An Overlooked Precursor to Sexual Addiction, Co-dependency, and Relationships Struggles Kenneth M. Adams, Ph.D., CSAT www.drkenadams.com [email protected] Parentification (Jurkovic) The Chosen Child (Minuchin) Emotional Incest (Love) Covert Incest (Adams) Enmeshment Enmeshment leads to an attachment disorder Attachment disorders are largely attributed to abuse, abandonment, or neglect Little, to no study, is given to enmeshment as a causative factor in its own right “Closeness” looks like attachment Mother/son; mother, father/daughter Societal implications – single parent households, Italy reporting contributing factor to population decline Enmeshment damages sexual unfolding, prejudicing the capacity for intimacy Enmeshment key precursor to addiction Male sex addicts report (40%) enmeshment Parentified females report eating disorders Separate emotionally from the family of origin you grew up in, enough so that your identity is separate from your parents and siblings (The Good Marriage, Wallerstein and Blakeslee) Relationships have ever-deepening levels, and a relationship can only go to the depth of the more limited person( The Seven 7 Best Things Happy Couples Do, Friel and Friel) Enmeshment and intrusion characterizes the relationship Demand for loyalty to the needy and lonely parent prevails - creates “loyal object” (Jurkovic) Entrapped, engulfed, guilty, and angry Overly eroticized atmosphere Disloyalty toward love objects other than the parent 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. Deprivation Disrupted attachment with caregivers Undifferentiated self Distorted cognitive schema that prevent seeing children as separate (Jurkovic) Personality disorders (traits, features) 1. 2. 3. 4. Temperament Capacity for empathy and caring (Jurkovic) Birth order Gender 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. High stress – substance abuse, mental illness Single parenting Marital discord Role induction (parents display of neediness, helplessness, and dependency) Poor boundaries- enmeshed with one parent, disengagement with the other (Jurkovic) Entrapment, intrusion, and engulfment occurs before age five Punishment/physical violence in retaliation for separation attempts Participation by the other parent to encourage the entrapment or their physical or emotional absence Physical sexual abuse Mother Attuned To Son: He Can Be Himself His Self attunement attuned to So n His Needs His Life Mother Son Attuned To Mother: He Loses His Identity His Self His Needs not attuned to attunement So n Mother His Life Enmeshment inverts the parent-child bond and leaves child over-eroticized and overstimulated with the parent (no boundaries) Sexuality is filled with intense conflictshrouded in danger, taboo, ambivalence, and shame Sexuality is split off, fragments or compartments are created Unencumbered erotic desire needed for bonding Adult love relationships become gateway to disappointment and loss Intrusion of parent’s needs and demands into child’s psychic, emotional, and sexual world Child’s separation causes parent to feel abandoned - will intrude into child’s world even harder Child’s self is unable to “unfold", parent molds child as an extension of their own narcissistic wish (e.g., be the man your father isn’t), must fragment “True” self goes into hiding and “false” self emerges and becomes compulsively attuned to the feelings and needs of others 1. 2. 3. Getting together Phone calls Physical touch Topics of conversation e.g.: I don’t respond to my mother’s criticisms of my dad I don’t talk to her about my dad I say out loud to them both that I don’t want to talk with either of them about their conflict Money Wait 24 hours - “ I need to think about this and get back to you” Develop interest and hobbies Build friendships and decrease tendency to be dependent on only one person Set boundaries around the amount of time you will give to mom/dad Screen calls, wait to respond Pace romantic involvement, hold boundaries tight in early part of relationship 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. Make a list of ten most burdensome, inappropriate things you do for mom from most to least damaging Write down a few statements that are clear and specific ways to set limits e.g.,“ I can’t talk now, I will call tomorrow” Identify feelings that arise during rehearsal List that behaviors your mother does that trigger the guilt and disloyalty response e.g., weepy, angry, threatening, martyrdom, silent, etc. Develop new beliefs that counter guilt and fear response Sphere Of Enmeshment MOTHER Emotionally Disconnecte d FATHER MEM Wife Partner Girlfriend In his unconscious – and sometimes conscious – mind, a mother-enmeshed man (MEM) is representing his mother’s interests, while his own have become secondary. If he does something he thinks she wouldn’t like, he feels disloyal to her. If he “gets serious” about a woman, suddenly, without understanding why, he is overwhelmed with feelings of fear, anxiety, and guilt. Ambivalence and withdrawal inevitably follow. From: When He’s Married to Mom: Helping Mother Enmeshed Men Open Their Hearts to True Love and Commitment by Kenneth M. Adams, Ph.D. with Alexander P. Morgan Frustrated by lack of availability and commitment of partner Tries harder to persuade partner to commit Blames self for sexual or emotional rejection Feels like “other” woman in relationship to mom Accommodates or compromises to hang onto relationship May have lost years to the relationship and tries even harder to persuade commitment when loss is felt Often comes from a family in which she was cast in the role of being a caretaker or over responsible Sexual addiction is a perceived gateway to emotional and sexual freedom - It temporarily reassures a damaged, entrapped, and ambivalent sexual self Sexual addiction is not disloyal, allows the CI survivor to avoid the trap of loyalty to the parent while asserting sexual freedom It permits discharge of the rage and anger and allows the covert incest survivor to reject and disappoint the partner, which is not allowed by the parent Be aware Be reassuring and address his/her needs Seek adult connections Set healthy boundaries Create and maintain strong bond with both parents Build strong bond with partner Maintain appropriate boundaries for conflict between parents T: Dependency, will be in role “good pt” rather than true self, may feel that they are putting therapist out and not want to return, feel therapist is also controlling if too much advice, feel the therapy process is smothering CT: Pressure the pt to separate too quickly from parent, too much advice and intervention too quickly, getting angry at parent, failing to validate enmeshment (own enmeshment issues), trying to fix -overinvolvment When He’s Married To Mom: How to Help MotherEnmeshed Men Open Their Hearts to True Love and Commitment- Adams, K. with Morgan, A. Silently Seduced: When Parent’s Make Their Children Partners, Understanding Covert Incest - Adams, K. Clinical Management of Sex Addiction- Carnes, P. & Adams, K. The Emotional Incest Syndrome: What To Do When A Parent’s Love Rules Your Life- Love, P. with Robinson, J. Mother’s, Son’s, and Lovers: How A Man’s Relationship With His Mother Affects The Rest of His Life - Gurian, M. Lost Childhoods: The Plight of the Parentified Child Jukovic, G.