Emily Savage's Archive


13 Commentsby   |  09.27.09  |  Uncategorized

Enmeshment is a term coined by Salvador Minuchin (1974) to describe what happens when boundaries between subsystems in families are diffuse. The more enmeshed a family becomes the less able members are to function autonomously. Minuchin (1974) says that “the heightened sense of belonging” felt in enmeshed families “requires a major yielding of autonomy” and “discourages autonomous exploration and mastery of problems” (p. 55). Though enmeshment is seen as healthy in some cases (e.g. couples who are falling in loveand mothers with newborns) if it continues over extended periods of time it will keep members from differentiation that will allow them to function separately from their family (Minuchin, 1974). More »

Emily Savage's Comment Archive

  1. Emily Savage on Content
    2:48 pm, 12.04.09

    1) When with a client, do you feel that focusing on content is an important step in therapy? Why or why not?
    I do think spending some serious time focusing on content is important. I think we felt this acutely when doing or dyads this semester. We were in a time crunch and we needed to get to deeper “process” issues so we had to rush people’s stories. I think for the client to feel safe with us the client needs to know that we have really heard their whole story. And for us it is important as well. We may be focusing on the relationships “process” between mother and daughter, but because we haven’t asked the daughter enough about her life and struggles we don’t really she is being constantly belittled by her teachers at school.

    2) As a therapist, how do you know when you are focusing too much on the content of what is being said? You know, so far the only thing I’ve come with is I know when I start trying to come up with a literal solution to someone’s problem that I can dictate to them, I know I’m focusing too much on the content.

    3) What are some example questions that can lead the client from focusing on content to focusing on process? “When that happened, what were you thinking?” “Is it usually like this with you two?” “Do you ever feel stuck in this, doing the same thing again and again?”

  2. Interesting post Tommy! Way to get out of the exosytemic-blog-box ;-)

    2. Fascinating question! My family had two favorite shows. #1 The Simpsons. My Mom hated this, and would die of embarrassment if she knew I were sharing it with you guys, but I think it highlights my family’s need to laugh at life and the frequent absurdity of it. Also, it underlies a sad theme in my family of women being smart/competent and men being kind of a joke. The other show was Home Improvement. Like so many other shows it taught us that realitively happy middle-class American families are the norm, and helped us to feel go about the life path we were on.

    3. Man you know, I think it is a reciprocal relationship. I feel like this is a “which came first” question. I think it is probably more important for us to think about the way the exosystem does represent our internal processes in good and bad ways. So often we view these large social structures as something separate from us, when in so many ways, we constantly created each other, and thus, the set up of the school system has much to say about the values of individuals of this nation.

  3. 1)I think it is a combination of a convincing person and a powerful group. One person can do nothing if not backed by others – but because of mass media and powerful weapons, it doesn’t necessarily have to be that man people. Like the military coop that took Guinea, Africa last year. One man convinced a powerful group in the Army, and thus they took over a nation. Or on the positive side you can look at Mother Teresa and the nuns who followed her. I think the important thing is to realize that people only have the power that others give them.

    2)Creation. But that is a conversation God and I are in the middle of right now.

    3)Can I vote for myself? I’ve always been really into the ACU mission statement and all…

  4. Emily Savage on Enmeshment
    11:53 am, 10.05.09

    * when Isaac wrestles with God

  5. Emily Savage on Enmeshment
    11:49 am, 10.05.09

    As per my description of enmeshment in my initial entry, and my examples of Jesus’ differentiation, I must agree with Scott that “enmeshed” is not the term I would use to describe a healthy relationship with God. My understanding of enmeshment is that it inhibits people from becoming who they were originally intended to be by instead feeding off others. It also, as Scott mentioned, inhibits freewill.

    Now there are plenty of verses in the Bible that do support the idea that one should be given over, or lose oneself in God. I, however, take these verses more in light of the transformational nature of a close relationship with God. When we can stand on our own, as differentiated individuals, seeing ourselves clearly and making our own decisions, we can then hear God and allow ourselves to be changed by knowing him.

    I think too many people do think of a relationship with God in an enmeshed way, and thus believe that they do not have to question what it seems that God has told them, and this leads to so many of the religious atrocities committed against humanity, and some simple conservatism that holds people in guilt grips that if they are somehow “disloyal” to God they will be cut off.

    I think there are some good examples in the Old Testament (such as Moses arguing with God not to destroy the people when they create an idol; or when Isaac wrestles ) of when God rewards people who do not blindly obey him, but instead stand as individuals.
    All of that said, I agree that it may be an issue with the definition of enmeshment, and not actually the view on relationship with God that we are having a discrepancy over. What do you think Blake?

  6. Emily Savage on Enmeshment
    11:37 am, 10.02.09

    Ashley, I think you brought up a very good point in your comment which I’ve found myself pondering frequently. How do we find our “solid self,” and is our relationship with God supposed to be “enmeshed”? To me this goes back to looking at the stories of Jesus in the New Testament. Whereas God can inform us about who we are in a way that humans do not have the authority, I believe that Jesus shows us that even with God we are perhaps differentiated. Jesus allows himself to think through situations and respond to people needing him (like when he decides to stop what he was doing and feed the 5,000 instead), but then he also takes time to himself (to pray on the mountain) and rebukes people when necessary. There are many examples throughout the New Testament where Jesus shows us that he is able to be emotionally close to people, and yet make non-reactive decisions. I think in our relationships with God, if we become enmeshed, we may wake up one day and realize that our faith seems to be nothing more than a feeling we had. I think we must be differentiated even with Him.

  7. Emily Savage on Enmeshment
    11:29 am, 10.02.09

    Dr. Goff, I agree that there has definitely been a shift in the postmodern church that focuses less on “right belief” and leaves more room for the individuation of its members. However, because of the highly structured organization (both of the church heirarchy and the services) of the majority of churches I think there are still many problems with allowing members to be individuals, both in their relationship with God and each other. It would be interesting to look into the process by which church structures have adapted to postmodernism. Despite the openness to questioning, it seems to me, from personal experience, that questioning the core beliefs of churches is still frequently seen as very threatening, and those who engage in it are labeled deviant.

  8. Emily Savage on Enmeshment
    10:13 pm, 09.27.09

    p.s. Feel free just to watch the first few minutes of the video — you’ll get the idea.

  9. Emily Savage on Differentiation
    3:03 pm, 09.24.09

    Having spent the last year in Asia myself, I have thought quite a bit about your first question Tara. Honestly, I think I had somewhat the opposite learning experience as you. Before I went to Asia I worked hard to not be judgmental and assume that my values were the “right” values. However, in Bangladesh family systems are very enmeshed and this is to the detriment and blatant degradation of women in the society. Women in many ways are not supposed to have their own thoughts and feelings and this makes them unable to stand up for basic human rights (e.g. adequate food; non-violence).

    While I was there a friend of mine had an arranged marriage. After the marriage she talked to me about the tension she felt as to who her allegiance was to (her husband or her FOO)and how to go about making good decisions. Now that she had more than one family telling her what to do She did not know how to reason out a decision. We discussed what her religion told her to be true, how she felt, and what she hoped for her in life, within the options available to her, and her view of proper hierarchy. It seemed that being able to emotionally disconnected herself from her family in order to make a decision, evaluating her own thoughts and feelings was extremely helpful.

    I feel like the issue here is not so much about whether or not differentiation is very healthy in most cultures, I think it is more about different kinds of hierarchies, and core values. Even with these differences I think being differentiated (being able to think through decisions individually while being connected to others) is the most healthy and growth promoting way to live.