(CNN) — Editor’s note: Dr. Drew Pinsky, a board-certified internist, regularly interviews people in the spotlight to learn more about their emotional lives. Bristol Palin was Dr. Drew’s guest on a special edition of “Dr. Drew” on HLN Thursday.
One thing jumped out at me over and over again when I interviewed Bristol Palin: She had difficulty identifying and expressing feelings.
Even when pressed, she was unable to dig deep and readily find an emotional response.
Based on how Bristol described her family, the Palins seem to exhibit what in my line of work is called an “enmeshed” family. It’s more than being close. It’s being too close.
Members are extensions of each other. It’s hard to tell, for example, where mom begins and daughter ends. Boundaries are blurred. Each feels that she’s essential to the other’s happiness, even survival.
And while it is not an awful situation it can be a handicap.
In more severe enmeshment, individual identity suffers. Sense of self can be totally lost. A person is ultimately unable to look within. So he or she acts out.
And this, I believe, is what may have happened to Bristol to some degree. She was the proverbial “good girl” with loving, supportive and well-meaning parents. She was exactly the daughter that they needed to her to be. But when they didn’t keep up their end of the bargain and became too busy, the enmeshment became more complicated.
It’s tough when your mother is Sarah Palin, the governor of Alaska.
Bristol Palin: Being a teen mom is hard
Bristol lost her virginity to “bad boy” Levi Johnston while drunk on wine coolers. As she explains in her new book, “Not Afraid of Life: My Journey So Far,” she’d lied about him and what they were doing. She lied to her parents, and to herself.
And then came baby Tripp. Bristol was forced to publicly confront the reality of being pregnant during the 2008 presidential campaign. Her mother, John McCain’s running mate, was even less available to Bristol than ever. For a girl who grew up seeing her mom and herself as one, this was beyond difficult.
Bristol is sweet, genuine, and intelligent. She has so much to offer. And she has a platform. The country is listening to what she has to say. But she needs to work hard to develop a sense of who she is. She is Bristol Palin. Not Sarah.
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