Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Family Roles

Good morning, everyone.  Well, I am feeling better and am back to work.  Actually, I don't start until 11 am so I have a few minutes here to type away before I go run my group.  Thanks all for your concern. I was feeling pretty miserable yesterday, I must say, the rest did me a world of good.  It also made me realize that I do need time for me; I've been a caretaker for far too long. 

"Just remember, you don't have to be what they want you to be".--Muhammad Ali

The above quote just about says it all, doesn't it?  So many of us spend our lives trying to fit into someone else's model of what they want from us.  We don't appreciate the 'real' us, not just the job that we do.  We don't recognize and cherish that unique, loving, person that resides within.  Many of us grew up in dysfunctional families and took on roles that have been with us since childhood.  Children who grow up in such families tend to take on roles...survival roles.  The result is, we usually have a twisted, distorted view of who we are.  For those who grew up with siblings, you can see the roles that you and your siblings took on to survive.  I was an only child, so at times in my life, I was each of these roles.  I was cooking meals for the family a 9, being left alone to fend for myself all summer long at 10, a good student in school when I wasn't acting like the class clown.  By adolescence I had become very shy and socially isolated...loving my books and television more than I care about having friends. 

The Responsible Child/Family Hero is the child that who takes over the parent role at a very young age.  You are the good child, the child the parent's look to to prove that they are doing a good job.  You are used to taking care of everything.  As an adult, you can be very controlling and judgmental.  Although you are successful on the outside, inside you are cut off from your emotional self.  You are compulsive and driven because deep inside you feel inadequate and insecure.

The Scapegoat/Acting Out Child is the child that the family feels ashamed of.  This child acts out the tension and anger that the family ignores.  In other words, they provide a distraction from the real family issues.  This is the child who gets into trouble at school because he/she feels it is the only way they can get attention.  They have a lot of self-hatred and can be very self-destructive.  The truth is, these are the sensitive, caring ones, and this is why they grow up feeling such tremendous hurt.

The Family Mascot/Caretaker takes on the emotional well-being of the family.  This is the child that becomes the family clown who diverts the family's attention from the pain and anger.  As an adult, they are valued for their kindness, generosity, and ability to listen to others.  Their whole self-definition is centered on others so they don't know how to get their own needs met. As a result, they often get involved in abusive relationships in an attempt to 'save' the other person.  They usually go into the so-called 'helping professions' such as nursing, therapists, counseling, etc.

The Lost Child is the child who escapes by becoming 'invisible'.  They daydream, read a lot of books, watch a lot of television...basically anything that helps them deal with reality by withdrawing from it.  As adults, they are terrified of intimacy and often find themselves unable to 'feel'.  They are very withdrawn and shy and can become socially isolated because that is the only way they they know how to feel safe from being hurt.  

What happens is, that with this distorted view of ourselves, we are never able to see ourselves clearly.  The result is that when we look into the mirror, we fail to see the miracle of us.  Many of the messages we have received throughout our lives has been negative, and, as a result, we tend to focus on our flaws, our disappointments, our inadequacies instead of loving ourselves.  So, how do we do this?

Get help.
Learn how to identify and express emotions.
Allow yourself to feel angry about happened to you.
Practice taking good care of yourself.
Begin to change your relationships with your family...if you can.  (If not, do as I did.  Both of my parents are deceased so I wrote them both a letter expressing my feelings and offering forgiveness).

You know, I did it again.  I went in a totally different direction today than what I planned on.  I had planned on talking about taking care of self, but I guess, our childhood family roles have large part to play in what we are today and what we feel about ourselves.  I have found it rather striking that many beautiful souls had awful parents and childhoods.  And now, before I begin rambling on something else I hadn't planned on getting into.  Hope I didn't bore you all with some of this counseling stuff.  I love my co-dependence group and tend to get carried away sometimes.  

Not asking anyone to share their personal issues, but, to yourself, can you identify with any of these roles?  


  1. oh the wonderful roles that are assigned to you in the wonderful dysfunctional family... I was always amazed at how much the family does not want you to leave your role and how unable to function they seem to be around you when you do... I am so glad that we dont have to worry about what "they" want us to do... Yet I will agree that it is a hard and difficult lesson to learn sometimes....

  2. Three outta four, baby! I always was an overachiever.

  3. Don't worry about following in a direction, you had planned on. Just go with the flow, Hon. And when you do, you always give us great food for thought.

    I was an only child, in a not-perfect family. But I don't think I fit into those 3 classifications. Not that there are only 3, and I'm sure I had my own classification, so to speak.

    Q-U-I-E-T for sure. A little mouse...

    Can you imagine that?!? The 'Aunt Amelia' you all know today, being Q-U-I-E-T? ,-)

    Thankfully, I have evolved. Quite late in life, in some ways... But later is better than never. :-)

    Sorrrrrrrrrrrrrry about the storm coming at you! The Big Apple is to get pounded again, hu? Wow! Take care.

  4. Oh gosh, yes, the storm. Just got in and haven't turned the weather on yet. They are talking 50 mile an hour winds here in the city. Hmmm, do I feel a sick day coming on?

  5. I'm a bit of all of them...
    But have become a better adult..I think.
    I was left to tend my kid brother at 8 and had to become all of the above.
    And life goes on...

    Take care of YOU Mary, glad you're feeling better now.

    see ya yesterday

  6. I'm so glad to see you got to feeling better and back to work, darlin. Sorry I'm always playing catch up with your posts - I barely have time to turn the computer on during the work week right now. lol

    This is a fascinating post by the way. I can definitely see myself here -I'd hazard to say that I was and still am in a lot of ways the scapegoat/acting out child. I was always railing against silence and authority, fiercely independent in thought and couldn't just let things be. I definitely can see looking back that I felt subconsciously it was my job to right perceived wrongs and to shake up the family to try to get people to communicate SOMEHOW -anyway I could because we just didn't communicate or live in relationship to each other in my family. I was starving for connection, attention and truth speaking.

    And yeah - I can definitely see how I still deal am dealing with it today, though that realization doesn't make me particularly happy at all. lol

    Thank you for these thoughts, Mary. It has given me a whole ton to chew on today.

    And hey - I saw shots of NYC on the news this morning - holy heck you guys got snow blasted!!! I hope you're warm and safe this morning.