What is Enmeshment/ Undeveloped Self Schema?

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The main feature of this schema is to feel excessive emotional attachment and intimacy to one or more people. These people can be parents or friend.

If you have this scheme, you may never have understood the importance of individualization and social development. You have difficulty developing a personal perception of identity, also you have difficulty in making personal decisions.

In the Undeveloped Self-Schema, you believe both you and your bonded person cannot survive without the constant support of others. You often think that he or she cannot live or be happy unless he or she supports you. You feel a very strong connection with your parent figure as if you were a single person. In fact, you think you can read his/her mind, understand his/her wishes without saying it.

From time to time you experience a situation like a sense of emptiness. This is an experience of lack of sense of individual identity. You find it difficult to give a satisfactory answer to the question ”Who am I?”. The bond you create with your parent figure prevents you from seeing who you really are, what you like, what your skills are. You will find it difficult to make your own choices. You perceive your life as the satellite of your parent figure, a star. Usually you experience feelings of emptiness and confusion, aimlessness. If your interiors are advanced, you can come to the point of questioning your own existence.

Characteristic Undeveloped Self Behavior


You lead a life that’s attached to the person you’re in. In general, you copy his behavior, talk about it, and think about it. You want to keep in touch with him. You try to suppress your thoughts, feelings and behaviors that are different from his.
When you spend time with yourself or try to do something special, you feel guilty and you feel the need to share it with the person you’re stuck with.
You may have deep fears about living on your own.
You deal with the problems of adherents.

What might be the reason ?

The underdeveloped self-scheme often develops with family attitudes. For example your family may not have allowed you to perceive yourself as a separate individual. When you put forward your own preferences, feelings and thoughts, they may be hindering you. They may have made you think that what you did was wrong and made you feel guilty.

Some families apply direct pressure to prevent their children from revealing themselves. Some families do not impose a direct restriction or punishment, but apply emotional pressure to the child. In our culture, your parents say, “I don’t like you unless you do as I say.” attitude is only one of the conditions that prevent children from developing healthy self-perception.

Schema Chemistry

If you have lived a life intertwined with your family, you can prefer people to stick with in a similar way. These people may also can be dominant and strong people who are eager to protect you. But in either case, you can’t live yourself. This is not your recovery, but the continuation of your schema. You live a life according to the wishes of the person you are stuck with. It is not your wishes and needs that are decisive in the most important decisions of your life, but your partner’s demands.

One of the situations seen in the relationships of people with undeveloped self-schemas is that they place the blame on their spouses for their unsatisfactory lives. For example, the woman complains that her husband does not allow her own wishes; but when his wife asks him exactly what he wants, he cannot answer. In this case, the woman may feel seriously in a deadlock.

Treatment Goals

The central goal of treatment is to help people express their spontaneous, natural selves – their unique preferences, opinions, decisions, talents, and natural inclinations – rather than suppressing their true selves and merely adopting the identity of the parent figures.

If you experience a good psychotherapy process, you can live a life without being dependent on others. You can relate to others without adopting them while maintaining your own boundaries.

Cindy Brown
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