For those of us raised in dysfunctional families, we discover that there are certain roles that we, as children, took on to in order to survive. These roles can be defined in six categories: hero, scapegoat, addict, rescuer, clown and lost child. When we discover this for the first time we are often incredulous that millions of us can be categorized into so few groups. However, it is clear for many of us that these roles are fit for purpose and we can see traits of ourselves. These roles create a dance between the family members to ensure that that no one is allowed to be their true selves.
The problems occur when, as adults, we revert to these roles in times of crisis. Our adult thinking is distorted but we can use these roles as an indicator that we are hitting another rock bottom. A rock bottom happens when we hit a point in our life when we can no longer continue in the same way and we are willing to seek help. Once it becomes impossible to deny our ongoing pain and confusion, we are ready for change. These roles help us to identify how our behavior has taken us back to using coping skills from our childhood.
By recognizing which role we played in our family we can take steps to stop “feeding” the same behavior as adults.
At the same time we may feel disloyal to our families. This is common as we step away from what we were taught. However, it’s important that we start to talk about these roles and how we had to take them up to fit into our family systems. We can overcome the doubt of our misplaced loyalty by employing our adult self to question these roles and how they no longer serve us.
Look at the roles and identify which one(s) apply to you. You may have played one or more roles as you were growing up.
Look at how you continue to re-enact these roles as an adult.