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Encore Edition - Family Roles & The Impact on Your Relationships| 6.29.2022

In this encore episode, Kristen talks about the importance of understanding the role each family member plays, how it affects your relationships and how you can work through them.

You'll Learn

  • How your family role impacts your relationships
  • How to break free from dysfunctional family roles


For counseling services near Indianapolis, IN, visit www.pathwaystohealingcounseling.com.

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This information is being provided to you for educational and informational purposes only. It is being provided to you to educate you about ideas on stress management and as a self-help tool for your own use. It is not psychotherapy/counseling in any form.

Kristen D. Boice

Welcome to the close the chapter podcast. I am Kristen Boice a licenced Marriage and Family Therapist with a private practice Pathways to Healing Counselling. Through conversations, education, strategies and shared stories, we will be closing the chapter on all the thoughts, feelings, people and circumstances that don't serve you anymore. And open the door to possibilities and the real you. You won't want to miss an episode, so be sure to subscribe

Welcome to this week's close the chapter podcast. I am thrilled you're here joining me today. For this important episode. I recorded this episode early on in the podcast. And it has been one of the most valuable episodes because as a marriage and family therapist, what role you played in your family system is so important for you to understand how you function in all relationships. And I'll say it again, when you understand the role that you played in your family system, you start having more insight and understanding on how you show up and why you show up and function in the way you do in all your relationships. It is not set in stone, it is something to be aware of, and then decide if you want to change it. That's the beautiful part of doing your own work and healing and deciding to face patterns, family system dynamics, and responsibilities that you took on emotionally that were not yours. And if a family system doesn't feel and deal with their own trauma, emotions and past, it will manifest it will be projected into future generations, your children, grandchildren, partners friendships, it will transcend time, if it's not faced, nurtured, tended to processed and dealt with what does that mean? We're not brushing it under the rug, we're not numbing it anymore, which is I know so big and massive we are tending to it. We're facing the hurt we've had in our life, we're facing the trauma, we're facing the pain, we're facing the emotions that come with that. Because when you do you free yourself, you are no longer shackled to the shame of it. You're no longer bound to having that define you. You are liberated from the secrecy, the hiding disillusionment from what has kept you small, what has kept you in shame, feeling that you're not enough, something's wrong with you. Something's defective about you, something's not good enough about you. We are disrupting that and saying there's nothing wrong with you. It's what happened to you, in the midst of you trying to belong in a family trying to get love trying to have connection, trying to have a relationship with a parent or a loved one. Trying to feel like you mattered, like you are important that you were somebody you are special, that your needs were getting met that you were getting paid attention to that you are getting something of worth and value to say that you matter and you're enough and you are worth it brings up a lot of emotion for me, because I work with so many clients, this is what plagues them. They feel like there's something massively wrong with them. And when I say let's explore what role you took on in your family system, or in your work, I mean, this goes on in so many system, the cultural system, neighbourhood system, friendship, there's so many systems and subsystems when you start doing your work in going, Oh, I played the scapegoat my family system because no one wanted to feel their feelings. And so I took on all of that and played it out. I was the truth teller in the family. I was the angry one and wanted everybody to face their pain. And maybe you play the hero in your family system and you got a lot of attention for that you got a lot of accolades you felt needed and wanted and special. You felt like you mattered and maybe you've gone on to try to play the hero role and other relationships or the rescuer or the maybe you're the lost child that no one paid attention to because there was a scapegoat and there was a hero and you just kind of got lost in the mix and felt invisible. It felt like you could just be in a corner and nobody would notice you that why you understanding roles and family systems for frees you and liberate you. There's work to be done there. Yes, because I've done this in my own life in my own journey. And as a therapist, it's so important to understand how you got to be who you are. And who's the real you who's the conditioned you, who's the you that you learn to play this role. You're ready to give it up. You're ready to transmute it. When we face our pain. I love Richard Rohr, and he talks about this work, if you don't face your pain, you transmit it, if you face it, you transcend it, or something along those lines, don't quote me on this. And that's what I believe when you decide that you're worth it. And you want to be the cycle breaker. And I know it's not easy, trust me I get it can be lonely, it can be painful also. And you can look at the mirror and said I am working on myself, I am trying to change this multi generational transmission of all these roles. I'm trying to heal the trauma from the past to not put that on my children, grandkids, whomever you're powerless over changing someone else. That's the facts. Trust me pass this out like candy. If I could, I only can work on myself and decide how I'm going to show up how I'm going to do my own healing work. And you listening to this podcast says so much about you. And I'm so massively grateful you're here because this is so important that I can't even put it towards really. So I hope this episode is helpful as you kind of unpack your own role you played in the family system. And maybe you're partnered with somebody and you can start talking about have them listen to this, they can start identifying the role they played in their family system. And then you can start talking about how it's played out in your relationship. And maybe it's playing out with your children, maybe it's playing out in your workplace, maybe it's playing out and other systems in your life or other relationships. And you can start having dialogue about it, you can start digging deeper and understanding each other on a deeper level. But it starts with you understanding yourself. So this is an important episode, share it with other people, if you want to start deeper conversations, if you're in a group of any kind, share it in the group, and then you guys can talk about what role did you play in your family? Maybe you're in a book group, maybe you're in a church group, whatever group you're in, whatever that looks like, we can start rehabilitating groups, by having these conversations to say what role are you still trying to play? Are you trying to play the hero in our group? Do you feel like the last child in this group? Do you feel like you're the scapegoat? What's coming up for you, because it's much deeper than the group it's it goes or your relate current relationship. It goes deep, it goes way back. And maybe you want to talk to your own caregivers, your parents, your grandparents about what role they felt like they played have them listen to this episode. And if you're new to the podcast, you have come to the right place. Because you're going to learn so much. It's going to help you expand your thinking hopefully in your heart in your mind and open you up to see things in a different way and not to blame anyone this is to simply have better self understanding for your own healing, and your own transformation. I love you enjoy this episode on family rolls and tag me on social. If you got something from this, I'm really would love to know at Kristen D Boice. On Instagram, and Facebook and joining the world to tic tac don't know what I'm doing at Kristen Boice. And then be sure to grab the free journal that will help you with today's episode.

It's free, it'll be emailed to you go to Kristen D boice.com. forward slash free resources. Here is today's episode, we are going to be talking about family roles. These are important to explore for yourself. And I invite you to send this to family members, although that can be a little treacherous to navigate, they may not agree with what role they played or your partner or someone you're in relationship with, because it helps make sense of why you function and show up in relationships the way you do. So let's deconstruct I want to kind of float back in grad school we talk about all the theorists that developed these roles. And we have John Bowlby, who looked at attachment. We have Salvador Minuchin, who looked at the structure, the family and so on and so forth. I won't get into all the theorists, but we are going to look at the most researched roles that each individual family member plays. We're going to look at what's on the outside and what's on the inside of each of those roles and what they do for the family and why we play along with those and how we work through them. So let's go ahead and jump in and get started on the roles. There's four total that we're going to talk about in dysfunctional families. Now let's be real, we all have some dysfunction in our families. There's no such thing as a perfect parent. There's no such thing as a perfect family. So I want to make this clear. This is isn't to take us into shame or guilt. This is help us create understanding and create some insight. So let's get started, we have four roles. One is the hero role. And that one, we're going to deconstruct in a minute, we have the scapegoat, we have the lost child, and we have the clown or the mascot, you may not fit in one of these roles Exactly. But I want you to start noticing and identifying if you perhaps played one of these parts. So what's on the outside of the hero, the hero is kind of the perfect child that can't go wrong, they get positive attention, lots of awards, lots of accolades, sometimes they have a lot of degrees, what you don't see on the inside is they have a fear of failing, and being over controlled. So that's an interesting what goes on the inside, then we have the scapegoat. This is the kid that was always in trouble. This is the quote unquote, there is no such thing as a bad kid. But I'm going to put that in quotes, like this is what the family would be considered the out of control kid, the angry, they're impulsive, they're never good enough. They're the black sheep, so to speak of the family, they don't fit in, in on the inside, what you don't see is they feel hurt, rejection, they're full of shame, and they feel like a loser. So let's talk about the Lost Child. The Lost Child, what's on the outside is they feel ignored, invisible. They're quiet. The typically love animals suck, not all the time. Sometimes they have learning disabilities, but they're the ones that feel like nobody really cares about me, no one notices me, they don't really express an opinion, a lot of times what you don't see on the inside is they feel frozen in their feelings. They can't express their feelings, and they feel incredibly alone. And the clown or the mascot we all no a clown or a mascot in our lives. And maybe that's you, this is what's on the outside is they're funny, they're hysterical. Everything's about a laugh, they're immature, they can be really cute, cutesy cute. And what you don't see on the inside is they hide pain with humour. They're scared, and they feel really inadequate. So what I'm trying to show you in these four roles is there's an outside appearance. And what we don't talk about is what goes on with the inside. What is the psyche, the emotions? What does that like to be in these roles? And then how do these play out later in life? So let's talk about the hero, the hero and what purpose do they serve in the family? And why do we kind of play along with these roles and the hero role the family feels, they're not that great. And so what happens is, the hero ends up being the idealised version of what they hope they would be. So it's like living vicariously through their kids. So maybe the kids a star athlete, of star musician, they are a super strict valedictorian of their class, and the parents are living vicariously through this hero roll child, maybe

this is the compliant child that just kind of goes along with everything, because it's easier. And what the payoff is, is they get attention. So they like that feeling of that power. And that attention that they get, let's talk about the scapegoat, this one often ends up being an addiction, because they bury the shame and pain and don't have an outlet for it. So in marriage, what they do for the family and why they play along marriages brought together to fix the scapegoat. So sometimes, this isn't always the case, sometimes people will stay together to help fix or rescue the scapegoat. And then sometimes that ends up dividing a marriage, the hero feels good, because the scapegoat is bad. So there's that split, sometimes we split off parts of ourselves, the good and the bad, we can avoid our bad stuff by downloading onto the scapegoat. So basically, the scapegoat ends up carrying all the dysfunction in the family, because it's too painful for us to acknowledge our own roles, our own shame, our own fears, our own not enoughness that we project it on to one person in the family because they're not living up to our standards. And that person ends up being the scapegoat. Okay, so let's move on to the last child, what they do for the family and why we play along the family feels at least we don't have to worry about that kid. Oh, I'm gonna repeat that the family worries about for the last child, we don't have to worry about that. And they're fine. And I can think of the case that I have of several cases where they are the ones the helpers, they're like, I'll help to get worth of value. They hustle to feel seen and understood. And they don't get a lot of attention because they don't get in a lot of trouble as kids and let's look at the clown or the mascot and why they do and what they do for the family. They bring the comic relief for the family. They help the family avoid issues. So if we're funny and we're laughing about everything, we're not really facing any issues. It's all fun and games. So a lot of sarcasm you'll see that and a lot of families I'm not saying it's good or bad, but when it covers up emotion, and we use it to avoid or move away, it becomes maladaptive. Because we're not connecting to the emotion. We then are stuck. We're frozen in time. So if we use humour as a kid often, oftentimes will feel very avoidant. And it can feel very vulnerable if a partner wants to have more emotion in the relationship, because that's getting too close. And so a lot of times you'll see an avoidant, very avoidant of dealing with the deeper emotions, using a lot of humour to deflect and when they're uncomfortable humour becomes the family that's kind of becomes the family mo when we're uncomfortable, or there's a lot of discomfort or it's too much. So we'll make it lighter by laughing and sometimes that's appropriate. But a lot of times, if it's a pattern, we're really keeping the family stuck, especially the clown, the clown doesn't mature, the clown ends up not feeling capable of having deep relationships. And so it's really important to understand that. Okay, let's look at what is possible if we have help. So we're going to look at without help, this is what can happen. And with help, this is what can happen because I want to instil some hope here, let's talk about the hero without help. So if the hero continues in adulthood, continuing playing that same role, what will happen is it can be a workaholic, you'll see physical illness, because they will burn out, they will never feel good enough, they will live this, I gotta hustle, hustle, hustle, they can become controlling. And it's hard for them to have fun, it's hard for them to have joy, because heaven forbid, they don't have everything together. I mean, you'll see a lot of first responders play the hero role, because they feel better when they're kind of in a power position or helping others, you'll see some pride that can become prideful in some shameless, and then if they get help, this is what can happen, they can learn to say no, and not be as perfect. They can embrace their parts that aren't the perfect parts are what we say I really hate the term good and bad. But what we do is we try to split off from this bad part. And we don't want to be seen as we have any bad parts. And so we learn to go you know what, I'm imperfect. And it's okay, they learn to connect to their emotions, they learn that they do not have to be perfect and compliant and pleasing and striving all the time, they can have contentment, and they can get in touch with the deeper parts of themselves all their parts, not just the parts that are great on the outside, not just their achieving parts, they can have so much depth, and then that allows them into vulnerability and connection. So let's talk about the scapegoat, the scapegoat ends up really carrying the burden for the family lifelong burden for the family. Because if the family does it take ownership of their part and how the dysfunction got built. The Scapegoat ends up feeling like they are a piece of crap. And it's all their fault. And so without them getting help, they'll develop significant addictions, trouble with the law, promiscuity, they may have what cut what we call a chip on their shoulder like an edge to them continuing to play the role in jobs as kind of the scapegoat and future relationships, and they're constantly in trouble. So what happens is, we all feel like, I'm tired of dealing with you, I am tired of you getting in trouble. I'm tired of your antics, I'm tired of you constantly. It's always something that's what people say. It's always something and a lot of times what happens is that person can't break that pattern. They can't let go of that shame that keeps them feeling like I am a loser I am the problem. I didn't belong in my family and I don't belong in the world. And so it can perpetuate that shame. But with help, they can learn to heal that part of themselves that felt so responsible for all the family's dysfunction in blamed they can begin to let go of what was theirs and what wasn't theirs, they can begin to recognise that they were not responsible for keeping the family together, keeping the family happy. They weren't responsible for making people feel a certain way. And that is liberation. When you can stop feeling responsible for everybody's feelings, you can start living your life. But as children if we feel responsible for mom and dad's feelings, which is not the kid's job period, point blank, then what happens is we start getting connected to our true self, we stop playing the role and get connected to our true self and so they can learn to take appropriate risks with boundaries. Oftentimes, they're great business owners because they're driven and they want to succeed in for themselves and sometimes they will turn the pain and become givers in a way they might start a mission they might start a foundation They might become a sponsor for somebody who's an addict, they might be volunteer. And they turn that pain into purpose. And it's powerful. So when they get the help they need, when they feel seen, understood and acknowledged for who they truly are. They turn their life around in its liberation. I love this for anybody in any of these roles. When you feel the freedom from the entrapment, and being Puppeteered by family members to be somebody, you're not to perform at a level, you free yourself to get connected to who you really are. So if you were told, you're going to go to a certain school that says, I'm making this up a certain university, and you really didn't want to go there, but you did, because that was the only school your parents will pay for. They said, they disown you if you went to a different school, that is really their stuff being projected on to you, when you when you go back and peel back those layers and figure out when was it that I split off from my true self, to be in this family to be a part of this family? When was that that compute true liberation to no longer be chained and shackled to this role that you played and didn't even know you played it? Let's make that clear. We don't go, Oh, I'm playing the hero role at five. I mean, nobody that we don't even know these roles exist, nor do our parents, we don't even know we're functioning out of a role. We're just in a family. This is just our normal. So when we figure out we played a role and what role we played, that is where the healing can begin. So moving on to the last child, and what if they don't get help, they won't share opinions. So let's stay stuck in being quiet, they won't share their opinion. They don't really feel a purpose like they're needed or wanted, or even have any value. And they can die very early. Because of this. I know that sounds very extreme, because they don't feel connected to anybody, not themselves or anybody else. They feel like something's wrong with them inherently wrong with them. Why did my parents want to acknowledge me? Why didn't my parents want to see me? Why didn't my schoolmates care about me, they end up feeling just like a lost soul in the world. And there is hope. Because if you can get the help, if you do get the help, if you're willing to get the help on any of these roles in this role, there's a tonne of creativity with the last child, they spent a lot of time observing. They're the observant ones. They're very observant, typically, they're highly sensitive and intuitive. They're very bright, very talented, and they can participate and start contributing and changing the world. One person at a time when they show up and they start feeling confident, they start feeling like they matter. And they're important, they will start sharing. And they're great listeners. They're wonderful listeners. And they feel then that they are needed in the world, they start feeling a value, they start making huge contributions. And they're no longer shackled by the fear of them caring what other people think. So a lot of times, there's a consequence to maybe showing up at the last child, they got told just kind of what is that old saying like, don't be seen or don't be heard. Don't be seen or heard. I can't remember the whole site. But basically, it's like, kind of be quiet. Just leave me alone. As a pair I'm too overwhelmed is too much, you're too much. Your energy's too much. So the lost child ends up kind of basically being alone a lot. And they're in their head, they've got tonnes of creativity. So there's so much for the lost child and finding their voice. And typically what I'll see is, a lot of times with the Lost Child, I'll see them lose their voice, literally, they'll get laryngitis, or they'll get bronchitis, they'll get something that stifles their voice. And I'll say and I had one therapist, she's moved that worked for me. And she got laryngitis once and I said, Do you feel like you have a voice? And it was a pivotal moment. It was just came out of me it was like, Do you feel like you've had a voice and she didn't. She didn't. And a lot of our relationships in the last child kind of plays that role. Like I don't really have a voice. And when they find their voice, liberation, freedom, courage, bravery, and I love to see that happen. They flourish, they flourish within themselves in their relationships and their jobs and their parenting because they finally no longer split off from that creative side of themselves. And they learn to speak up and have a voice and then the clown or the mascot, they typically if they don't get help, they will continue to bring comic relief and they'll avoid family issues. They will simply avoid them and they will not be able to tolerate anybody's feelings whether it's anger, sadness, fear, shame, it will be very uncomfortable for them to tolerate that. And it leads into a lot of disconnection. relationally they end up feeling very alone. So That's why you see a lot of comics typically played the comedic relief in the family. And they end up feeling very lonely. I think of Robin Williams. I don't know his whole family history, but I think oh my gosh, what a genius he was. And yet on the inside, I mean, there's a lot going on with him, I realised that but on the inside, he felt so alone throughout his life. And he talked about that, because what if you are, what are you without your humour? Do you have value without your humour, and if you do get help the mascot really can feel start feeling a range of emotion, oh, the day can feel the depth of sadness. And now that may sound scary, I can imagine. It's like, oh, but I've lived my life. I didn't want to feel that way. And guess what, if you're not feeling any of the emotions, you're not really feeling joy. It's kind of like you're pretending it's like, you're not really happy. But I play this comic relief. But on the inside, I don't feel like that they can start to connect to vulnerability, where vulnerability was very scary for them in in the family, it wasn't okay to be vulnerable. I mean, that was, that was scary, that wasn't safe to be vulnerable, because the parents couldn't tolerate it, or perhaps siblings couldn't tolerate it. They learn to use humour and a really adaptive way. They're no longer covering the pain, they're actually infusing joy. So they're not diffusing someone else's emotions with humour and making a joke, they're actually able to go, oh, that's hard, I get that that's really sad. And then they might make a joke after the person has really felt their feelings and let them out. And then they appropriately know when to use the humour. They learn to take the lead more, instead of kind of playing the I'm going to follow along, or I'm going to get people follow along with me, they learn to take a really healthy leadership role. People love the comic, of course, who doesn't want to laugh, who doesn't want to be a part of that, but they learn to channel this really leadership quality they have in a really healthy way. And so they can be very successful entrepreneurs and leaders, because they're not doing it to fill the hole in their soul. They're doing it to make a difference. And they tend to grow more and taking responsibility. The comic always kind of, not always, but typically will want to blame everybody else, because they're avoiding. And so they learn to say, Hey, I'm gonna raise my hand and say, Hey, that was that was me. And they learn to discern what's their stuff and what's not their stuff, instead of deflect, no more deflecting and avoiding they can sit and discomfort and breathe through it, and know they can get through it. And these roles can change over time. It's not like we're set in stone, and you are always one role or the other. And typically, depending on the size of the family, the birth order, which is opening up a whole nother conversation, we can switch roles, and it depends on gender. Sometimes gender plays a role in this. But my whole point with understanding roles is to say, is that really who you are? Or is that your conditioning and programming? And how you learn to respond and react and function in the world?

Is that really who you are? Or is that how you learned to navigate your parents, your siblings, family dynamics, and then you just took that as part of your normal because we don't know what's normal or not. It's not Leave It to Beaver. That's not normal either. So that opens up a whole nother conversation on what is normal, what isn't normal, what I invite, instead of using the word normal, is emotional expression. safe, healthy emotional expression. So whenever we have these roles, typically we weren't allowed to express ourselves emotionally. We weren't allowed or didn't feel comfortable or safe to say I feel sad, and then have a parent respond with Oh, honey, I get it. It's okay to have your feelings. It's okay to let it out. I get it, let it out. I'm here, if you want to talk about it, that would be in a response that I would hope for where I would coach a parent into and as a child, that was it. Let's be honest, that wasn't how our parents responded not again to they didn't know better. So I'm not blaming them. That's how we start with learning how we dance in a family. We're learning how we function, how are these roles serve us or don't serve us? My invitation for you is to take a moment, deconstruct kind of go hmm, and maybe none of these spoke to you. And that's fine, too. But really understanding what are the roles that you played in your own family system? How did you get into that rule? How has that impacted your life? How has that impacted your current relationships, whether you're in a romantic relationship with your children, with co workers with friendships, so on and so forth? How has that role impacted how you show up and the world in did you split off from your real self to fit into the family or go along with what the quote unquote rules whether spoken or unspoken, we're in Oh, order to belong in your family. So take some time to write out some of the things you learned today, to take some moments to reflect and see what role you played if there was one, and whether or not you want to really decide, You know what, I am no longer going to play a role, I am going to be me. And through all these episodes on the close the chapter podcast My goal is that you learn how to do that I'm equipping you whether it's the core emotions, or building the foundation, or the last episode with the inner child working on that inner child work is a direct correlation to some of these roles. And that's why I thought it was important to have this episode, they tie very nicely together. So share this with somebody you love, start a conversation. This isn't the end all be all this isn't black and white. This isn't good or bad. This isn't all or nothing. This isn't right or wrong. If we get into a linear thought or try to get it into a very concrete black and white thinking. It will create shame and you'll not want to do the work. So this is coming from a very non judgmental, compassionate stance. Share it with somebody start a conversation journal about this and see where it takes you. Thanks for your time and don't give up. Thank you so much for listening to the close the chapter podcast. My hope is that you took home some actionable steps, along with motivation, inspiration and hope for making sustainable change in your life. If you enjoyed this episode, click the subscribe button, too. Be sure to get the updated episodes every week and share it with a friend or family member. For more information about how to get connected visit kristendboice.com Thanks and have a great day.