When it comes to understanding what enmeshment is, it helps to look at what boundaries are. Boundaries are what create a sense of individuality between people. And although we are all physically separate, it does not mean that we are emotionally separate from another person.
This becomes what is known as enmeshment, here one will look physically separate, but emotionally they will feel attached to the other person. One will feel that they have no boundaries between them and as a result that their not an individual.
So when it comes to mother enmeshed men, it is describing a man who is emotionally entangled to their mother. While it is true that they may live in a different house or a different part of the country; the emotional cord has not been cut.
In a functional relationship with boundaries the emotional connection will be choice and what one has chosen. When it comes to an enmeshed relationship, it doesn’t feel that one has a choice and that they are enslaved to the other person.
And for the mother enmeshed man it is a feeling of having no sense of self; other than an identity that is based on being attached to their mother.
What this experience often creates is two powerful emotions, these are anger and guilt. On one side there is the anger at feeling as though one has to do what their mother says and can’t say no.
And on the other side there is the guilt that is felt if one were to say no or was to think about saying no to the mother.
This can create a feeling of being emotionally trapped; because based on these two options, it won’t lead to a sense of peace or empowerment. One can easily end up in a cycle of going through these two extremes time and time again.
The anger can be amped up and turn to rage and may alternate between the two. And the guilt can also become shame and betrayal.
A Sense Of Self
By not being able to say no and to stand up for oneself, the man is caught between these two primary emotions. And this is largely due to the mother enmeshed man not knowing that he is a separate individual.
His mothers wants, needs and desires, are not seen as separate from him. Where he begins and ends and where his mother begins and ends: is unclear to him. This then leads to him feeling responsible to his mother.
How his mothers feels is then his responsibility and something he needs to take care off. Her wellbeing is something that he has to look after. And what this also means is that his wellbeing and his own needs, wants and desires are often denied and ignored.
So being responsible for himself is then overlooked and his boundaries will end up being constantly crossed. And as a result of extending himself for his mother, a natural consequence is being exhausted.
On the surface this sounds completely dysfunctional and doesn’t make any logical sense. And one of the biggest reasons that this behaviour is occurring is due the mothers enmeshed mans association of what love is. To his unconscious mind, this is what love means to him.
At a conscious level it is only creating: pain, struggle, conflict and suffering. But to the ego mind this is being associated as familiar and therefore what is safe.
The reason it is familiar is due to it being how their mother treated them as a child. As a result of those early experiences being played out thousands of times, it is no wonder that its affect is so strong on a fully grown man.
In a functional upbringing a child would be recognised as a separate individual; with their own needs, wants and preferences for example. For this to happen, the caregiver would have to have good boundaries themselves and to see that it is not down to the child to take care of their needs.
However, if the caregiver is unaware of the child being separate, as a result of having no boundaries themselves, it will be more of less impossible to treat the child as a separate being. And by the caregiver being needy and emotionally undeveloped the child will be used for this purpose.
The way that the caregiver acts, is more than likely how they were brought up. And as a result of not being aware; are playing out the same pattern.
So what this leads to is the roles being reversed. Instead of the mother taking care of the Childs development, the child ends up taking care of the mothers unmet needs.
The process of separating then doesn’t happen and instead of boundaries being formed, enmeshment is what remains. Part of the reason for this process is often down to having a father that is either physically or emotionally absent.
What this early conditioning creates is an undeserved loyalty to the mother. As the ego mind associates the whole experience as being what love is, it creates a kind of compulsive need to please the mother.
In reality the mother used the child for her own benefit and only harmed the Childs development. And because the separation didn’t occur all those years ago, ones ego can associate separating as being equal to death. This means that overwhelming fear can be triggered were one to separate: with feelings of emptiness, abandonment and rejection surfacing.
There are many consequences that can be created from this early dynamic. Having problems with boundaries has already been mentioned. Experiencing a sense of self control will also be very difficult. Another likely issue here is with intimate relationships. Through still being emotionally connected to ones mother it can be a real challenge to let in another woman.
This is because ones mother is still number one and were one to go with another women there may be feelings of betrayal and guilt that arise. Here one may go for women who they are not completely attracted to, so that they won’t have to emotionally leave their mother. And these feelings are not rational; they are based on the ego minds dysfunctional associations.
There can be a tendency to attract women that are similar and this means that one will re-enact the same role. And therefore end up creating the same internal experiences. It can just as easily create a fear of intimacy; with ones ego mind associating intimacy to mean being smothered and overwhelmed. As this was how it was with their mother. The unprocessed wounds can also be projected onto others.
Due to only being loved through what they did and not for who they were, it is inevitable that one’s self worth is going to be affected. And based on what one does for others and not for who one is.
One may also feel completely cut off from their inner world. And generally unaware of what their thoughts, feelings, emotions and sensations are. Along with this could be a disconnection to ones: needs, wants and desires. This could then result in a feeling of having no personal power.
This article has covered the basic dynamics of enmeshment and some off the consequences. To the degree that one has been affected by this, will define what actions need to be taken. The first thing is to be aware that such a challenge exists. To deny the existence of something will not change it and can lead to it getting worse.
In recent years awareness has increased around this area and this has lead to more progress being made. This is not only limited to men and can affect women in similar ways.
Reading a book and going over what they suggest may be enough for some men and for others it may require some serious therapy. What matters is that something is done to put an end to this dysfunctional attachment.
Oliver JR Cooper
Author of 26 books, Transformational Writer, Teacher & Consultant.
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That which is contained within these articles is based on my own empirical understanding and is true for me at the time they were written. However, as I continue to grow, what I perceive as the truth will inevitably change and as a result of this - parts of these articles may not reflect my current outlook.