Enmeshment in Narcissistic Families – Trapped in the Narcissist’s Toxic Web

Have you ever heard of the term enmeshment? It is a psychological term used to describe a relationship in which two or more people are overly close and intertwined.

Enmeshment can occur in any type of relationship, but it is particularly common in families with a narcissistic parent.

If you are wondering what enmeshment is, what the signs are, and the impact it has on family members, then keep reading.

What does enmeshment mean?

Enmeshment is a term that was first used in the field of family therapy. It describes a relationship in which two or more people are so closely connected that they lose their sense of individuality. This can happen on an emotional, physical, or psychological level.

Enmeshment usually occurs when there is an imbalance of power in the relationship. One person is usually overly dependent on the other, which can lead to feelings of suffocation.

There are many signs that you may be in an enmeshed relationship. If you feel like you can never do anything without the approval of your family member or friend, then you may be enmeshed with them. Another sign is if you find yourself constantly worrying about them and their wellbeing. You may also feel like you have to take care of them all the time.

In narcissistic families, enmeshment is common because the narcissistic parent often expects their children to be a reflection of them. This means that the children are not allowed to have their own thoughts or opinions. They are also expected to meet the needs of the narcissistic parent, which can be emotionally and physically draining.

How do narcissistic families become enmeshed?

Enmeshment in a narcissistic family can occur for many different reasons.

The narcissistic parent may be insecure and need constant reassurance from their children. Their family members become a source of narcissistic supply so that they can feel better about themselves.

The narcissistic parent may also want to control their children and not allow them to have any independence. This is because they see their children as an extension of themselves. They want them to do everything that they couldn’t do or didn’t do in their own lives.

The narcissistic parent may also be afraid of abandonment. They may use their children as a way to avoid being alone. This is because they are afraid that their children will leave them if they give them too much space.

What are the signs of enmeshment?

There are many signs of enmeshment, but some common ones include:

  • feeling like you can’t do anything without the approval of your family member
  • always putting the needs of your family member before your own
  • not having any close friends outside of your family
  • feeling like you are not allowed to express your own opinions or feelings

Enmeshed parents have an extremely close and intertwined relationship with their children. They often control every aspect of their child’s life and need constant reassurance from them.

Such parents can be difficult to live with, as they often exhibit characteristics such as excessive jealousy, possessiveness, and neediness. As a result the atmosphere in the family is oppressive, with very little personal warmth and no freedom of expression.

Family members have different roles assigned to them in enmeshed families

There are different roles that family members can play in a narcissistic enmeshed family.

The narcissist is the centre of attention and everyone else revolves around them. The scapegoat is the child who bears the brunt of the narcissistic parent’s abuse. They are usually blamed for everything that goes wrong in the family. The golden child is the child who meets the narcissistic parent’s expectations and receives their approval. They are often treated better than the other children in the family.

Other common roles in enmeshed families are the caretaker and the lost child.

The caretaker is the person who takes on the majority of the responsibility for taking care of the family. They are trained to believe that they have to put the needs of their family above their own. As a result, they become emotionally and physically drained.

The lost child is the family member who tries to stay out of the way and not cause any problems. They often withdraw from the family and spend a lot of time alone in their room. As a result, they grow up feeling totally isolated and alone.

The impact of enmeshment

The impact of enmeshment can be significant.

In the case of children it can lead to a feeling of being smothered and controlled by one’s parent. In extreme cases, this is akin to emotional incest. This can lead to them feeling trapped and hopeless, and they may have difficulty establishing their own identity. It can cause them to lose their sense of self and become codependent on the narcissist. It can also be difficult for them to form healthy relationships outside of the family, and interfere with the development of healthy relationships in adulthood.

This can lead to a lot of psychological problems, such as low self-esteem, anxiety, and depression. Enmeshment can also cause physical problems, such as stress-related illnesses.

What can you do if you are in an enmeshed relationship?

The first step is to recognise that you are in an enmeshed family or an enmeshed relationship. This can be difficult, particularly if the enmeshment is in your family, because it is what you have always known and it feels normal to you. Once you recognise the signs of enmeshment, you can start to take steps to regain your individuality.

The most important thing is to set boundaries. This means that you need to start saying “no” to the things that you don’t want to do. You also need to start doing things that make you happy, even if your family member or friend doesn’t approve.

It is also important to start taking care of yourself. You need to put your own needs first. This can be difficult if you are used to putting your family member or friend’s needs first. However, it is important to remember that you cannot take care of someone else if you are not taking care of yourself.

If you believe that you are part of an enmeshed family, then you should consider getting help from a therapist or counsellor. They can help you to understand the situation and work on developing a healthy relationship with your family. You can start to take back control of your life and regain your individuality. This process takes time and effort, but it is worth it. You deserve to be happy and healthy.

For Further Reading:

And finally, this is my story. I was the scapegoat daughter of a narcissistic father.

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