Wednesday, September 27, 2017

What's Wrong With Enmeshment?

The family therapist Salvator Minuchin coined the term “enmeshment” to refer to families where there’s so much other orientedness that individual growth is curtailed. In a recent Times Op Ed piece ("When Life Asks For Everything,"9/19/17) David Brooks points to a significant dichotomy between “The Four Kinds of Happiness” modality which ultimately aspires to a kind of self-forgetting and Abraham Maslow’s “hierarchy of needs” whose contrastingly highest level lies according to Brooks, in "experiencing autonomy and living in a way that expresses our authentic self.” So considering the stakes, what’s wrong with being 
enmeshed? Why is enmeshment a pathology? Melody Beatty famously wrote Codependent No More, a primer for the recovery movement. But what about a countervailing volume, Codependent Yes More. It would be like the difference between The Wealth of Nations and Das Kapital. Self-actualization derives from the romantic agony and fundamentally proposes a paradigm for which there’s no closure. When does the striving stop and how can the needs of others ever be accommodated amidst all the restless self-seeking of the atomized individual? Ibsen’s A Doll’s House notwithstanding, aren’t the demands of pleasure and excellence what’s really killing modern day marriage? A sequel to A Doll’s House recently ran on Broadway. However, can we really be certain that the eponymous Nora was that much more happy once she left Torvald? Autonomy is the condition of modern cosmopolitan life. Yet perhaps its more apt to say the existence lived by the contemporary men and women is different rather than necessarily better.

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