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If you identify with 5 or more of these statements, it’s likely that you have the Enmeshment Schema

It’s difficult for me to maintain boundaries with my parents.
My parents are over-involved in my life.
I am often very much affected by my parent’s or partner’s emotional state.
If my parents or partner are unhappy – I am unhappy.
I find it difficult to meet my own needs if they conflict with my parents or partner.
Sometimes I don’t feel like my life is my own.
I am so close to my parents or partner that it’s hard to feel like I have my own identity.
I feel obliged to tell my parents all the intimate details of my life.
I have trouble holding on to my sense of self in intimate relationships.
I often feel suffocated when I am around my parents.
If you have the enmeshment schema you will be completely wrapped up in someone else’s life to the point where it’s difficult to know where they end and you begin.

This person is usually a parent but it could also be a parental figure such as a partner, sibling, or best friend.

Your focus will be exclusively on the needs and feelings of the other person – to the detriment of your own. Sometimes this can feel like extreme closeness but for some people it can feel like ‘suffocation’ especially if the other person is a parent.

You will be very affected by the other person’s feelings – when they are down, you are down. When they are happy, you are happy. Their successes feel like your successes. Their failures, as if you had personally failed.

The problem here is that your emotional state and sense of well being is very dependent on how someone else feels and this a dangerous place to be. You will have no sense of control over your own emotions.

With this schema, you don’t develop a stable sense of self and so you will feel like your life is not your own. You don’t have a sense of direction or purpose to your own life – you follow the direction and purpose of the person you are enmeshed with.

Because you don’t pay attention to your own needs – your life can end up feeling very empty and unfulfilled.

I frequently see this schema in clients who have been brought up with narcissistic parents. Growing up, their parent(s) prevented them from expressing their own needs and feelings either through manipulation or abuse. They became an extension of their parent’s emotional state.

These children are made to feel responsible for their parent’s needs and made to feel guilty or selfish if their parents were suffering in anyway.

Trying to separate from a parent like this causes a great deal of guilt and shame and there is often a lot of repressed anger at the abusive parent that can show up as depression or anxiety.