Enmeshment/Undeveloped Self Schema

Individuals who experience some form of impaired autonomy or self-identity formation may develop one or more of these four schemas: dependence/incompetence, vulnerability to harm, enmeshment/undeveloped self, and failure.



We may all occasionally feel so close to someone else that some of our identity may merge with theirs. If you have developed the enmeshment/undeveloped self schema, you may experience excessive emotional involvement with people close to you. This is often linked with a low sense of core identity and the feeling of drifting or losing sense of who you are. Sometimes enmeshment is so strong that individuals may feel they cannot survive without the constant availability of the other person.


When activated, this schema may understandably trigger clinginess, rejection sensitivity or intense feelings that mirror those of the person close to us. These feelings may impact our decision making to our own disadvantage. The true need behind this schema is understanding and forming our own identity and being permitted to own our personal feelings and space.



Here are some questions to think about if you are considering whether the enmeshment/undeveloped self schema resonates with you:

Do you find it difficult to keep intimate details from the other person without feeling guilty?

Do you find it difficult to make your own choices for small things without seeking feedback from the other person?

Do you sometimes wonder who you truly are?

Do you find it difficult to describe your own identity separately from other people?

Do you find yourself over-involved with people close to you, so much so that you share their emotions deeply?

Do you sometimes find you have lost yourself?

Do you find you adapt your own desires and needs to people close to you and that they change, for example, with different partners?

Do you sometimes feel the other person is living through you and that you do not have a life of your own?


If you generally answer no to most these questions, you are unlikely to have developed the enmeshment/undeveloped self schema. Please note that enmeshment/undeveloped self schema pertains to a loss of self-identity, not empathic connection with the people close to you. If you think the enmeshment/undeveloped self schema applies to you, start observing how it manifests in your daily life. Recognition is key to changing patterns that stop you from achieving your goals.


To find out more about your own personal schemas, book a consultation with Dr. Terrighena on (852) 2715 4577 or e.terrighena@mind-balance.org.

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Dr Esslin Terrighena - Psychologist in Hong Kong

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