One of the most important, and arguably the most challenging, thing for someone who has experienced emotional incest is to establish healthy boundaries in relationships along the journey of healing and wellness. Why is setting boundaries important? It's important because during the formative childhood years, there was a crossing and blurring of boundary lines. For example, an adult forcing an adult-role on a child (as is the case in emotional incest) crosses a boundary. When a boundary is crossed, vulnerability, confusion, and distress settles in the heart of a child. It is not profitable to our overall well-being (spiritual, physical, emotional, relational) to not have boundaries in place.Violated boundaries may perpetuate co-dependency, enabling, and enmeshment.
Here's the good news: Boundaries are biblical! They ensure protection, safety, and homeostasis in our relationships. Consider Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. God established a boundary for them--do not eat of the "tree of the knowledge of good and evil" (Genesis 2:17). What happened? They crossed the boundary. There are countless other examples of the use of boundaries in the Bible.
The Bible also teaches us that when the boundary has been established--it is not to be moved, removed, or compromised (Proverbs 22:28). Boundaries are God's gift to us. They were established by him to perpetuate our spiritual freedom; thereby enabling us to enjoy mutually satisfying, healthy relationships and a full, abundant life (John 10:10)
Thoughts to Consider
- Am I feeling angry, anxious, distressed , worried, uneasy, or vulnerable in my interactions?
- Do I feel a sense of deja-vu or emotional violation when I am interacting with this person?
- Am I attempting to meet an unmet need based on this interaction/relationship?
- Am I feeling subtly manipulated to conform or respond in specific way?
- Am I seeking to meet the approval of another so that I feel a sense of worth, value, or importance?
- Am I being shamed into feeling a false sense of guilt to appease the need of another?
As you meditate and pray on the word of God, it may be helpful to share your story with a counselor, pastor, etc. As you continue to take steps along your journey, the Holy Spirit will bring the need for boundaries into perspective and normalcy. He will help you evaluate your role in any given relationship.
It may also be useful to monitor the ways in which you care for yourself. Self-care is vital for adults with a history of parentification. It's easy to become overly preoccupied with caring for the needs of others. Yes, we are called to care for one another, but not to the point that our own basic human needs go grossly unmet. Operating at such a deficit is not God's way, and it does not bring him glory.
"Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well."-- 3 John 1:2(NIV)