Stop Enmeshing By Doing This Gentle Practice

By Marshall Burtcher.

Do you find yourself being absorbed in other people’s feelings, preferences, experiences, or priorities? 

Do you take on those things as your own?

This is often called, “enmeshment”.  Enmeshment is when we blend ourselves with someone else and feel identified with their emotions, perceptions, priorities, and so forth.  We do not have a clear, defined sense of self, nor really a practiced habit of inquiring about our own feelings, thoughts, preferences, perspectives, and so forth.

This comes from profound and chronic experiences of being isolated emotionally, being made responsible for regulation of other people’s feeling states and problems, and the lack of warm, distinct connection that respects and values you as a person.  

The work here is to start building awareness of ourselves.  This is achieved through a practice called Differentiation.

What is differentiation?

This is the practice of distinguishing one thing from another. 

Basically, you’re distinguishing yourself from other people’s thoughts, feelings, and perceptions of you.

This practice starts with being available to your awareness.  Awareness is simply what ever your mind and body sense or pick up from it’s lived experience.

For example, right now you can become aware of the temperature of the room with this question: what is the temperature of the room right now?

Now you’re sensing into the experience of “temperature”.   You’re also doing an act of differentiation. Specifically, you’re differentiating between hot and cold.

When it comes to differentiating yourself from a person, this involves three factors:

  • Space between
  • Similarities
  • Differences

Let’s look at each of these briefly.

The space between is recognizing the physical separation that exists between you and another person, place, or thing.  This helps your brain conceptualize and organize around it’s inherent shape and containership.  It is it’s own thing apart from the other thing.

Similarities is the practice of seeing where you and another person, place, or thing share attributes, preferences, likes, dislikes, and so forth.  This is where you can see compatibilities, values, and principles in a relationship.  It can show you where and how you and others work together.

Differences is where you see where you are not alike.  This can reveal where they compliment and add to your life, or where you add and compliment their life.  Differences can also show you where you and they do not fit or lack compatibility.  

Each of these elements can help you distinguish your feelings from other people’s feelings, your thoughts from their thoughts, and who you want to be from who they want you to be. 

This empowers you to detect and choose your community and family.

You can start this practice in your daily life with this practice:

Step One:  Draw two circles. Above one circle put, “Me”.  Above the other, put, “Them”.

Step Two: Ask yourself this question: What similarities are there between me and this person?

Write the answers in the appropriate circle.  In this case, you’d put the similarity in both circles.

Step Three: Ask yourself this question: What differences can I detect?

Write your answers in the appropriate circle.  You will notice how the answers are different in each circle.

Notice how it feels to see the differences, similarities, and the space between them by observing the two circles.

Let that take up some space and acknowledge that it is safe enough to let those things be present.  You can do this with a What-shift’s question:  “What shifts if you trust, just a bit, that the differences, space, and similarities are safe to allow for right now?”

This is how you begin to recognize and distinguish yourself from others.  This is the foundation of coming to know who you are for yourself.

May this serve you in your healing and freedom.

Marshall Burtcher, Codependency Healing Expert. Marshall helps codependents, people-pleasers, and perfectionists stop fixing themselves and start loving themselves. Join Marshall for his next free live workshop, “The 8 Factors That Heal Codependency Permanently” by clicking here:

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