3Overview Enmeshment leads to an attachment disorder Attachment disorders are largely attributed to abuse, abandonment, or neglectLittle, to no study, is given to enmeshment as a causative factor in its own right“Closeness” looks like attachmentMother/son; mother, father/daughterSocietal implications – single parent households, Italy reporting contributing factor to population decline
4Overview ContinuedEnmeshment damages sexual unfolding, prejudicing the capacity for intimacyEnmeshment key precursor to addictionMale sex addicts report (40%) enmeshmentParentified females report eating disorders
5Enmeshment Disrupts Intimacy Separate emotionally from the family of origin you grew up in, enough so that your identity is separate from your parents and siblings (The Good Marriage, Wallerstein and Blakeslee)Relationships have ever-deepening levels, and a relationship can only go to the depth of the more limited person( The Seven 7 Best Things Happy Couples Do, Friel and Friel)
6Key Concepts Enmeshment and intrusion characterizes the relationship Demand for loyalty to the needy and lonely parent prevails - creates “loyal object” (Jurkovic)Entrapped, engulfed, guilty, and angryOverly eroticized atmosphereDisloyalty toward love objects other than the parent
7Factors in Parents Deprivation Disrupted attachment with caregivers Undifferentiated selfDistorted cognitive schema that prevent seeing children as separate (Jurkovic)Personality disorders (traits, features)
8Factors in Children Temperament Capacity for empathy and caring (Jurkovic)Birth orderGender
9Setting Factors High stress – substance abuse, mental illness Single parentingMarital discordRole induction (parents display of neediness, helplessness, and dependency)Poor boundaries- enmeshed with one parent, disengagement with the other (Jurkovic)
10Aggravating FactorsEntrapment, intrusion, and engulfment occurs before age fivePunishment/physical violence in retaliation for separation attemptsParticipation by the other parent to encourage the entrapment or their physical or emotional absencePhysical sexual abuse
12Isn't it good to be close to your parents growing up?
13Mother Attuned To Son: He Can Be Himself attunementHis SelfHis NeedsHis Lifeattuned toFigure 4-1. When a mother is attuned to her son, he can have his own life. When a son must be attuned to his mother, his outward energy is blocked. He is trapped with her and must devote his life to serving her needs. In adulthood, the MEM remains attuned to the needs of others at the expense of his own.Son Attuned To Mother: He Loses His Identitynot attuned to
14How can a relationship with a parent be considered incestuous without actual sexual touch?
15Enmeshment and Sexual Unfolding Enmeshment inverts the parent-child bond and leaves child over-eroticized and over-stimulated with the parent (no boundaries)Sexuality is filled with intense conflict- shrouded in danger, taboo, ambivalence, and shameSexuality is split off, fragments or compartments are createdUnencumbered erotic desire needed for bondingAdult love relationships become gateway to disappointment and loss
16My mother was the only parent there for me My mother was the only parent there for me. I feel so guilty thinking of having my own life. How can I abandon her?
17IntrusionIntrusion of parent’s needs and demands into child’s psychic, emotional, and sexual worldChild’s separation causes parent to feel abandoned - will intrude into child’s world even harderChild’s self is unable to “unfold", parent molds child as an extension of their own narcissistic wish (e.g., be the man your father isn’t), must fragment“True” self goes into hiding and “false” self emerges and becomes compulsively attuned to the feelings and needs of others
18How do I set boundaries with others without them feeling hurt or being angry with me?
19Boundary Considerations Getting togetherPhone callsPhysical touchTopics of conversation e.g.:I don’t respond to my mother’s criticisms of my dadI don’t talk to her about my dadI say out loud to them both that I don’t want to talk with either of them about their conflictMoney
20Basic Strategies for Holding on to Self Wait 24 hours - “ I need to think about this and get back to you”Develop interest and hobbiesBuild friendships and decrease tendency to be dependent on only one personSet boundaries around the amount of time you will give to mom/dadScreen calls, wait to respondPace romantic involvement, hold boundaries tight in early part of relationship
21Steps in Setting Boundaries Make a list of ten most burdensome, inappropriate things you do for mom from most to least damagingWrite down a few statements that are clear and specific ways to set limits e.g.,“ I can’t talk now, I will call tomorrow”Identify feelings that arise during rehearsalList that behaviors your mother does that trigger the guilt and disloyalty response e.g., weepy, angry, threatening, martyrdom, silent, etc.Develop new beliefs that counter guilt and fear response
22Why is so hard for me to commit to a romantic partner?
23The Disloyalty Bind Sphere Of Enmeshment MEM Wife Partner Girlfriend MOTHEREmotionallyDisconnectedFATHER
24In his unconscious – and sometimes conscious – mind, a mother-enmeshed man (MEM) is representing his mother’s interests, while his own have become secondary. If he does something he thinks she wouldn’t like, he feels disloyal to her. If he “gets serious” about a woman, suddenly, without understanding why, he is overwhelmed with feelings of fear, anxiety, and guilt. Ambivalence and withdrawal inevitably follow.From: When He’s Married to Mom: Helping Mother Enmeshed Men Open Their Hearts to True Love and Commitment by Kenneth M. Adams, Ph.D. with Alexander P. Morgan
25I married a man who is his mothers surrogate husband I married a man who is his mothers surrogate husband. I am always second to her when he sorts out his priorities. How can I get him to see that he is hurting our marriage?
26Partners Concern’s and Issues Frustrated by lack of availability and commitment of partnerTries harder to persuade partner to commitBlames self for sexual or emotional rejectionFeels like “other” woman in relationship to momAccommodates or compromises to hang onto relationshipMay have lost years to the relationship and tries even harder to persuade commitment when loss is feltOften comes from a family in which she was cast in the role of being a caretaker or over responsible
27I can’t stop womanizing I can’t stop womanizing. Is it related to my covert incest with my mother?
28Sex Addiction and Covert Incest Sexual addiction is a perceived gateway to emotional and sexual freedom - It temporarily reassures a damaged, entrapped, and ambivalent sexual selfSexual addiction is not disloyal, allows the CI survivor to avoid the trap of loyalty to the parent while asserting sexual freedomIt permits discharge of the rage and anger and allows the covert incest survivor to reject and disappoint the partner, which is not allowed by the parent
29Are there any differences when a daughter is the surrogate companion to her mother?
30I tried avoiding men like my father all my life, but I seemed to have picked another just like him-demanding, jealous, controlling. How did that happen?
32Guidelines for Parents Be awareBe reassuring and address his/her needsSeek adult connectionsSet healthy boundariesCreate and maintain strong bond with both parentsBuild strong bond with partnerMaintain appropriate boundaries for conflict between parents
33I’ve identified with many of these characteristics, but can I really be happy and content?
34Transference and Countertransference Issues T: Dependency, will be in role “good pt” rather than true self, may feel that they are putting therapist out and not want to return, feel therapist is also controlling if too much advice, feel the therapy process is smotheringCT: Pressure the pt to separate too quickly from parent, too much advice and intervention too quickly, getting angry at parent, failing to validate enmeshment (own enmeshment issues), trying to fix -overinvolvment
35www. drkenadams. com Facebook: Dr Kenneth M Facebook: Dr Kenneth M. Adams
36BibliographyWhen He’s Married To Mom: How to Help Mother-Enmeshed Men Open Their Hearts to True Love and Commitment- Adams, K. with Morgan, A.Silently Seduced: When Parent’s Make Their Children Partners, Understanding Covert Incest - Adams, K.Clinical Management of Sex Addiction- Carnes, P. & Adams, K.The Emotional Incest Syndrome: What To Do When A Parent’s Love Rules Your Life- Love, P. with Robinson, J.Mother’s, Son’s, and Lovers: How A Man’s Relationship With His Mother Affects The Rest of His Life - Gurian, M.Lost Childhoods: The Plight of the Parentified Child Jukovic, G.