Toxic people thrive in enmeshment - a family unit dynamic where personal boundaries are blurred. There is no individual autonomy but more of a hive mindset and a shared experience. What the dominant or alpha person feels the others are expected to feel. Everyone is expected to think like how the dominant person thinks and if you think differently it is seen as offensive.
Bonding in an enmeshed family is done over inflated drama and black & white thinking (good or bad, friend or foe). There is no privacy because someone's personal business is shared in a ring of gossip, sharing "concern", or there may be a cherry-picked black sheep (the independent thinker) that everyone takes terns teasing or gossiping about.
You will quickly find yourself walking on eggshells and being extra private about your personal life as any tidbit of info will be spread quickly throughout the family. You may feel that one false move will shun you from the family.
A healthy attached person is someone who can validate them self. They are happy to live to the beat of their own drum, have strong boundaries, and strong core values. They don't fall into people pleasing behaviors because they know their worth and know that healthy relationships are reciprocal, kind, and steady.
Toxic people who have been raised within an enmeshed family dynamic will become highly offended when an healthy attached person refuses to take part in these boundary crossing "bonding" behaviors. Their black & white thinking will categorize this person as an enemy and interpret their actions to not participate in the enmeshed behavior as arrogance.
Bet you've heard, "Oh she/he must think they're better than us."
The enmeshed persons take the rejection to participate in the enmeshed state of mind very deeply as a personal attack. They will then project all of their insecurities, abandonment and betrayal traumas, and abuse trauma onto the healthy attached person vilifying them in their eyes and for future gossiping stories.
3 Things to Have Strong Boundaries with Enmeshed Family
The best way to avoid these types of people and situations is to avoid them, but sometimes that is not possible.
1. Have strong boundaries about what you are willing participate in and how people are going to treat you. You may find that you will have to keep enforcing your boundaries because toxic people will tirelessly continue to test them hoping that one day they will catch you with your guard down and move in.
2. Have strong Core Values - are values we hold that form the foundation on which we perform work and conduct ourselves: Integrity, Honesty, Courage, Discipline, etc. I call them your personalized list of 10 Commandments from which you conduct your life by.
3. Validate your own feelings, thoughts, needs, beliefs, and don't allow the shame they may throw your way to permeate into your heart.
Stay strong friends!
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