Sunday, July 6, 2008

Enmeshment Produces Guilt and Anxiety

From “The Emotional Incest Syndromeby Patricia Love with Jo Robinson.

The Guilt and Anxiety of the Chosen Child

(The child within a relationship of enmeshment with a parent.)

From pages 33 – 38:

(BUY THE BOOK if you find this relevant to you!

This is a gross condensing of the main points of the text!)


“I feel responsible for everything that happens around me – especially when things go wrong. I feel especially guilty when other people are unhappy. I'm sure I must have done something wrong or failed to do something I was supposed to do.”

For some people, the single world GUILT sums up the negative consequences of growing up with an Invasive Parent. Depending on their circumstances, they can fell guilty for one or more of a number of reasons, including: taking a parent away from a partner, winning out over siblings, failing to live up to a parent's expectations, wanting to break away from an overbearing parent,and participating in a love triangle when they were “old enough to know better.”

Chronic Low-Level Anxiety

“I worry a great deal – even when things are going well. It's almost as if I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop. There's this vague sense that something bad is about to happen.”

A child who plays the role of surrogate spouse is a likely candidate for anxiety, because the role is always a tentative one. One cause for anxiety is the fact that the parent-child coalition is almost always a closely held secret. No matter how close a parent and child may be, there is never a public acknowledgment of the bond. When the child tries to find some external confirmation of status, there is none to be found...

In addition to this fundamental uncertainty, there are a number of likely circumstances that threaten to disrupt the parent-child relationship. Following are the ones I see most often:

  1. If the parent is married, the spouse will try to claim some rights every now and then. (The child never has an exclusive hold on the parent...more like a surrogate lover than a spouse.)

  2. Over the course of time, the husband and wife may resolve some of their problems and

    push the child out of the inner circle.

  3. A brother or sister may replace the Chosen Child.

  4. The parent may reject the child as the child physically matures.

  5. Some parents become aware of the inappropriate nature of the parent-child bond and withdraw from the relationship.

  6. Some parents punish the Chosen Child for striving for independence.

  7. In search of a more suitable partner, many parents divorce and remarry, removing the Chosen Child from the position of privilege.

  8. The parent may disappear or die, literally abandoning the child.

Excerpt from
Dr. Patricia Love's

The Emotional Incest Syndrome:
What to Do When a Parent's Love Rule's Your Life
Bantam Books, 1990