Know Who You Are – Dysfunctional Family Roles

I am who I am. I accept myself and have learned to turn my life experiences in to superpowers. I have turned pain into wisdom. It is important to understand our roles in our families to understand how we operate. This helps us understand who we are. We understand our weaknesses and our strengths. We have to understand how we have relationships and what we need to do to better protect ourselves from the world.

I grew up in a dysfunctional family but I never realized that I along with my siblings had taken on dysfunctional family roles that helped us survive our situation.

There are many kinds of dysfunctional families. Parents can be addicted to drugs or alcohol, or they can suffer from a personality disorder such as narcissism or OCD. They could be extremely violent or pedophiles. The problem with growing up in this kind of unhealthy environment is that children have to adopt roles in order to survive. These roles are called dysfunctional family roles.

Here are some dysfunctional family roles explained:

The Caretaker.

This is my cousin M.

These are generally children who take on a parent role to raise the younger siblings. This role is also called the enabler.

Caretakers are exactly what their name suggests – they take care of the children in place of the parents. They are children without a childhood. They are forced to grow up fast and take on a very responsible role in the house. They are emotionally mature for their age and have learned to act like an adult in order to survive.

They do not fit in with other kids at their school because they are years beyond their age. They get along with adults better.

They are people pleasers.

The other siblings will naturally gravitate to the caretaker for safety. The caretaker will feel responsible for the siblings and often take the blame for things they didn’t do to protect their siblings.

Later in life when they become adults themselves, caretakers find it very difficult to stop looking after their loved ones. They are always trying to take care of their family members. They can overdue it and even seem smothering. Caretakers never got any validations from the adults in their lives for the role they were forced to take. This causes them to always try to seek approval and continuously try to prove themselves.

Caretakers lost their own childhood as they were parenting their siblings. Therefore, they may lack the ability to let go and have fun in a childlike way. They always feel that they have to be the responsible adult. They often are told they are to serious.

The Family Hero.

This is my cousin J and myself.

I don’t see myself as a hero of any kind but this role fits me completely. My counselor told me the same thing. This is a role close to my heart.

Typically, the hero of a dysfunctional family pretends that everything is fine and normal in the family. They lie to protect and hold their family together. They can also take on the caretaker role in this position as well. They want to project a good image to the outside world. However, because they are lying to others and, more importantly, themselves, they cannot afford to let anyone get too close. This affects their personal relationships.

They grow up really fast. They don’t fit in with other kids because they are basically an adult in a child’s body. They have completely lost their childhood. They try so hard to be perfect and to please the world. They have to be responsible and often miss out on having fun.

They often try to protect other family members and siblings. They will stand in front of a beating to protect their loved ones. They will suffer through sexual abuse thinking they are protecting their sister. They will take the blame for things they didn’t do to protect their siblings. They will steal food if their siblings are hungry. They will pull a gun on their dad to save their mom. They will steal a car and drive it underage if their siblings need to get to a hospital because an ambulance costs to much money. All these things I have done. They are self sacrificers for the people they love.

Heroes often have relationship problems. It is hard for them to let people get to close. With everything they have gone through in their childhood they have a lot of trust issues. They are very independent. They don’t forgive easily. They will walk away from a relationship if it gets to hard to avoid what happened to them in their childhood.

The are often survivors of sexual abuse.

Later on in life they wear a mask to the outside world do not want others to see their true persona. They hide the traits they don’t want others to see. It is hard to get to know them. They are strongly independent. They do not trust easy. They are dissociated with their feelings. They hate their feelings and often try hard not to feel them. They might drink or try drugs to get rid of them.

They spend a lot of time trying to save family members or fix family problems. Family and friends often take advantage of these individuals. They will take and take until the family hero finally gets tired of it. One of two things will happen. The family hero will almost destroy themselves trying to hold their family together and save family members or they will just walk away because their family is unfixable. I walked away to save my kids from that dysfunction. My family wasn’t a real family.

They will often the family home as soon as possible or they will stay long enough for their siblings to leave because they believe it is their job to protect them.

Family hero’s are often successful in life. They might go on to college and get a great job. They look so perfect on the outside. You see what they want you to see. Many times their jobs are in some kind of public service field such a police officer, military official, teacher, or other public service job.

They have the night in shining armor syndrome. They are attracted to jobs where they fix or help people. Kind of live how they tried to do this with family members. It is also hard in dating or friendships because they are attracted to people that need to be saved because they are fixers. They often end up in relationships with broken individuals that take and take.

The Scapegoat.

This was my little brother T minus the tattoos and piercings.

The opposite of the hero is the scapegoat. The scapegoat of the family does not go along with the hero and pretend that everything is alright. They’ll do the exact opposite.

They will tell everyone how horrible the home it. Sometimes they will rebel and blame it on their home life. They often get the worse punishments in the home. They will even exaggerate the abuse in the home.

The scapegoat of a family will leave as soon as they can. Scapegoats are usually middle children. Scapegoats are pretty emotionally stable, along with the caretaker.

Later on scapegoats can have problems with other authority figures. They might associate themselves with rebellious groups for the sake of it. They may alter their bodies in order to shock society or their family. Expect piercings, tattoos, teenage pregnancies and worse if the abuse was particularly severe. They want to be the back sheep of the family.

They may have issues holding down a job and will blame their childhood as a result of it and as a result of their bad choices. They believe how they were raised will give them a free pass to be a bum or act any way in the world. They still get in trouble years later as an adult.

Scapegoats are not good with emotional problems, but they are brilliant when it comes to coming up with practical solutions. They can be master manipulators.

The Clown.

Clowns use humor to break up an increasingly volatile situation. As adults, they retain this method as they’ve learned it can work to shift attention from what is going on. As clowns are not great with responsibility, making someone laugh allows them to avoid serious tasks or duties. This is a great diversion when they are getting in trouble or about to get a beating.They won’t be expected to contribute. Clowns are usually the younger members of the family. They are also known as the mascot.

They are also classroom clowns in school. They love attention because they don’t get enough at home so they use humor and acting out as a way to be the center of attention. For them any attention is good attention.

When in the middle of a tragic situation where emotions are high, the clown will joke and be humorous in order to avoid the feelings in the grieving process. This way people are laughing with them instead of feeling sorry for them. This way they can avoid the sadness.

Later in life, clowns who hide behind humor typically hide depressive thoughts. You only have to look at famous comedians such as Robin Williams to see the proof. Famous for making us laugh, but he suffered from debilitating depression. He also suffered from suicidal thoughts and acted on them. Clowns usually depression issues as a result of never dealing with their feelings and always hiding behind humor.

The Lost Child.

The lost child is the sibling you don’t notice. They’ll fade into the background for safety. The lost child is a loner who never rocks the boat and doesn’t cause a fuss. They’ll never rebel. Instead, they blend in with the wallpaper and hope that people forget they are there.

The lost child won’t have an opinion of their own and they won’t back one parent or another. You cannot rely on them to help you as they’ll plead ignorance. They just live a quiet life with no drama. They are very quiet.

Although it’s pretty obvious there are dramas in their family, if they pretend it’s not going on, they don’t have to worry about it. The lost child believes that if you don’t talk about it, then you won’t feel anything.

They are often perceived as weird at school. They don’t have a lot of friends. They are often depressed.

As an adult, the lost child will have problems when they start a relationship. Problems that occur won’t be acknowledged by the lost child. They’ll think that by simply ignoring them, they will go away. They don’t go away.

Later in life the lost child will spend a lot of time on their own. They’ll live alone, and they’ll prefer solitary pursuits. For example, they will enjoy surfing the internet, playing video games, and other activities where you don’t need to go out. They won’t meet many people or date a lot.

Living this reclusive life it is possible that they will lose touch with other family members. It’s also possible they may decided to walk away from their family all together. The lost child will believe they are better all by themselves. They might have a ‘love/hate’ relationship with certain family members.

The Manipulator.

This was my cousins C and R. This is also my older brother M.

Manipulators can very easily turn into narcissists.

The manipulator takes their experience of their hostile environment and uses it to their advantage. They capitalize on the family situation and play family members against each other. This individual will quickly become adept at recognizing what the actual problem the parent suffers from. They’ll understand which one is the enabler, and which one is co-dependent.

Manipulators exercise this knowledge to control and influence family members. They’ll do it covertly, not directly. They never want to get caught. Gradually, they’ll learn what triggers the parents and their siblings and they will take shots at all of them.

Later in life, there’s a possibility that the manipulator will grow up into a sociopath or a psychopath. They will at least possess anti-social tendencies.

Manipulators can turn into bullies, those who harass people and get a kick out of it. They are unable to form healthy relationships. If they are in one, they will be controlling with a partner who has low self-esteem. They are usually the abusers in domestic violence relationships.

If they ever do anything for other people it is because they are going to get something out of it.

They will only think of themselves and what they can get out of others. They feel that the world owes them for their lousy childhood and will go about getting it by any means. They are all about themselves.

Understanding yourself or your childhood is a part of self acceptance and self love. This helps you understand you. Did you hear a role that sounded familiar? We are able to label family members that were in you house to better understand how that family dynamic worked?

Always remember looking back, You survived. Your a warrior!!! You already came this far. You have already won half the battle.

“Family trees full of nuts have nothing on me. My family is temperamental. Half temper, half mental.” – Kelly Moran

Published by Coach Jeanie

Self Love and Self Care Life Coach Odessa, Texas

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