actually is a person I was interested in dating, but after this revelation I am going to give him a block.

  • What’s up with the series of photos of these women? Pretty strange. Ask yourselves, why do you want to be seen this way, in the context of this discussion.

  • How do you make someone realize that their family is enmeshed, so they can start breaking free and trying to be their own person? Because I tried to bring it up and I got a defensive attitude.

  • Hello Jerry Wise! I hope it’s not enmeshment to say your transformation is quite an accomplishment and congratulations! I saw an old video and realized what a fete you’d surmounted. I had the pleasure of losing weight also so I appreciate the challenge. Enjoying your helpful insights. Learning quite a bit. I am in the middle of avoidance and learning how to increase self differentiation. Thank you!!

  • Thank you so much Kati, this video is exactly what I needed. I have so many things from my past where my boundaries were crossed & I ended up enmeshed in a bad family dynamic. You have helped me realise a few things so thank you so much! ☺

  • So what if the situation is reversed where your parents are staying at your house, and they’re telling you when to go to bed. In your own house. As guests. After you’ve put in a full workday. And they’ve done nothing but play golf and fuck off. For 30+ years.

  • oh my god…this is what i recently realized. I really had to work on my self esteem in order to self differentiate. It explained everything, I grew up in emotionally abusive home where I was really undefined in sense of self and when I grew up whenever I entered a romantic relationship I always felt too swept away? sort of feeling and it was really confusing because I did not have a clearly defined sense of self and I couldn’t handle it because my sense of self felt so unclear. I really had to put lot of effort in finding out who I am in order to actually self differentiate. When I saw your videos about a year ago I didn’t reall understand what self differentiation really meant, but now I do.. and changing and control..so true. and what you say about geographic distance not making a difference…you’re so right, it’s what I went through. No amount of distance helped. What helped was serious commitment on working on myself internally. thank you for this video it really helps

  • This has been a burdensome issue destroying my life creating intense fear of intimacy and feeling iscolated. I just wanted to let you know this video and your insight was exactly what I needed to feel comfortable being vulnrable around the correct people. I truly appreciate you sharing your wisdom and skills

  • Hi, we are taught to bond with our children when they are small, then they get to this weird stage 15, 16, 17, they still need us but are slowly supposed to grow independent from the parents. How can we have a healthy medium where that codependency and emeshment is at a minimum. I’m trying to be a good parent but it seems I only identify myself as so and sos parent, it’s like I don’t have an identity other than being this person parent. Love her to death but I need more videos for this weird stage, this older teen stage

  • My nana just yells all the time and everytime I address a issue she dissmisses it or “doesn’t know” what I’m talking about, and my family thinks I’m crazy. I’m alone I’m pissed off I don’t know if I can do this.

  • @eve&Artie I also think families are the way humans have managed to survive in complex societies. A way to support eachother and keep going. Unfortunately Survival doesn’t mean being happy all the time or even comfortable. Also Societies has changed, we have evolve to a higherbigger level of possibilities and expectations, however, the idea of family stays the same, at least when it comes to it’s basics: Honor-respect-belonging-caring for eachother. That can be great, but this can also be experienced in a disestructured manner, making things more difficult than they should be. We are complex and highly intelligent creatures… The more intelligent a creature is, the more it suffers. Dogs have trauma, dolphins suffer from trauma and can commit suicide by stopping breathing. Octopus get very stressed in captivity and can end up eating their own tentacles. We also have created for ourselves a system that works, but perhaps we need to find ways to adapt and improve our emotional life. This hasn’t really been looked after in the human history, just recently we are more aware of mental issues, trauma and it’s consecuences.

  • This vid was extremely helpful I had no understanding of the concept of enmeshment, which had been driving me insane for a long time, and had thought that my intuitive rejection to poor boundaries in my family was somehow bad, or crazy because the enmeshment was so covert. I am now reassured, finally.

  • Let me preface this by saying, it’s not fair to hate on me bc of my experiences of my birth mothers ASPD/NPD/ Bi Polar II. Please don’t steal “my work” with frowny and boo hoo faces. It’s hard won, I wish more can see it.

    To answer as many of the questions I have the self awareness to answer. My family, we rode the tide of my birthmothers Bi Polar waves. As adults, we don’t care to associate in the depression phases. The mania, we have this twisted sort of telephone tree. Think a scene from Watership Down. As children we would go without sleep for days on end. The lows, her depression; these are the golden moments. She would sleep for days. We could sleep at night. We would go to movies, the park, the conservatory and the arboretum. There were breakfasts out with just Dad.

    My husband’s family is within relatively clear view of “healthy,” it’s overwhelming and scary for me. No one understands, they do accept. My husband still rents me a car and a hotel room because I need space; after 25 years, they have learned to suck it up. I am who I am. I need space, easy escapes and freedom. They need crab legs, lasagna and steak, lol. And I need a 4 door.

    Sorry for the heavy answer. You caught me on an honest day. ��

  • THANK YOU FOR ADDRESSING THIS. I struggled with this in my family for my entire life and have never been able to explain it to those on the outside. It feels so freeing to know that I’m not the only one and that I didn’t imagine all that hurt I experienced. I was hospitalized four times in high school for various suicidal attempts and crises, yet I never realized how much my mother/family dynamic had a hand in my emotional state at that time. I almost went to live with a family friend after one hospitalization when I was 16, but my mother wrote me a letter that manipulated me emotionally back into her web. Thank you so much to the speakers and everyone who made this podcast possible, I am so grateful for you all.

  • Thank you for your wisdom, education, and professional thoughts. What do you see as a boundary between being virtuously empathetic and unhealthy enmeshment?

  • My husband told me that I should kill my self because I have depression and anxiety.He told me I can never do anything in my life,I’m working but not making more money like him ����

  • “getting stuck in old narratives” this really resonated with me, thanks for posting this Kati, struggling today and i really appreciate you sharing this ��

  • There are families that use the excuse of culture, traditions, religion to specifically enmesh female members, and the other hand give male members the freedom to go out, do whatever they want and feel fulfilled. They want the males to enjoy their lives and have fun, but the females can only go out with the whole family, or have strict curfew to before sun down. This is the kind of misogyny, some families with a more conservative lifestyle have.

  • The role of scapegoat is assigned to them whether they “fit” the part or not. The scapegoat casting comes from the authority figure not dealing with their troubles in an appropriate way and take it out on others. Same as one being assigned the golden child. They don’t necessarily always fit their given roles, which could change depending on the family dynamic. Maybe self fulfillment prophecy plays a part but it’s more the associations that the person built who is seeing others as such and it’s influencing how they treat others. We give roles to people in our lives. If a child is rebelling in a typical way they may have given in to the role but there are also many others that don’t “volunteer” for that role.

  • That brother and sister that look like a cute couple will probably be me and my bro. There very lovey dovey towards me. But I love them so let’s see how everyone reacts!

  • Great video,
    I am going to try and apply healthier boundaries to my life. I know that I am far to nice and lax on my boundaries with my family on certain things, even though I share a lot with them.
    Needing to utilize the word “No” more often as well would be beneficial for myself.
    Thanks always for your amazing videos.

  • I’ve watched your old video on transference and it was helpful but do you have any advice on what to do about transference with someone other than a therapist? I have it with a teacher and I’ve told him about it now but I’m worried I’ve scared him away and I don’t know how to make it better.

  • Hi Kati! I’ve watched quite a few of your videos and found them helpful. I have difficulties with social anxiety and depression. As a kid and teenager I rarely left home and lived in the country. I’m in undergrad now, and trying to live outside of the home, but I’m finding it borderline impossible to branch out and meet people outside my “family island”. It’s like there’s a wall between me and others I can’t break! I hate myself, but I don’t know who I am, even. I’m so alone, and I don’t know what to do! Can someone please help me? Thanks again for these videos you put up. They touch on a lot of issues relevant in my life, and you provide an empathetic voice when I (and I imagine many others) just need one sometimes.

  • I know this doesn’t have anything to do with the video but I need an answer

    I have Severe panic disorder since 2017 and I get flare ups so extreme that I have at least 2 major panic attacks EVERYDAY
    When I’m not in a flare up I have panic attacks 2 times a week
    I also have Bipolar disorder 2 and both my Depressive and hypomanic episodes stop me from being functional
    I have BPD which makes everything WAY more triggering to my other disorders

    Does this count as disability?
    Could I get a service dog for this?

  • I can’t do that. I’m autistic so that just wouldn’t work for me. What happened is what happened and that’s what I have to process.

  • Kati the timing of this video couldn’t be more good towards what i am currently going through in regards to the relationship with my mother. It’s like there is no boundaries with her! Thank you for spreding awareness on this issues and being able to pass on your knowledge so nicely to people like myself so we can manage to look out for help. I love your videos ����

  • I think this would be a great video and topic to revisit around the holidays. I didn’t think about this, but I definitely have a feeling of not being important compared to the rest of the family, and feeling like a burden. And my family just expects me to go visit for the holidays each year, and I absolutely dread it. I usually comply, but just sort of dissociate, but I’m working on standing up for what I want to do and not go this year!

  • I am on the other side a parent who is draged into a very uncomfortable place when my husband’s adult son decides to live in our house �� dealing with a lot of socially unacceptable thoughts and feeling like the worst person in the world ������

  • I unfortunately tried boundaries with my parents but it didn’t work, I was completely Co dependent and enmeshed With them, to the point I started to behave like them, even though they had poor behavior, it’s only when I turned into a unrecognizable person when I looked in the mirror, it was that and potentially losing my husband and children because of the person I was becoming, I cut them out of my life. No communication. I’m still working on myself. I’m kind, caring, empathetic and never fitted in with my sibling and parents. I’m still on the road to recovery with addiction that was not caused by anyone but I stayed in it longer because I was surrounded by people who thought it was hilarious, do something stupid while drunk, they made it seem OK. They bought me alcohol when they knew I was trying to quit.

    I walked to the shop with my father, he turned to the pub, I went in with him, I struggled to say no to him. And my stupid choice I did have a drink with him, I’ll never forget ” I miss you drinking with me, I don’t care how much trouble you get in, I’m just glad you’re here drinking with me”, the same parent who took me to the pub at 15 and drank together for 12 hours. Luckily I didn’t drink properly till age 26 but addiction hit quickly and a year of being a shit person, enough was enough. I’m sober, happy and without the toxic people x

  • Unfortunately ive married into an enmeshed family. We see each other at every meal AND at office during work. Yet i dont feel part of the family and they dont truly have an interest in getting to know me. They probably dont know how suffocating its been and i can never tell them..

  • I have been confusing emo enmeshment with emo intimacy all my life in my family. I realised recently after forty plus years, that im actually alone in this. And true intimacy is not possible with my parents because they just arent capable of it. Cannot keep trying to convert the enmeshment into connection.

  • i KNEW u were gonna say “everybody loves raymond”, its the first show i thought of! i cant stand that show, the mother in the show is an unbearable narcissist…..hits too close to home

  • What do you do in this situation when your an adult with high functioning autistic. And high enough functioning to function without full guardianship. Even my old doctor said my court case was botched. And I can clearly remember my father saying he was relying on me having a full ASD shutdown in the courtroom. Because it made me look like a low functioning autistic person. I have to live with them and have zero rights. I’ve been put into a situation where I have to talk to a doctor about cptsd. And all of this is hard because the area where I am definitely behind is emotional development. My doctor said emotionally I’m 12 and I have problems with Alexithymia.

  • My siblings are all enmeshed with each other. My older brother will call me and ask a question for a sister. Several of my siblings do this. I am a quiet single person, live on my own. I don’t understand why an adult sister would not just call me directly. Two of my sisters like to have “our” older brother call me for them. This does not seem, feel normal, healthy. The two sisters are oddly bonded together as well, “special” relationship, gifts and yet cruelty. They have spouses yet so bonded as siblingsit’s not comfortable for me, it’s like siamese twins. I feel like I don’t come from the same family.

  • I am so beyond thankful and grateful for you posting this. I have been living with my dad for almost 3 years. You have to realize how hard that is for me because I didnt have a relationship with him for the first 25 years of my life. He was also emotionally, mentally and physically abusive to my mother which led to there divorce. Now that he is getting remarried he is kicking me and my 2 sons out. He has totally traumatized me and has started to traumatize my 11 year old. So when I live in August I will no longer have contact with him and my oldest son tells me on a daily basis he hates his grandfather. I’m so beyond grateful for my mother I’d be lost without her due to his emotional, mental and verbal abuse I’ve been suffering for years and lately it’s been more intense. Thank you again kati thanks to I don’t feel so alone ��������������‍♀️��‍♀️����‍♀️����‍♀️������‍♀️

  • recently i blew up at my dad for his pattern of calling to get me in a panic about every headline and weather event, and he’s basically stopped calling me. he lives in fear and thinks i’m stupid not to.

  • Wow. This is my ex. His mom went from man to man when he was a kid and eventually left him in the United States for a man she found in England; he was 14. He was left to live with his grandpa and raise him self. Now that he’s 36 and his mom is aging and single, alone in England, she NOW wants to be in his life to makeup for the years she neglected him. That would be fine BUT she has no boundaries and calls him daily from England and he must answer or she flips. Once while we were being intimate she called and he stopped and took the call. That was it. I’d had it. When I tried telling him their relationship isn’t normal and that he needs to start putting his life and our relationship as a priority; his mom can take care of herself, He just would get mad, become abusive then run to his mom. And the sad thing is that he’ll never admit the hurt she’s inflicted on him as his growth and emotional maturity is completely stunted. His mom is obnoxious, loud, immature and has brainwashed him to think it’s “normal” to put mom first above wife and kids and that the son must take care of mom even if that means moving to be closer to her. It’s disgusting and a real problem in society today.

  • Jerry, looking back at my childhood i only see the good things even though the bad easily outweighed the good. I think this is one of your most important videos.

  • How do you get someone to realize that this is actually happening in their own life? If this came from me I would be told Im sick, Im crazy for seeing this in their relationship. I will be told I need medication. The retaliation would be enormous. I am one of those in the triangle that doesnt matter. I will have to leave.. Thats the answer. I have stories galore.

  • I highly recommend the book happy by derren brown to you, and everybody else, he talks a lot about different philosophies and their take on happiness, including the stories we tell ourselves and letting go of control on others, honestly such an amazing read, absolutely brilliant ♥

  • Curious if there is any statistics on how many people come from unhealthy families? I’m currently living inThe South and it seems like unhealthy family dynamics and mental illness is a huge problem. There’s a lot of family drama that messes people up.

  • Thank you Kati for everything, it’s a really precious community you’re building here in a time where we need it the most. The enmeshment I’m dealing with is so toxic to my daughters’ recovery, she’s been dealing with severely crippling mental illnesses. The most straightforward way of explaining it would be her growing up with the fear of something happening to me because Im her only safe person that now 10 years later into her suffering from mental illness I’m her worst trigger because of the enmeshment. It’s almost impossible to see a way out and heal from this, I’m suggesting and researching ways for her to build safety that’s independent from an outside factor (person or pet or other) instead to build safety from within that way it is always there for her to rely on and can’t be taken away. Help���� we’re basically prisoners of this enmeshment it’s so intense….single parent dynamics are tricky enough for both child and parent but this underlying fear while you’re growing up created a very unhealthy type of attachment… so emotionally draining… thanx again Kati��

  • I told my mom I couldn’t go visit her every week, she TOLD ME I HAD TO. I said no I’m busy today…. she SHOWED UP AT MY HOUSE SCREAMING. I didn’t open the door and she WAS FURIOUS. She told my dad and they both teamed up and called me and blew up my phone and I didn’t pick up cause I was setting my boundaries… however it affects me and I’m not sure how to continue….

  • Needed this video so badly. I live with my mother and we have had a very tense relationship with her all my life, I’m now 42. She has no sense of boundaries and knows how to push my buttons. I always fall right back to old ways of dealing with it. With my therapist, I’m trying to work on learning better ways of responding to it. It’s super hard not to go back into old patterns/stories, especially because I can’t change her and she’s unwilling to seek help on her end. I can’t move out anytime soon, so I have no choice in dealing with this. Ugh, it’s so hard!

  • I experienced this years ago when after 4 years of university I, because of money, needed to return to live at home, and stayed there from age 22 to 25 until I could fund my own place

  • What are good communication and boundaries around toxic people?Could help with dealong with toxic relationships with family aand toxic co-

  • Tbh this is what my family tries to be like but just fails. My sister is like this, but my brother never talks, and even tho I seem loud and outgoing, I also manage to be a VERY private person