Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Signs of Enmeshment: Another ?"Botkin Syndrome"? Checklist!

As noted on pages 25 – 27
of Patricia Love's

Checklist 1: Signs of Enmeshment

Directions: Read each of the following statements and put a checkmark by the ones that are true for you. You may find it helpful to put the initials of the appropriate parent or caretaker beside each statement to clarify your response. (In this and subsequent checklists, the word parent can refer to parents, stepparents, or other significant caretakers.)

If you have a complex life history, you may find it helpful to write some additional comments by your responses, such as “this was true before my father remarried,” or “this was true mainly after my mother died.”

Answer these questions from a historical perspective. In other words, try to recall how you felt when you were a child, rather than how you feel now.

Part A. Indication of an Overly Close Parent-Child Bond

  1. I felt closer to one parent than the other.
  2. I was a source of emotional support for one of my parents.
  3. I was “best friends” with a parent.
  4. A parent shared confidences with me.
  5. A parent was deeply involved in my activities or developing my talents.
  6. A parent took a lot of pride in my abilities or my achievements.
  7. I was given special privileges or gifts by one of my parents.
  8. One of my parents told me in confidence that I was the favorite, most talented or most lovable child.
  9. A parent thought I was better company than his or her spouse.
  10. I sometimes felt guilty when I spent time away from one of my parents.
  11. I got the impression that a parent did not want me to marry or move far away from home.
  12. When I was young I idolized one of my parents.
  13. Any potential boyfriend or girlfriend was never “good enough” for one of my parents.
  14. A parent seemed overly aware of my sexuality.
  15. A parent made sexual remarks or violated my privacy.

Part B. Indication of Unmet Adult Needs

  1. My parents were separated, divorced, widowed, or didn't get along very well.
  2. One of my parents was often lonely, angry, or depressed.
  3. One of my parents did not have a lot of friends.
  4. One or both parents had a drinking or drug problem.
  5. One of my parents thought the other parent was too indulgent or permissive.
  6. I felt I had to hold back my own needs to protect a parent.
  7. A parent turned to me for comfort or advice.
  8. A parent seemed to rely on me more than on my siblings.
  9. I felt responsible for a parent's happiness.
  10. My parents disagreed about parenting issues.

Part C. Indication of Parental Neglect or Abuse

  1. My needs were often ignored or neglected.
  2. There was a great deal of conflict between me and a parent.
  3. I was called hurtful names by a parent.
  4. One of my parents had unrealistic expectations of me.
  5. One of my parents was very critical of me.
  6. I sometimes wanted to hide from a parent or had fantasies of running away.
  7. When I was a child, other families seemed less emotionally intense than mine.
  8. It was often a relief to get away from home.
  9. I sometimes felt invaded by a parent.
  10. I sometimes felt I added to a parent's unhappiness.

What can you learn from this checklist? Do you have ten or more checks spread out among these three sections? If so, is it likely that some degree of enmeshment occurred?

Next, review the overall pattern of your checks. If your checks tend to be clustered in the first and second sections, you may have been enmeshed with a Romanticizing or a Sexualizing Parent. If your checks are clustered in the second and third sections, you may have been enmeshed with a Critical/Abusive Parent. If you have checkmarks sprinkled throughout these three sections, you may have been alternately loved and abused by the same parent, or one parent may have abused you while the other adored you. Reflecting on your life history will help you sort this out.

Excerpt from

Dr. Patricia Love's

The Emotional Incest Syndrome:

What to Do When a Parent's Love Rule's Your Life

Bantam Books, 1990

MORE INFORMATION from "The Emotional Incest Syndrome" book will follow next week, describing the four different types of parents in these emotionally incestuous relationships between parents and children.
Or better yet, buy the book!