Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Boundaries, enmeshment and justice

A friend recently had 20 young people stay at his house. He had about 10 hours notice before they descended on his 2 bedroom home. A group of young people from the garbage village needed a place to stay. He received a call at 11:45pm that night. What could he do?

We were talking about this at lunch. His repeated attempts at trying to draw healthy boundaries with the leader did little good.

I'm beginning to wonder if boundaries are the luxury of the middle class. Is there such thing as boundaries when you're doing justice work?

I've wondered about boundaries, Asian American families, and Christian discipleship. What therapists call "enmeshment" is a common occurrance in Asian American families. Is it an issue that we need to fight against in the Asian community. Or is family therapy culturally bound.

What some might called "enmeshed" has great characteristics. There's a wonderful sense of involving everyone, and a corporate identity that is a healthy antidote to a narcissitic individualized model. But it has its problems too.

From my limited vantage point, it comes across as parents who are very upset at a young person's decision. A lot of emotional pressure lands on the young person to comply to their wishes. I've heard extreme cases of threatening suicide unless a young person changes their plans. More common examples are sleepless nights, extreme anxiety, etc. Are the young people just clueless and self-absorbed? Or is the older generation enmeshed? Both?

Is this just how things get done in Asian American households? What's the Christian response?

What's cultural? What's Christian? What's do we embrace and what do we work against?