Monday, August 21, 2017

Family Roles

(This blog was originally posted on August 17, 2016)

Photo by Rick Hustead

In my blog titled Family Systems Issues, I explained various behavior patterns that facilitate the continued function of dysfunctional family system. Keep in mind that children are born helpless; they will literally die if a parent or guardian is not around and available to take care of them. Consequently, a child will do whatever it takes to survive. To do so, he or she (subconsciously) adopts behaviors that attract nurturing attention—even to the detriment of the youngster’s mental and psychological well-being. Today I will describe characteristics of the specific roles family members occupy in a dysfunctional family system.

The Hero: Someone in this role is a “parentified child” and usually the oldest sibling. The individual can become a workaholic and retreat into an ability to achieve or over-achieve. It seems like this person can never do enough or achieve enough and is usually a good student with a high need for approval. However, the person often experiences deep feelings of inadequacy, denial and fear. Heroes usually marry a dependent partner whom they can control and manipulate. Sometimes the person’s high need for approval can inspire the individual to take on tasks or perform jobs that inspire an employer to also depend on him or her.

The Lost Child: This person is never the trouble-maker; instead, he or she is “invisible” in the family. The individual survives by not being obvious in the family; the child avoids trouble, may be withdrawn and is often an emotional sexual personality. If the person is an only child, he or she may be a “parentified child” and the parent’s best friend. The Lost Child has trouble making friends and comes across as being very adult. 

Mascot: The person in this role is characterized as a “chameleon,” willing to turn into anything or anyone the family wants and needs at that time. The individual thrives on attention and love. He or she can keep other members’ secrets and is dependent on others. He or she is likely to marry a “hero” in the partner’s family system.

The Scapegoat: This is the “problem child,” whose acting out manifests the stress/anxiety/unhappiness of the family. The individual typically has problems with authority and defiance behaviors are manifestations of underlying anxiety. When the roles of artist, scholar or bad child are already occupied in the family, this person occupies this other niche with very little self-esteem. 

Any time there are behavioral issues with an individual in a family, the entire family is the client. In this case, the hypnotherapist should agree to work with the person only if the entire family also receives therapy from a licensed mental-health professional (Business and Professions Code 2908).

Sara R. Fogan, C.Ht. is a certified hypnotherapist based in Southern California. She graduated with honors from the Hypnosis Motivation Institute in 2005. For more information about Calminsense Hypnotherapy® and to set up an appointment, please visit
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