THE EFFECTS OF CODEPENDENCY ON FAMILY ROLES
The roles were first recognized in families of alcoholics. They have since
been identified in just about every other dysfunctional family dynamic as well. PTSD
and BPD are common in such families. It is a corporate re-enactment of the inner
struggles of someone dealing with traumas. And because codependents unconsciously change and shift roles, they emerge in
adult relationships also. Roles that functioned satisfactorily as coping
mechanisms in the original family simply do not work in adulthood, when all the
interpersonal relationships change. If they aren't altered, they destroy
happiness and peace with God.
The hero is the fixer-upper, the glue man. The hero keeps the dysfunctional
family functioning and takes up the slack where the parents don't have it
together. The hero may get the laundry done, fix meals, mind the smaller kids,
perhaps even nurture a disabled or dysfunctional parent (as when the hero child
tends to the needs of an alcoholic mother or father). The hero may or may not
receive praise and support within the family -- but from the outside, the hero
is acknowledged as the trustworthy, conscientious, mature, capable kid.
The scapegoat is the black sheep. Regardless what sweet words of denial the
scapegoat hears from his parent's lips, he knows down inside that this household
just isn't cutting it. He probably cannot articulate his loss, but his love tank
is staying on empty. Obviously someone is to blame, and children, you will
recall, are quick to assign any anomaly in the universe to their own fault. The
scapegoat deserves to be punished for this mess. Besides, when he takes the
blame he also gets attention. Ask any celebrity; bad press is better than no
press at all.
The mascot is the black sheep with a white reputation, the family clown. He
earns his attention by grabbing it. Problems? Dissolve them with a laugh. Pain?
Joke it away. Distract, bring a smile, present a happy face. The mascot is out
to make you -- and himself -- forget for a few moments that life hurts
dreadfully. Frequently the grinning little guy who makes the tension bearable
with his zany humor is sadder inside than any other family member.
The lost child makes the perfect hero in a classic western or romance novel,
the loner who keeps his own counsel. While the hero is excelling and the mascot
is goofing around, and the scapegoat is getting into scrapes, the lost child
simply isn't noticed. Not there. The lost child might be alone in her room or
playing out in the garage. She doesn't say much, doesn't stick out in the bunch,
probably enjoys escapist reading. The lost child is nice. Constantly,
unbearably, doggedly nice.
If it weren't for the enablers, a family's dysfunction could not long exist.
The tragedy is that the enablers can't grasp that fact. Every member in a
dysfunctional family plays the enabler role to some extent. This role was first
identified in families where a "normal" spouse was married to an
alcoholic. Let's say for convenience only that Dad is the alcoholic and Mom is
not. She's keeping the family together -- heroic, martyr Mom. She keeps his
drinking a secret and enlists the children's cooperation in deceiving the world.
Thus he need not face public approbation for his behavior. She lies to the boss
for him when he calls in sick. She bails him out of scrapes and sometimes out of
jail itself. She cleans up the messes, both physical and situational, that he's
The children, regardless of the other family roles they assume, become
enablers also. Assuming in their innocence that everything happening in the
family is somehow linked to their behavior, they accept just as much guilt and
responsibility as Mom. They learn to keep their mouths shut. They play intensely
the roles described above. That is all enabling. By adjusting everything
to the alcoholic, they all make it easier for him to be one. The kids have no
choice. This family is all they have.
Even a very small child can adopt the placater role. The placater is going to
make it all better somehow. He might distract and heal by being the clown. He is
often the hero. The placater knows what words to say to reassure siblings,
soothe Mom, get around Dad. A born negotiator, the placater recognizes in
advance the waves that might rock the family boat and tries to still them and
may even use an occasional white lie to keep the family friction to a minimum.
The martyr will pay any personal price to alleviate the family situation. The
martyr sacrifices time, energy, and happiness to keep the family together, to
try to get the dependent to quit drinking or shooting up. She will stick it out
for a hundred years and go to any extent to make things work out right. By
"right" the martyr means "the way the martyr wants them to."
She will burn out or go nuts or both. The only thing the martyr will not
be able to do is make a difference in the dependent's habits.
The rescuer is going to salvage the situation, whatever it is. The rescuer
will get a second job to pay the bills. He will bail out the dependent, hire the
attorney, pay the estranged teen-aged child's rent, do the jobs that would
otherwise go undone.
Persecutor says, "It's all your fault!" The persecutor lays blame
liberally everywhere but on the self. He tells all the family members exactly
what they are doing wrong and why they have not achieved perfection. The
persecutor is not a pleasant person to be in the same county with.
Oh, poor victim -- she didn't ask for any of this. The victim could be happy
if only all this weren't happening. She is the soul most to be pitied, because
she is so very nice down inside that none of this is deserved. This role is not
to be confused with actual victimization. True victims usually do not perceive
themselves as victims in this intensely self-pitying sense.
from Love is a Choice by Dr.'s Hemfelt, Minirth, and Meier
But this is not the end of the story! you can be free from
acting out these
unconscious roles. Not by your own strength, but by the Word of God --
Jesus Christ of Nazareth speaking truth to the lies we learned in childhood that
bind us. He can set us free to enjoy the fruit of the Holy Spirit -- love,
joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness and
self-control. See this page for how this
works. See this page for assistance in
doing this. If you are a parent, you can use the power
of family blessing to reverse this curse.
last edited: September 28, 2013