From “The Emotional Incest Syndrome” by Patricia Love with Jo Robinson.
The Identity Problems of the Chosen Child
(The child within a relationship of enmeshment with a parent.)
From pages 46 – 51:
(BUY THE BOOK if you find this relevant to you!
This is a gross condensing of the main points of the text!)
A Diffuse Sense of Identity
“I'm never sure who I am or what I want. I keep wanting to know what other people want before I make up my mind. I'm heavily influenced by other people's opinions.”
A parent who is too closely allied with a child invariably interferes with the development of the child's sense of identity. Typically, the parent programs the child to have similar tastes and values. In dozens of ways – sometimes with words, sometimes with smiles and winks – the parent says to the child: “You and I are buddies,” “We like the same things,” or “We are different from the rest of the family.” The parent is looking for an ally, a champion, a soul mate. In most cases, the child will comply, because pleasing the parent – and thereby ensuring the parent's love – is more important than developing a sense of self. Survival comes first; self-expression is secondary.
An Inability to Separate from the Parent
“My brother is forty-two years old, but he doesn't act like an adult. He avoids making decisions. He relies on Mother for financial support. She even cooks for him and buys his clothes. I think he would be devastated if anything happened to her. He is very much a child.”
I have seen many, many instances of parents who don't let their children mature. Determined to make a lifelong career out of parenting, they emotionally disable their children. One way or another, they tell them, “You'll never make it on your own,” and their children, like all children, do their best to fulfill the parental prophecy.
Rarely are parents aware of their role in the drama. The same parent who systematically undermines a child's independence will be the first one to cry out, “When is my child ever going to grow up! I'm tired of being burdened by all these problems!”
Loose Boundaries: “I have the hardest time figuring out where I begin and others leave off. I'm always making decisions for other people or feeling other people's pain.”
Rigid Boundaries: “It's hard for me to get close to people. I'm okay up to a certain point, then I start to back away. This really frustrates people – especially my wife. She says living with me is like living with a stranger.”
People who grow up in enmeshed families are likely to have boundary problems later in life. Some will perpetuate the loose boundaries they experienced as children, never being sure where they begin and others leave off... Others have the opposite reaction: they build a wall around themselves to protect themselves from further injury...
Rebuilding the boundaries demolished by a parent is a key part of recovering from emotional incest.