The Last 3 Characteristics of Adult Children

We have reached the last 3 characteristics of adults raised in emotionally barren families.

1. Are super responsible or super irresponsible.

2. Are extremely loyal, even in the face of evidence that the loyalty is undeserved.

3. Are impulsive. They tend to lock themselves into a course of action without giving serious consideration to alternative behaviors or possible consequences.

The first characteristic is visible and obvious for heroes and rebels.  Heroes are super responsible and rebels are not.  It’s a little trickier when we look at Mascots and the Lost Child. Generally (and this is a wide generalization) a Lost Child will be more responsible than a mascot.  Not always, but marginally more than half of the time.  Why? The Lost Child doesn’t want attention and being irresponsible will bring it on.  For the Mascot, stress is handled by humor and goofing around.  So when the project is due or the deadline looms, stress builds and the Mascot will try to deflect it by being funny.  This characteristic may not be as prevalent at work as it is at home.

Extreme loyalty is common in heroes, who like to do things right.  They are the saviors of the world and are often martyrs.  So a female hero who hooks up with and/or marries a needy man (or a violent one) will stay in that relationship far longer than healthy or desirable.  Heroes believe that things can be improved if they try hard enough – even if the improvement must happen as a result of the work of their partner.  None of us can do the work for another person, but heroes believe if they work on themselves enough, their partner’s problems will be solved.  This is seen in people with addicted loved ones who believe if they say the right thing at the right time in the right words, their loved one will hear, process and agree to give up their chemical of choice. And so they talk, and talk, and talk. When the answers to addition lie in the addict and the professionals who can help.

Ironically extreme loyalty is comming in rebels.  In the latter instance, it seems (to the family) that the rebel is loyal to the wrong person or group of people.  As they act out the  stress in their home, they form relationships with their peers, to whom they are very loyal.  This is part of the reason why it’s so difficult to ‘rehabilitate’ a rebel.  Their loyalty has shifted from their family to their friends.

The last characteristic is impulsivity.    The hero’s drive is to succeed and look good.  So they keep going and going and going (remember the Everready Battery Bunny ads?).  But because they are aware of people’s expectations (how else could they be so successful?)  That knowledge is often subconscious and heroes will rely on it to make decisions.  They call it operating from the gut and it is.  But it is destructive because of their rigid control – once they’re established a plan, they don’t deviate because failure is not an option.

The impulsivity of rebels often lead them further down the path into problems, relationship issues and potential self harm.  Remember, the rebel may act out using drugs, sex, self harm, truancy, or dishonesty.  Self harm is so often an impulsive act.  So is using.  The addict will make a firm commitment to quit.  “I’m not doing that anymore.” But in the moment of high stress, fear or anxiety (or almost any other excuse) that decision is thrown out for the soothing of their addiction.  Impulsivity is a real and present danger for addicts.  In Alcoholics Anonymous, it is suggested to ‘think though the drink’.  If that recommendation is followed, impulsive relapses can be avoided.

For the Mascot, impulsivity usually surrounds their attempts at humor to diffuse stress.  The repetitive use of humor as a stress management tool is a hard habit to break.  As with the rebel, this knee jerk reaction to situations beyond their control is hard to change.  This contributes to failed relationships, challenging family dynamics and ongoing stress – which causes the Mascot to use humor again to derail the stress.

For the Lost Child, their immediate reaction to life is to hide.  Safety exists behind the couch when you’re three and in a research lab when you’re thirty.  People living in this chosen isolation are easily stressed by the people and situations around them. And like the turtle, they pull into themselves and hide.   Without thought or consideration, that is their reaction to other people.  Ever realize there’s a co-worker you hardly know?  The person who rarely speaks in a meeting or in the hall?  Odds are you’re dealing with a Lost Child who is afraid to be connected to other people.  After all, their earliest experience with relationships proved that life is beyond their control.  And that the world is not a safe place.

That’s it. The end of the information about adult children raised in emotionally barren homes. As always, it is important to remember that this is presented for your consideration and education.  I do not intend that you will use this to diagnose yourself, your families or your friends.  Some things will resonate for you and that’s enough.

I  believe personal change is hard work. It begins with awareness, moves into acceptance and ends with action – which can take many forms.  This sounds simple but is often complicated. Hopefully, as you’ve read these posts, you’ve become more aware of the depth of the dynamics of families.  If you’re reading these as writer, I hope you’ve found some information that is useful for character development. If you’re struggling with a character, or your life, feel free to contact me through this site and I will do my best to help you find your answers.

I look forward to your comments.

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About Louise Behiel

Author, coach, therapist, mother and grandmother. I'm on a spiritual journey and consciously work to grow every day.
This entry was posted in Abuse, ACOA, adult children, Alcoholics Anonymous, Alcoholism, child abuse, Louise Behiel, Resolutions and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

48 Responses to The Last 3 Characteristics of Adult Children

  1. Coleen Patrick says:

    Great series!

  2. Diane Capri says:

    Louise, this series has been terrific on a variety of levels. Really nice job! Thanks! (And we’re looking forward to the “new stuff,” too — which will no doubt be equally amazing!)

  3. Joan Leacott says:

    Thank you for a wonderful and thought-provoking series for both real life and story life. You’ve talked about the four character types: hero, rebel, mascot, and lost child. Are these types found in family situations other than emotionally barren ones?

    • I think variations of these roles are found in all families. In healthy families, children learn to move from role to role as it suits them and the situation, but there is a tendency to ‘sit’ in one of them more. this is a function of personality, birth order, resilience, intelligence, etc etc etc. In emotionally barren families, children lose the freedom to move through the roles and get locked into one.

      and of course the depth of this process is determined by the same factors mentioned above, along with the barrenness of the family.

      • Joan Leacott says:

        Thanks for your answer. What happens to a person who lost his family? Do they adapt to whatever family substitute they find themselves in?

        • Usually yes. That choice is affected by age at the time of the loss as well as a number of fctors. But it’s easy to see that a child from a wonderful family, who’s orphaned and put in foster care could very easily become the hero – or the rebel. And those roles (along witht he other two) would dog them for life. good question. Thanks Joan.

  4. gingercalem says:

    Such a HUGE wealth of knowledge, Louise. Thank you for sharing it with us!

  5. I was mulling over your series over the weekend and I realized the protagonist in my fiction novel is totally a hero. Everything you’ve written here about the hero fits her exactly. It’s really helped me to form the basis of who she is and why she does certain things. It also made me rethink a few plot points because after further reflection, I realized a hero wouldn’t do a few things I had her do, that would be more of a rebel and she doesn’t have a speck of rebel in her. Yet. 😉

    Thanks again for this great series. I’ve learned so much about my characters and myself. Like I said in an earlier comment, it’s really made dealing with the crap my family does much, much easier. You truly are a blessing, my friend.

  6. Debra Kristi says:

    This is just wonderful, Louise. You must put a lot of time into research for these. Truly amazing. Thank you for all your hard work.

  7. Jennette Marie Powell says:

    This has been such fantastic information for developing our characters! Characters that I’d long ago put aside are talking to me again, and I realized one is a Lost Child who took on the Hero role after his brother’s death. So helpful – thank you!

  8. I’m sad we’re at the end. I’m a hero lost child with rebel tendencies that compliment the mascot in me. Good stuff to know!

    Thanks again for the insightful post, Louise!

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

  9. iamnotshe says:

    Jeez, this post couldn’t have come at a more appropriate time Damn! I asked my boyfriend to tell me three things that would describe me. First up LOYAL. God in heaven, help me with this. Impulsivity … i’ll write a book on that some day, and try to do the opposite. XO

    Excellent info. as usual.

    • that’s too funny…loyal and impulsive. I’m so glad it resonated with you. more info coming on thursday. Hope it’s as meaningful as this series has been.

    • iamnotshe says:

      Yeah…well they all apply. I am at one time way too responsible then the next minute impulsive. Mixing my labels. Still, I will die for people usually internally because I get chewed up.

      • loyalty is a good thing except when carried to extremes. but for a hero, it’s really hard to be less loyal. almost impossible, until we’re totally burned by someone.

        • iamnotshe says:

          Yeah, i know. Never identified as a hero, but you have to pretty much set my hair on fire and toss me over a cliff before i’ll “give up” on you. Still work to do on ye olde list of flaws.

          • i’m with you – I still have lots of work to do on my list of flaws. It’s harder to accomplish, sometimes because what seems like assets to me are actually flaws, because I’ve taken them way too far.

            • iamnotshe says:

              Exactly. I like to think i’m reasonably intelligent … but that’s why these “attributes” are considered flaws (for me) not badges of honor because they aren’t within the range of “normal”. The extremes are a scary place for me … and i’m sometimes thrown for a loop and “go there”. As for impulsivity … when i get frustrated with “something/someone” i tend to write crazy arse emails or blogs. Yeah, i’m one of those. Maybe part of me wants some kind of reaction from a person who is unavailable for whatever reason.

              • putting anything in writing when our mood is elevated is probably not a good strategy. But you know that. Extremes are scary places for all of us. but sometimes we don’t know it because it feels normal. So it’s good you know you’re at the far reaches of this characteristic. Because then you can work to move back. it won’t be comfortable. nor will it be easy. but it will happen

                • iamnotshe says:

                  Global thinking, i’ve been told. Everything gets into a big ball of doodoo. Actually, at least i have the awareness. I think i’m good for the most part, but i still let others’ pull me to extremes. So in truth, that is NOT others pulling me to extremes, that is letting others pull me to extremes. Is there a difference?

                  • I think when you say ‘I let others pull me”, then you are owning your responsibility in the interaction. You can see it and then you can change it. When you say “others do this to me” then you’re not owning your part in the process. This is the first step to changing behavior: awareness. sounds like acceptance is there too, so now more action is required. good work.

  10. This is wonderful, Louise. Somehow I hadn’t seen the other posts, but I’ll be going back and reading them. Thank you for the great info!

  11. I’ve appreciated this series not only as a writer but also as someone who (I hope) now has a better understanding of the people around her. A lot of what you’ve talked about has described a couple people I care very much about and know grew up in barren homes.

    • Wonderful news Marcy. My hope in this series and the blog in general, is to inform in a way that helpsus as individuals dealing with people and then as writers, as we develop characters. I’m so glad you’ve managed to find value in both.

  12. Beautiful and fascinating Louise. Indeed personal change is not easy but thru your posts we can see ourselves which aids us all in this process. Thank you!

  13. So insightful, Louise! I love your conclusion—the importance of hard work and awareness. Posts like these promote those healthy, potentially life-altering changes. Thanks for the work you do.

  14. lynnkelleyauthor says:

    Your posts are so interesting, Louise, especially for writers who have to fully develop their characters and bring them to life, so all these dynamics play a part in our characters’ lives, too. Figuring it all out is the tough part! LOL!

  15. dogear6 says:

    I’ve so enjoyed the series. I don’t want to be analyzing everyone around me, so I used your writings to understand myself better. I’d love if you put this into an e-book for publication. I like that it was short, easy to understand, and thorough.

    Many of the comments were about applying this to fiction characters. I know that wasn’t what you set out to do, but that might be the slant you give it. There are some really good books for writers that are short and single topic but really pack in some great information. If you’re interested, I’d be happy to write out names of some of the books I’ve read that you might want to emulate.

    • Nancy, thanks so much for your ongoing support. this series has been so interesting for me. I started blogging late October. I’m a writer and it felt like a necessary thing to do but truly, my life is pretty boring. so what to write about. In meditation one day, I got this idea about families. and how they interact. And so I took what i’ve learned from my life and from my practice (i’m a therapist) and wove them together to come up with all this material. I do not claim to have invented it, for of course i didn’t but I so understand it and I apply it in my life all the time.

      And then ironically writers started commenting and using it. and I started to see how it could help them. and then I realized that’s how I craft my characters and how I work with my books, so it had come full circle and I could honestly say, “this blog is for people and for writers”. I have been thinking about a simple ebook for download. if you have some ideas, I’d be happy to see your list. email it to me at lbehiel at shaw dot ca. we can continue this conversation in email.
      be well, and we’ll talk soon.

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