The Life of an Enmeshed Child
Below is an excerpt from a fantastic blog about the toxic effects of growing up in an enmeshed, narcissistic environment. Here is the link to that blog (and an excerpt below the link about what this toxic environment looks like).
When a narcissist and their child become enmeshed, the roles of parent and child become reversed. A narcissist with an enmeshed child—or children—expects her child to continually anticipate and meet her needs. In this role reversal the child finds himself catering to his parent’s physical and emotional needs. Meanwhile his needs go unmet.
Narcissistic adults do not provide their children with any guidance. The child is left to fumble his way through the grade school years, preteen years, and adolescence. Likewise, the parent does not protect the child against any threats. No affirmations of his worth as a separate person are given. And the child will lack nurturance as well as appropriate affection.
As time goes on, the narcissistic parent and child become almost fused. Enmeshed adult children do not know where in their childhood their parent ended and they began. This lack of boundary definition follows them into adulthood and with other people—particularly romantic partners.
Children with healthy parents learn to make their own decisions and assert their independence by making decisions that their parents don’t approve of. Not so with the enmeshed child. The corrosive bond he shares with his mother means he seeks to make decisions that please her. For she makes clear that there is to be no displeasure from her child. However, it is simply impossible for any child to avoid displeasing his parents, especially if one of them is a narcissist.
When displeased, the narcissist may react with rage and punish her child for even minor infractions. Or, the narcissist may use the one tactic that all narcissists have a black belt in—guilt.