The last of the four roles to discuss is “The Mascot”. This role is usually taken on by one of the two youngest children in a home with an emotionally absent parent.
When confronted with the stress in the family, this child tries to lighten the mood, usually through humor. They may also become the family’s social director, doing their best to keep the family funcitoning at a social level. This will often happen as a result of cajoling, teasing or clowning around. These children are funny and act silly, desperately working to cover the family’s pain. In other words, and as with all the other roles, the purpose of this behavior is to divert attention from the stress and tension in the home, the parent’s relationship and the behavior of the other children.
These children are usually immature, often seemingly hyperactive; they are super-cute (especially when young) and can always get a laugh. They become experts at making fun of themselves, know how to act dumb and are at an elevated risk for addictions.
While everyone laughs, there is another side to the class clown: he or she is distracting to everyone else and may seem superficial. They often have difficulty focusing and often fail to develop strong decision making skills. These are natural outcomes of behavior that is consistently focused on getting laughs. This child learned very early that laughter reduces tension and eases stress. It works, so they use it. But as always with these roles, they become hardened and detrimental.
While this child is causing laughter for everyone else, they are usually lonely, confused and insecure. Worse, these children are riddled with fear, sadness and pain. They have trouble identifying their emotions and do not develop the skills to work through their emotions. Instead they crack a joke or do a pratfall to divert others’ attention. In the process, the presenting issue goes unresolved. Over and over again.
In hiding from their deeper emotions, Mascots may have difficulty with chronic illness: the ongoing stress of denial breaks down their health. And just importantly, Mascots fail to become acquainted with themselves. And as Socrates noted: “The unexamined life is not worth living”. In living from the funny bone, this child gives up the right to be taken seriously or to be seen as competent.
On the other side, adult mascots are known for their kind heart, generosity and ability to listen to others. After living their lives focused on others, they have a hard time recognizing their own needs or getting those needs met. They give love, but don’t know how to accept it. They become involved in the helping professions, confusing patients for friends. Or they get involved with an abusive person, hoping to rescue or save them. And in this relationship, the parental relationship is re-created and children of that relationship end up creating the same roles that dog the siblings of the Mascot.
Recovery is possible. But it takes awareness and recognition. If the Mascot can step away from the quick laugh or the momentary distraction, healing is possible.
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