‘Enmeshment’: a lesser-known type of trauma

Trigger warning: mention of trauma & mental health stigma.

This Free to Spiel guest feature has been written by the creator of @roses_bruises. Her wonderful page is dedicated to talking about everything mental health-related, from self-love and empathy to CBT and erasing the stigma – make sure to check it out after reading her story.

I’d also like to thank the author for this piece on a more personal note, as I found it to be extremely relatable in terms of my own family experiences growing up…you really do learn something new every day!

To those who haven’t experienced trauma, I hope you never do

I play a few roles in society: a mental health advocate, a daughter, a sister, a student, and a dedicated social service worker. These roles have shaped me into the resilient person I am today.

I am not perfect or all-knowing, and I will never pretend that I am.

I share a story dear to my heart in hopes of connecting with others who have experienced similar situations of ‘enmeshment’ that have influenced trauma – a type of trauma that does not receive enough attention, but should because it leads to intergenerational trauma. I am sure many will relate because of past and present trauma.

To those who haven’t experienced trauma, I hope you never do and hope that this article broadens your insight on enmeshment and its powerful impact on emotions.

[My dad]would tell my sisters and I to stop laughing and sometimes become mad because of our happiness

Enmeshment can occur in any relationship between two or more people whose personal boundaries are unclear or non-existent. The extent and type of enmeshment vary according to each individual’s situation.

In my case, my dad became embedded on such a psychological level that the feelings of my sisters and I were silenced, and privacy did not exist because of the way our dad invaded our emotions.

Now, you may be wondering, what’s so traumatic about that?

You see, enmeshment silences one’s emotions, and emotions are intimate to each of us. Emotions foster independence, resiliency, humility, courage, and self-reflection. Each of these characteristics influence our personality and relationship with others and the world.

Here are a few moments where my sisters and I remember facing enmeshment the most. We would be sitting at the dinner table laughing and enjoying each other’s company, but my dad didn’t like the laughter. I always figured he didn’t want the laughter because of his unhealed childhood trauma. He would tell my sisters and I to stop laughing and sometimes become mad because of our happiness.

Our laughter slowly became silent over time, and we gradually started staying in our rooms more and more. During all of this, my mother’s voice became silent because of having a controlling husband. Seeing the lack of love in their relationship, love was another emotion we were not allowed to feel.

Let me clarify, I don’t blame either of my parents because the stigma of mental health is real in our culture and seeking assistance for their trauma was never allowed. I don’t even believe there is a term equivalent for trauma in our culture – something that displays a major concern within itself.

Without emotions, we lose who we are at the core

As my sisters and I matured, we had to fight the layers of psychological warfare (and still are fighting on a daily basis) and remind ourselves and each other that we are worthy of love and happiness. We learned to validate and protect our emotions and our peace.

Emotions play an essential role in our everyday thinking process and behavior; they are an internal and external expressive component. I imagine emotions as human fuel that allow us to take action, survive, and make decisions.

Without our emotions, we become codependent on what others are feeling, and submerge in their emotion, and within their emotions lies their thinking pattern and behavior. Without emotions, we lose who we are at the core.

So, here are a few important tips to remember when it comes to your feeling:

  • Validate your emotions, both unhealthy and healthy. Learn how to manage the unhealthy ones and embrace the healthy ones. This doesn’t mean ignore anger or shame, it means to learn what makes you angry and learn what makes you ashamed so you can get a better insight to who you are as a person.
  • You decide who to share your emotions with because they are intimate to you as a human being. Your support system will understand your emotions and perhaps empathize with you, whereas the haters will feed off your emotions to persuade you to act in a certain manner.
  • You control your emotions. Do not let anyone tell you what to feel and when to feel it or tell you that your emotions or emotions are invalid. People like those are toxic and do not deserve your worth because they want to manipulate you and take control of you.
  • You can feel more than one emotion at a time. Humans do not have limitations, and neither do emotions. There is a spectrum of emotions, and you get to feel whatever emotion or emotions you want to feel when you want and need to feel them.

Healing takes time, so be patient and kind with yourself and feel any and all emotions you need to feel.

Thank you to the author, for sharing your story! Readers can connect with her via Instagram (@roses_bruises).

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