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How to Recover from Growing Up in an Intrusive, Enmeshed Family

03 Jan

Ted asks an important question about which guided meditation might help him recover from the impact of intense parental enmeshment, something he was subjected to when he was growing up.  

Enmeshment is a family therapy term used to describe an over-involved, intrusive way of parenting, where the parents don’t know where they end and their child begins. So they tend to interfere with their kids’ autonomy, speaking for them, thinking for them, and acting for them. They are also insistent on knowing way too much about what their children are thinking, feeling and doing, and they often tell their kids way too much about themselves as well. The kids grow up confused about their own boundaries, and as adults recreate this situation with others.

Its polar opposite is the parenting style of detachment, and that has its own set of problems. Both are extremes.

Here is Ted’s question:


Hello. My question is about recovering from parental enmeshment - no sexual abuse, just enmeshment.  

Is your trauma guided meditation a good resource to help me recover from this, or do you recommend a different audio program?

The symptoms of enmeshment that I notice in myself are these: self worth issues from not being able to have healthy boundaries; self isolation; meeting my own needs in a quick, secretive way, because I assume others won’t care about them; avoidance in general; feeling burdened by relationships; and self-loathing.   

Thanks for your consideration.



Dear Ted,

Thanks for making an important distinction between suffering from parental enmeshment and abuse. It's hard to say when the intrusiveness and over-involvement tip over into abuse, but the avoidance and self-loathing you describe may suggest that it has. 

For this reason, and because it wouldn't hurt you to do so either way, even if you don't have PTS, I would suggest you try the Healing Trauma guided imagery, because either way, it will pack a powerful dose of healing and is a kind of high-test intervention for self-love. 

I would also suggest our imagery for Depression; William De Foore's Nurturing Your Inner Child, and by all means, either Traci Stein's Healthy Self-Esteem Pack or her Self-Compassion set, with additional exercises to play while you’re asleep, for a night-and-day dose of help.

Best wishes with this, and let me know how it’s going.

All best,

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Belleruth Naparstek

Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. Her latest book on imagery and posttraumatic stress, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal (Bantam Dell), won the Spirituality & Health Top 50 Books Award