Identity Independence vs. Unhealthy Emotional Fusion

July 10, 2021
Emmanuel F. Silan, PhD
Have COURAGE to break the toxic psycho-emotional chain & FAITH to forge a soul-nurturing one

Parenting is a complex process. No wonder many parents feel at a loss and see parenting as a difficult and nerve-wracking responsibility. Other parents, however, trust their own instincts, guided by the models they saw from their own parents or other responsible and caring adults.

Yet there are light and shadows in all families, and these are some of them:

“Breaking away:” the child is emotionally detaching from the family and the family system due to reasons that are not healthy in the perception of the child who "breaks away." Disengagement, detachment, and apathy are combined manifestations of this behavior.

“Growing away:” is the healthy, natural order of things. This happens when the child has developed a healthy sense of identity and is now ready to venture out into the world.

She still feels and recognizes her belongingness in the family, yet knows that she would need to be independent and navigate life on her own.

In healthy family systems, the children are trained and guided to achieve “identity independence” and “emotional differentiation” from their parents. Unfortunately, in many dysfunctional family dynamics, what becomes nurtured is an “unhealthy fusion” with one or both parents.

It is also known in family therapy as “enmeshment,” and it is one difficult and “twisted” family emotional plot. Usually, this unhealthy emotional fusion starts with one or both of the parents.

Because of their desire to “protect” their children and not let their children grow away from them, they use various psycho-emotional and even physical manipulation to “keep” their children “bonded” with them.  

Lack of respect for privacy, nurturing emotional dependence on the parents rather than psycho-emotional independence, invalidation of the point of view of the children, manipulation and stunting of the decision-making capability of the children, and overall toxic or unhealthy psycho-emotional atmosphere are among the most common markers of enmeshment.

The result? The children have a greatly confused sense self-identity and generally lack self-independence. Most of these children will grow up emotionally immature and become troubled adults. Many of them will not be able to foster a healthy family of their own.

Yet there is always HOPE for a better future. Parents must work on freeing themselves from their psycho-emotional imprisonment if they want to see different results for their own children.

And young adults must work on their personal growth and development long before they decide to marry and have children of their own.  Children who will grow into independent, capable, emotionally mature, and psychologically resilient adults.

May you have the COURAGE to break the toxic psycho-emotional chain you inherited from your own family system. And the FAITH to forge a soul-nurturing one for yourself and your children.

May you be well.

About the author

Emmanuel F. Silan, PhD

NLP Coach and Counselor/ Human Behavior and Communications Specialist/ NLP Master Trainer (IN) and Coaching Master Trainer (ICI) / Organization Development Consultant/ Highly Experienced Team Building Facilitator/ Certified NLP Instructor and Master Practitioner/ has MA in Instruction Development and Technology/ PhD in Organization Development/ and currently taking Master in Counseling Psychology at  Ateneo de Manila University.