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An Overlooked Precursor to Sexual Addiction, Co-dependency, and Relationships Struggles Kenneth M. Adams, Ph.D., CSAT

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Presentation on theme: "An Overlooked Precursor to Sexual Addiction, Co-dependency, and Relationships Struggles Kenneth M. Adams, Ph.D., CSAT"— Presentation transcript:

1 An Overlooked Precursor to Sexual Addiction, Co-dependency, and Relationships Struggles Kenneth M. Adams, Ph.D., CSAT

2  Parentification (Jurkovic)  The Chosen Child (Minuchin)  Emotional Incest (Love)  Covert Incest (Adams)  Enmeshment

3  Enmeshment leads to an attachment disorder  Attachment disorders are largely attributed to abuse, abandonment, or neglect  Little, to no study, is given to enmeshment as a causative factor in its own right  “Closeness” looks like attachment  Mother/son; mother, father/daughter  Societal implications – single parent households, Italy reporting contributing factor to population decline

4  Enmeshment damages sexual unfolding, prejudicing the capacity for intimacy  Enmeshment key precursor to addiction  Male sex addicts report (40%) enmeshment  Parentified females report eating disorders

5  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)

6  Enmeshment and intrusion characterizes the relationship  Demand for loyalty to the needy and lonely parent prevails - creates “loyal object” (Jurkovic)  Entrapped, engulfed, guilty, and angry  Overly eroticized atmosphere  Disloyalty toward love objects other than the parent

7 1. Deprivation 2. Disrupted attachment with caregivers 3. Undifferentiated self 4. Distorted cognitive schema that prevent seeing children as separate (Jurkovic) 5. Personality disorders (traits, features)

8 1. Temperament 2. Capacity for empathy and caring (Jurkovic) 3. Birth order 4. Gender

9 1. High stress – substance abuse, mental illness 2. Single parenting 3. Marital discord 4. Role induction (parents display of neediness, helplessness, and dependency) 5. Poor boundaries- enmeshed with one parent, disengagement with the other (Jurkovic)

10  Entrapment, intrusion, and engulfment occurs before age five  Punishment/physical violence in retaliation for separation attempts  Participation by the other parent to encourage the entrapment or their physical or emotional absence  Physical sexual abuse



13 Mother Attuned To Son: He Can Be Himself Mother So n attunement His Self His Needs His Life attuned to Figure 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 Identity Mother attunement His Self His Needs His Life not attuned to So n


15  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 shame  Sexuality is split off, fragments or compartments are created  Unencumbered erotic desire needed for bonding  Adult love relationships become gateway to disappointment and loss


17  Intrusion of parent’s needs and demands into child’s psychic, emotional, and sexual world  Child’s separation causes parent to feel abandoned - will intrude into child’s world even harder  Child’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


19  Getting together  Phone calls  Physical touch  Topics of conversation e.g.: 1. I don’t respond to my mother’s criticisms of my dad 2. I don’t talk to her about my dad 3. I say out loud to them both that I don’t want to talk with either of them about their conflict  Money

20  Wait 24 hours - “ I need to think about this and get back to you”  Develop interest and hobbies  Build friendships and decrease tendency to be dependent on only one person  Set boundaries around the amount of time you will give to mom/dad  Screen calls, wait to respond  Pace romantic involvement, hold boundaries tight in early part of relationship

21 1. Make a list of ten most burdensome, inappropriate things you do for mom from most to least damaging 2. Write down a few statements that are clear and specific ways to set limits e.g.,“ I can’t talk now, I will call tomorrow” 3. Identify feelings that arise during rehearsal 4. List that behaviors your mother does that trigger the guilt and disloyalty response e.g., weepy, angry, threatening, martyrdom, silent, etc. 5. Develop new beliefs that counter guilt and fear response


23 Sphere Of Enmeshment Wife Partner Girlfriend MEM MOTHER FATHER Emotionally Disconnecte d

24 In 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


26  Frustrated by lack of availability and commitment of partner  Tries harder to persuade partner to commit  Blames self for sexual or emotional rejection  Feels like “other” woman in relationship to mom  Accommodates or compromises to hang onto relationship  May have lost years to the relationship and tries even harder to persuade commitment when loss is felt  Often comes from a family in which she was cast in the role of being a caretaker or over responsible


28  Sexual addiction is a perceived gateway to emotional and sexual freedom - It temporarily reassures a damaged, entrapped, and ambivalent sexual self  Sexual addiction is not disloyal, allows the CI survivor to avoid the trap of loyalty to the parent while asserting sexual freedom  It 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




32  Be aware  Be reassuring and address his/her needs  Seek adult connections  Set healthy boundaries  Create and maintain strong bond with both parents  Build strong bond with partner  Maintain appropriate boundaries for conflict between parents


34  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 smothering  CT: 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


36  When 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.

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