The following is an update on family roles from ACA (Adult Children of Alcoholics). I call ACA Adult Children of Addicts because that covers most of us. Most of us have experienced some dysfunction in our family of origin.
The reprint begins with:
“Some of the personality types are:”
FAMILY HERO – An achiever, usually (but not always) the oldest child. Often a workaholic who can identify other’.4 needs and meet them, but is without an understanding of their own needs. This is often a child who uses their success to find a sense of belonging — the one who shows the family is “all right,” but who is unable to feel the benefit of his/her achievements. They feel like a fraud and are subject to depressions which they hide from those around them.
THE RESCUER – Similar to the Family Hero, -but without the visible success. The Rescuer finds those in needs, lets them move in or marries them or finds a job for them while supply other needs and is very understanding of the frequent betrayals. The rescuer has a deep seated self-hate that drives them to their role as a savior, because they know that anyone not already at the bottom of the barrel would have nothing to do with them. They tend to feel inadequate in their giving and unable to accept help for their own needs.
THE MASCOT – Often a younger child who uses humor or other distracting behavior, such as being exceptional clumsy or always in trouble, to take the focus of the family away from the problems of the family dysfunction. If the parent is violently drunk, the Mascot may take the abuse to “save” the rest of the family, or may be able to crack a joke at the necessary moment to take everyone’s mind off the pain of their reality.
THE ADJUSTER – The one who is never bothered by what is happening; there is no reason to be excited because everyone had to lie with family problems. The child never becomes too attached to goal or a desire because they have learned to change their direction at any moment. They float, knowing something is wrong but coping, often successfully, with one chaotic situation after another by surrendering their identity to the needs of the moment.
THE DOORMAT – The abused child who survives by lying down and letting others walk all over him/her, rather than risk an unpleasant or dangerous confrontation. This child is very understanding of the need someone else may have to injure him/her, but cannot identify his/her feelings about the abuse in the past or present.
THE ACTING OUT CHILD or THE REBEL – This child is in action at the slightest provocation, whether as an heroic action to prevent abuse to someone else (by distracting the abuser) or to protect himself/herself with wildness. This is the child who is most visible to the outside world and who may adopt alcoholism, drug addiction or other compulsive behavior early in defiance of the family system.
THE SCAPEGOAT or FAMILY JERK – This child takes the blame and shame for the actions of other family members by being the most visibly dysfunctional. This child serves the family by being sick or crazy to allow the other members of the family to ignore their own dysfunction. This is also the child who holds the family together — the family rallies to help the family jerk. He/She learns to remain dysfunctional to continue receiving the little attention available in a dysfunctional home by making the family “okay” by being the focus of all that is “not okay” which all members of the family vaguely sense.
THE BULLY – This child is usually the victim of physical, sexual and/or emotional abuse, who successfully makes the mental transition to stop being the victim by victimizing others. Often the Bully is genuinely remorseful for the pain and suffering caused to others, but will continue inflicting that abuse rather than face his/her own pain.
THE LOST CHILD – Often a younger (or the youngest) child, this personality type has learned to stay out of the way, not make his/her wants known and to expect nothing. They avoid feeling by denying that they have feelings. They adopt whatever behavior will allow them to stay invisible within the family, at work, at school or in a relationship. This is the child who can assume whatever personality those around him/her find least threatening.
THE LAST HOPE – Similar to the Lost Child, the Last Hope is the caretaker for the family when all other members have become unable to continue their roles. Often the Last Child is raised on comments like “You’ll never hurt me like so-and-so.” These children may work themselves to death trying to do “what’s right” for blood relations or adopted families, no matter what the expense to their own life.
Each of the personality types has special needs in Recovery, and each type can recover if they are willing to take the risk in believing they can change and heal.
Because the personalities of the family are mangled, the character traits of the children can be equally blurred. An Adult Child may have several of the above characteristics at one time, or may play a different role within the family at different times or depending on who they are responding to.
The Solution is to become your own loving parent.
As ACA becomes a safe place for you, you will find the freedom to express all the hurts and fears you have kept inside and to free yourself from the shame and blame that are carryovers from the past. You will become an adult who is imprisoned no longer by childhood reactions. You will recovery the child within you, learning to accept and love yourself.
The healing begins when we risk moving out of isolation. Feelings and buried memories will return. By gradually releasing the burden of unexpressed grief, we slowly move out of the past. We learn to reparent ourselves with gentleness, humor, love and respect.
This process allows us to see our biological parents as the instruments of our existence. Our actual parent is a Higher Power whom some of us choose to call God. Although we had alcoholic parents, our Higher (don’t know where the rest of this is—will research at later date.)
As some of you know, ACA used to be ACOA. When I found ACOA years ago, I truly felt home in a way I never had felt home in AA. I was drinking a six-pack of beer on Fri and Sat night when I quit drinking. I was fortunate enough to see my father’s progression and to know that that would happen to me, too.
I finally see myself in the Rescuer. I have a hard time asking for anything. I know now that I am in my addiction when I just want to keep giving and giving and hiding from my own needs.
“Play us a tune on an unbroken spinet, and let the bells ring, let the bells ring! Play music now: play us a tune on an unbroken spinet. Do not make echoes of forgotten time, do not strike music from old broken keys, do not make ghosts with faded tinklings on the yellowed board; but play us a tune on an unbroken spinet, play lively music when the instrument was new, let us see Mozart playing in the parlor, and let us hear the sound of the ladies’ voices. But more than that; waken the turmoil of forgotten streets, let us hear their sounds again unmuted, and unchanged by time, throw the light of Wednesday morning on the Third Crusade, and let us see Athens on an average day.”
— Thomas Wolfe, Of Time and the River
Dr. Tian Dayton writing for The Huffington Post explores the “biology of codependency“. His study of the neurological findings about codependency found that codependency is fear-based. He further believes that the stress of living in a home where the children learned to be more vigilant to the adults’ moods rather than their own taught the children to access mood from outside them. What happens to the child’s moods? The child loses touch with what he/she is feeling.
Coming alive links:
2. Formation–“to be nobody but myself— in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make me somebody else— means to fight the hardest battle any human can fight, and never stop fighting.” e.e. cummings
3. It’s the perfect day to be alive.–includes “Wonderful Life” by Natalie Grant from her CD Relentness.
The field of therapy is the study of personality. To understand you or others better, invaluable tools to use are personality tests. The more we know of the labels for one personality, the better we can see these same traits in others. The Change maker Test Package offered on this site can be used for any number of different people. Because we each are unique, no one will have the exact same traits.
Does a personality label mean that a person will always act according to that personality trait? No! A label is only a personality indicator. For the Change maker Test, as in most personality tests, in choosing your labels, go with your first choice. Don’t try to figure out the best answers. There aren’t any best answers. As we stated before, each label has positive and negative aspects. How we use our personality labels is our choice. How you feel about anything is your choice. No one can make you feel anything you don’t choose to feel.
On your road to self-discovery, remember to look for guidance among persons that are on their individual path of growth. If someone wants to tell you who to be, that person is not growing but is trying to avoid growth by “changing” you. Some people call this codependency.
Everyone has many personality labels yet most of us resist being labeled. Over a lifetime, we each will have hundreds of labels because we have unique life experiences. The main way that we learn our labels is from others. We generally resist these suggestions as it feels that the labels have a negative connotation. Yet most of our labels are positive and negative at the same time.
We each love to learn about ourselves. But we pretend that we don’t want to know. It is the same maneuver we use to view a group picture that includes us. While oohing and aahing over all the other group members, we are secretly gazing at ourselves.
Most of the labels used by counselors are unknown by clients. The Changemaker Test, which is meant as a vehicle for self-discovery, includes the labels used in NLP (neurolinguistic programming), birth order, family roles, emotional energies, and MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator). Also included are the labels for the Big Five Test, enneagram, and transactional analysis.
Changemaker is committed to the basic belief that each person has the opportunity for self-discovery and the potential for self-healing. As individuals, we sometimes choose paths that may be harmful to us. To get off that path and onto a new road takes exploration and experimentation.
The Changemaker Test offers education for self-discovery as Changemaker believes that the change within a person involves the courage to see (insight) and the courage to act (action).
The Changemaker Test will teach anyone 10 labels about themselves. Therefore, by using the labels to change themselves, the changemaker is the person who decides to learn and make the change happen.
Does a personality label mean that a person will always act according to that personality trait? No! A label is only a personality indicator. For the Changemaker Test, in choosing your labels, go with your first choice. Don’t try to figure out the “best” answer. There aren’t any best answers. As we stated before, each label has positive and negative aspects.
On the road of self-discovery, remember to look for guidance among persons that are on their individual path of growth. If someone wants to tell you who to be, that person is not growing but is trying to avoid growth by “changing” you. Some people call this codependency.
Yet we all are probably codependent at one time or another. It happens sometimes that another person gets more of our attention that we are giving to ourselves. But the codependent uses concern to gain power over others in the classic position of “top-dog”. Shared power is the only ingredient in relationships that determines how healthy the union is.
Reciprocity shows respect and dignity in relationships. Emily Dickinson wrote in one of her poems—“the soul selects her own society-then shuts the door”. The power in a relationship is divided or debated from that first glance. The people that we meet and with whom we instantly feel comfortable are those with whom we share the power.
Unfortunately what many call “excitement” is the game of control. The Course in Miracles suggests that our main feelings are love and fear. If we aren’t offering love, we are trapped in our fear.
When You Find the Buddha in the Middle of the Road-Kill Him is the wise title of a good book by Sidney Kopp. No one knows what is better for anyone but that person.
We each have our own answers. Even those trained in counseling techniques can only see what is revealed. Tendencies may be seen and certainly personality indicators will be there. But the work of change is a person’s individual choice.
The test for evaluating our motives when we want to deceive ourselves about our “loving” motives is that when we come in the spirit of love, there will be no resistance. If tension exists in an exchange, there is a power struggle.
The resistance proves that we are coming in a spirit of fear. If we are in a tug of war with someone, we can let go of our end of the rope. With the freed energy from letting go, we can then join the “enemy” to find a solution to the problem.
At the heart of a loving home is peace. Peace comes from “losing” battles and winning the war. “O Lord, let there be peace and let it start with me.”