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.