Mindfulness Meets Enmeshment: Disentangling Without Detaching With Embodied Self-Empathy as a Guide

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Abstract

An event in the author’s personal life leads her to reflect on the impact of the physical dimension of mindfulness meditation on enmeshed relationships, those in which boundaries are porous and the expression of empathy is felt disproportionally by 1 person. The focus of this article is on mother–daughter enmeshment where the daughter’s mind and body can feel inhabited by her mother’s experience and an illusion of one-ness emerges. Through mindfulness meditation—the state of being fully attuned to present experience, observing, but not judging, thoughts and feelings that arise—bodily awareness deepens, self-empathy takes hold, and healthy psychic boundaries emerge, lessening the confusion that comes with fusion. The author’s work with a female patient extends the use of relational mindfulness into the psychoanalytic consulting room. Here, as the patient’s relationship with her embodied self expands, a new, more emotionally delineated way of relating to her mother emerges. This vignette, along with the author’s own personal narrative, suggest that rooting oneself in the body helps disembed from entangled relationships, encouraging a balanced sharing of emotion and empathy.

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