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Feb 02

3/3 Disconnected/Enmeshed FOO and Conflict Solutions

We have been discussing the factors that influence how you view and handle Conflict Solutions.  So far we have been talking about the impact of the Family of Origin on our Conflict Styles.  Then we went onto how our basic personality influences how we face and resolve conflicts.

In this post, we continue the theme on our FOO and their influence on conflict resolutions.

A.  Our view of all relationships is influenced by the closeness or distance in our FOO.

Today we want to continue with the theme on the Family of Origin, or FOO, in the light of closeness and distance within any relationship.  This is part of the foundation for healthy conflict resolution as personal space and trust comes to the surface. ‘How close will I let you get?’ or ‘How close do I feel comfortable in sharing with you?’

To begin with, most people are still connected, or even more connected to their family of origin than they are to others in their world.  However, past emotional closeness or distance will influence how we see others, whether the old FOO is living next door or across an ocean.  This becomes one of the clashes or joys when we become adults.  We can establish our own relationships apart from the entanglements of past family life.

1.  However, all families have these entanglements, the boundaries of closeness or distance, enmeshment or detachment.  You can measure their involvement on a scale of:

Overly Connected —- > Somewhat connected —- > Somewhat distant —- > Overly Disconnected

Families can be too distant and detached from one another, or they can be too close where some level of stifling exists.  When individuals are too bent on pleasing one another, healthy interaction gives way to unhealthy enmeshment.

2.  Signs of enmeshed families 

Sometimes, it seems that everyone has to know what the others are doing.  No one is allowed to keep secrets; everyone knows about everyone’s business.  Family secrets included how to do things ‘the right way’ versus how others do things; there is always only one right way.  People talk of one another and about one another freely.  The group is more interested in defending their ‘standards’ or traditions in doing things than in learning new skills.

Loyalty is the glue that binds this type of family together.  One or more of the family members is usually the central controlling signpost, while others respond to how they think that person feels.  The members seem tangled in each other’s lives so that when one person isn’t talking to another person, the whole family either tries to make peace or is fractured on the issue.

3.  The opposite side of the equation is the too distant family. 

By being disconnected, no one knows what the others are doing, saying or what they are involved with today.  Little is shared with other family members, so little gossip or feelings are exposed to others outside or inside the family.  It’s an open book when right and wrong are settled, with everyone having their own ideas.  Nothing seems to be planned by a central person or organised when the family is together.  Little depth is expressed when conversation does happen.

B.  Our FOO learned from the previous generation’s FOO

1.  The main reason that a family is enmeshed or disconnected comes down to how adults in the family learned to relate in their own FOO. 

Enmeshment behaviour grows when a child is expected to fulfil a parent’s need, meet an unfilled void in their life.  The issue comes to the surface when the husband and/or wife is not allowed to maintain his or her own individuality but is expected to mould to the other’s expectations.

2.  As adults facing conflict, we need a good sense of our own personality

As you can see, it is very important that each individual becoming an adult needs to have a good sense of their own personality, their own values and their own individuality.  Most of us only learn these lessons when we are adults ourselves and have faced some of life’s issues.

Learning to set healthy boundaries and learn to communicate early on in any relationship can help these enmeshment/disconnection situations.  However, usually a person is already caught in the web before they realise these will be the issues they face their conflicts.

There is no one perfect model in a FOO background for resolving conflicts.  Most often, it means finding other people around you that can contribute to healthy solutions before conflicts get to the point, we are distressed.   However, resolving to have good communication is essential for any healthy solutions to conflicts.

In our next post, we shall continue with Personality Issues by looking at another variable in family dynamics: flexible or inflexible levels within the FOO.  Here again, these FOO patterns influence our style of resolving conflicts.  See you then,

Susanne Fengler, Blog Author

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