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Pathological Enmeshment in Parental Alienation

Updated: Oct 31, 2022

Bronze intertwined link represents pathological enmeshment.

Pathological Enmeshment

When Children Are Alienated From a Targeted Parent

Written by Randi Fine, Narcissistic Abuse Expert

Narcissistic Abuse Awareness and Guidance with Randi Fine

“Pathological Enmeshment” is where the alienating parent has an unhealthy enmeshment with the child to the point where the child has lost his or her own individuality.” ~Steven Miller, M.D., Internationally-known expert on alienation and estrangement.

Parents are highly influential in the development of a child’s individuality and identity. Through unconditional love and support, healthy parents encourage their children’s independence in decision making, teach their children to be ambitious, and encourage them to form separate identities. The uniqueness of a child within a functional family unit is revered and celebrated. That is not so in situations of dysfunctional parenting where love is based on conditions, the child’s independence is discouraged, and the child’s individuality is shamed, criticized and forbidden.

Children tend to suffer the same fate in families where one parent is loving and the other abusive. They know they have one parent's love, but they desperately want love from the other and will sacrifice themselves in pursuit of it. Healthy boundaries do not exist in families with narcissistic parents, the home environments are not emotionally safe, and the loving parents, also in survival mode, cannot adequately protect them. The longer children remain in this toxic environment the worse the lifetime damage will be.