I learned a new word today and it’s worth whining about. Enmeshment. Please don’t do it with anyone.
Enmeshment can feel awesome at first, but it is an addiction with a major downside. It feels like a wonderful bond between you and another person that can’t be broken.
Forgive me if you already knew this word. I still get amazed by how many new words there are for me to learn. It’s why I love the game Balderdash.
Anyway, the thing about this word is the context I heard it in. It actually kind of scared me. A situation between a mother, son and teacher was being shared with me and then the word enmeshment came up.
I mean isn’t it a good thing when parent and child are bonded? Don’t you want your kids to come to you with any problem they have? Well apparently there is something called over-bonding, which leads to codependency and enmeshment.
Now, I know I am super bonded to my kids. I know many parents that are. But, it wasn’t until I heard a unique story and the possible risks associated with it that it scared me!
It went a little like this….
Teacher reprimanded young boy in front of the other students. Young boy fought back saying the other student asked for it when he gave him a weird look. Still the young boy’s incident was not forgiven by the teacher and disciplined action was taken. The young boy saw red. He did not take responsibility or apologize for the action he took and instead slammed his desk and walked out of the classroom.
At first chance available, the young boy called his mother. He told his mother the cruel and unjust actions of his teacher and glorified the reason he had to trip the other student. The young boy’s mother hears the story, takes on the same emotions and takes action against the teacher.
When I heard the story, I thought Oh yeah. I’ve seen this before. It’s the parent who doesn’t like the teacher and blames the teacher for the child not doing well or having a difficult time without knowing the facts. The young boy and his mother have bonded over this dislike and she has made it totally okay to disrespect the teacher. Whenever the teacher does something the young boy doesn’t like, he knows he has a friend he can tell that will back him up. Interestingly enough, he won’t share with his mother/friend the praise the teacher gave him last week. That would blow his future cards.
Yeah it happens a lot. We get super close with our kids, sometimes forgetting that they may actually be in the wrong and their perception of something is not totally mature and deserves further research before jumping to an opinion.
But, when the storyteller said, “Yes, this is the danger of enmeshment,” My eyes got wide. En what? What’s happening?
Well, when this behavior isn’t just a one time event and it becomes a frequent pattern, it enables codependency and even worse turns into risk for that child as they become an adult. Yup. Turns out there’s all these statistics that show kids in these situations have a high risk for developing dependent or addictive personalities, depression and or helplessness. And most of people subject to these type relationships get struck with anger easily and many of them show rebellious and dangerous behavior.
Now everything leads to this or that, right? There’s risk associated with everything. But it did get me thinking. If you see signs of over-bonding, perhaps you should take a look at it. Let’s raise independent adults that feel safe to express any feeling they have, make decisions without fear of judgment, love and like who they want whether we agree or not and just let them be.
How’s that for a whine?