Unhealthy Patterns: Becoming Free

“Enmeshment and Personal Boundaries”

The emotional pressure and hurtful/sinful behaviors that abound in an unhealthy family cause the collapse of personal boundaries so that the members grow accustomed to living enmeshed.  The members are often unaware of this taking enmeshment as the norm until a time of personal reflection or healing.  As one enmeshed ego, there is a lack of personal power, responsibility and voice.  Individuals do not learn the skills they need to protect themselves.  The environment is one of “pins and needles” where personal expression is stifled because efforts to be an individual threatens the collective ego mass which usually evolves with one person having the lion’s share of rights and power. Mind-reading replaces communication.  Being all one, statements like “I know what you are thinking/feeling” and “I know your motives” are common. Do you feel a tightness in your stomach when you read those phrases? If so, you need to reconsider this concept carefully.

 People growing up or living in an enmeshed family usually feel an exaggerated sense of responsibility.  One look can ‘cause’ someone else to cry. Expressing an opinion can ‘cause’ someone else or self to be abused.  I even talked with a woman who believed she was able to cause someone else to have a heart attack.

I do not believe this is how God intended us to live.  Galatians 6:2-5 is a wonderful scriptural reference for this topic.  Yes, we are supposed to care for each other and help to carry the burdens of another, but the passage ends with clarity regarding the ultimate responsibility.  “Each one must carry their own load” (Gal. 6:5).  

These beliefs and understandings support personal boundaries:  1)  I am responsible for my own actions, thoughts, feelings and beliefs.  2)  I am uniquely created by God, and I will stand by myself accountable when all is said and done.  3)  I can express love in my own way.  4)  No one else owns me or controls me.  5)  I can figure out how to do things in a way that works for me.   6)  I can think for myself.      

My prayer is that these thoughts will lead you into deeper freedom and healing as you walk with the Lord.  

When people live in unhealthy families, there is a lack of personal safety that can be debilitating. Growing up in an unsafe environment shapes us and establishes patterns in us which we bring into our adulthood. These unhealthy patterns churn out misery and suffering. The worst part is that we often live in unawareness of where the patterns came from and we just accept the belief that we are some how bad, and we allow our relationships to be destroyed rather than realizing instead, that we are wounded and need healing. We can become aware, and we can heal. God doesn’t intend us to be bound as with chains to all the sins committed against us or in our presence when we were children. Nor, does he intend this bondage to be the motivating force in our present that causes us to say with the aspostle Paul ” I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do… it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is the sin living in me.” (Romans 7:15,17)

As I am seeing clients every week, I again and again find myself addressing these themes of unhealthy living. Over the next few months I plan to use this forum to reflect on these themes. The Good News of the Gospels, which is my great joy to tell, is that by the love and grace of Christ, we can become free. We can be transformed into living the lives God intended for us all along . My prayer is that these reflections will be a blessing to you. Awareness, though often painful, is the first step of a healing journey that both begins and ends with a greater experience of the love of God.