In our current phase of personal development, people are learning how to maintain connection to each other in relationship and maintain a sense of themselves (autonomy) at the exact same time. We are currently struggling with two polarized forms of pain, enmeshment (loss of self) and isolation (loss of closeness with others). In this struggle, people tend to become very confused and fail to see what they are doing clearly. This is especially true when an individual who has experienced enmeshment trauma or isolation trauma begins to heal. Today, I’m going to explain a pattern that people struggling to heal from enmeshment trauma tend to slip into without seeing it.
Autonomy (having a sense of self vs. other) is an important part of physical existence for a person within a social group. So is a sense of closeness and connection. What people need is to be able to have themselves and have other people too at the same time. To understand more about this, watch my video titled: The Freedom/Connection Split Within Humanity. Enmeshment does not allow for you to have yourself and have others too at the same time. An enmeshed relationship does not recognize or accept boundaries. Remember that a boundary is simply the imaginary line that uniquely defines your personal happiness, your personal feelings, your personal thoughts, your personal integrity, your personal desires, your personal needs and therefore most importantly, your personal truth from the rest of the universe. Therefore, enmeshment trauma happens when in a relationship, the person does not recognize or accept or acknowledge or work with the reality of your personal feelings, your personal thoughts, your personal integrity, your personal desires, your personal needs and therefore most importantly, your personal truth. In fact, differentiating yourself puts you at risk of consequences such as punishment or abandonment. The result is that you either choose to face those consequences, or (in order to maintain harmony in the relationship and closeness) you have to ‘give yourself up’ and mirror the other person so that your thoughts and feelings and needs and desires and truth and choices are either the same as theirs or what they want them to be… You comply.
If you would like to understand enmeshment in a much more in-depth way, I strongly encourage you to watch my video titled: How To Heal Family Enmeshment Trauma. Long story short, many people do not believe it is possible to have themselves and have other people too at the same time. They believe that in order to be able to have a relationship, they must simply comply to the other person. Conversely, they believe that to have a sense of self, they must rebel against the other person.
So many people are stuck in this pendulum swing between compliance and rebellion… Either conformity or resistance. And neither of these states are healthy or empowered. So many people simply give themselves up to have a relationship with someone. So many people spend their life in the disempowered state of rebellion, imagining themselves to finally be empowered, when in reality, in a state of rebellion, their life is still controlled by the same person they tried to break free from. So that you can better understand what I mean, I’ll give you an example:
A woman grew up in a house with a verbally abusive, dictatorial father who would slap her across the face for disobeying. This is not a house where boundaries are accepted. So she learned that the only way to stay safe and to have a relationship is to please the other person. She spent the first part of her life complying and suffering from everything that goes along with the experience of enmeshment. Then, she hit a breaking point, at which point she rebelled against her father. In response to this, he disowned her. What she lost in that rebellion was all of the very real needs that were being met through that relationship. What she found in that rebellion, was a sense of herself… The feeling of boundaries. This felt personally empowering. But obviously, this whole experience caused very real trauma. She transferred this entire traumatic experience onto the next authority figure, the government. She spent her life politically fixated. Any time there was a rally to attend, she went to it; determined to “stick it to the man”. To her, this felt empowering and definitely made her feel a strong sense of self-hood. But from a higher perspective, she was still completely controlled by her father. Her life had first been lived for him and then had been lived against him. Her entire life was about him. Therefore, he was always the one in control of her life. But because rebellion feels so much more empowered than compliance, people fail to see when they are in a state of rebellion, that they are every bit as disempowered and enmeshed as when they were complying. And they fail to realize that dedicating your life to being against something or someone, is a recipe for suffering.
If you feel that you fall into a risk category with this pattern, it is important to live with the following question in mind: “Am I complying or rebelling?” Then, make the situation about yourself, instead of about the other person. What I mean by this is, imagine that there was nothing/no one there to comply with or push against. If you suddenly found yourself away from them and in a vacuum of space and time (but aware of the situation) what are your personal feelings, your personal thoughts, your personal integrity, your personal desires, your personal needs and therefore most importantly, your personal truth? What are you for instead of against? What do you want instead of not want? What would you think, say or do if there were no consequences in this scenario? This is the beginning of stepping into a place of actual free will. Free will is not about being against something, any more than it is about complying with something. Where people need to go is towards the conscious development of free will within relationships. This implies the existence of both autonomy and alignment in relationships. For this reason, it may benefit you to watch my video titled: How To Create A Safe Relationship.
A little-known fact is that if you are taking action based off of what you are for, your actions will be totally different than if you are taking action based off of what you are against. It is as important to establish a sense of self that is not dependent on opposition in order to exist, as it is to establish connection that is not dependent on compliance or obedience. True empowerment and true freedom do not lie in either the extreme of compliance or rebellion. Your life does not have to be reduced to a reaction to other people. Seek genuine personal truth and empowerment instead.