12 March 2009

The Family System

The way the family interacts is called The Family System... It can be a Nuclear or Extended Family of Origin (the family you were born or adopted into).
  • Nuclear includes the caretaker (parents) and children.
  • Extended includes grandparents, grandchildren, uncles/aunts, and cousins  
Within the Family System the child/children instinctively have roles.  There are six distinctive roles within the family.  You can be multiple roles as well.  The larger your family (number of siblings you have) the more unique and defined your role is.  For instance,
  • Crowned Prince - often the first born male, can do no wrong, often spoiled/pampered, gets own way, and runs the family.
  • Enchanted Princess - female version of the Crowned Prince.
  • Mascot - the compliant child, usually middle child, seeks approval/acceptance by "getting along" in the family system.  Parents are often "proud" of this child.
  • Lost Child - is the least invested in the family system.  Often a middle child and easily "lost" between older and younger siblings.
  • Clown - is the child who jokes and makes everyone laugh in the family, to protect themselves from feeling real pain and dysfunction within the family.  They try to "cover up" the true identity of the family (which is often painfully dysfunctional).
  • Identified Patient - may cause the most problems in the family, but are the most "loyal" member.  They act out in order to draw attention to the family system's dysfunction in order to get help.
I find myself taking on the Mascot & Lost Child roles within my own family.  I was always easy going - didn't like to rock the boat.  I did well in school and sports and I remember my mom telling me she was proud of me.  Because my older sister is the Identified Patient - screaming out for help in various ways she sought the attention of my parents through her antics.  (I would also agree that she is the most loyal member of the family!)  It was easy for me to be solitary/independent and left alone, basically lost.

As the Lost Child, what the outside world doesn't see (and I can't either)-
  • Unimportant
  • Not allowed to have feelings
  • Loneliness
  • Hurt and abandoned
  • Defeated
As the Mascot - 
  • Low self-esteem
  • Terror
  • Lonely
  • Inadequate
  • Unimportant
I realize now as I'm digging up my past, just how true the above statements are/were in my life.

What I represented in the family system was relief; at least one kid that no one worries about.  I pretty much could be left alone/trusted without any problems.

As an adult, if I don't seek help this is what could happen-
  • Indecisive
  • No zest
  • Little fun
  • Stays the same
  • Alone
  • Dies early
  • Can't say NO
  • Can't handle stress
  • Marry a "hero"
Some of these things are present in my life and I don't want them for my future!  Change is possible, with help.  Instead my life can show traits of-
  • Independence
  • Talent
  • Creativity
  • Imagination
  • Assertiveness
  • Resourcefulness
  • Helpfulness
  • Good company  
Only 3% of family systems are considered healthy, the rest unhealthy = dysfunctional!  It's amazing how high of a number that is.  I grew up in that 97th percentile!  Parents divorced when I was 6 and I lived with my mom the whole year through, occasionally visiting my dad in the summer.

Characteristics of a dysfunctional family system-
  • Unable to identify feelings
  • Difficulty in expressing positive feelings
  • Difficulty in forming lasting relationships
  • Struggle with perfectionism
  • Demonstrate rigidity
  • Trouble adjusting to change
  • Feel overly responsible for one another
  • Constant need of approval
  • Members feel powerless to change
  • Marked by low self-esteem
  • Members don't know how to have fun!
I can recall struggling with many of the above characteristics and to this day some still affect me.  The last bullet is one of the many things I currently struggle with.  For example, there are things that are fun to do, but I either turn competitive or I can't seem to let go (lose my inhibition).  I maintain a sense of self-control and have a difficulty being wacky or silly.  I also think my inability to get "excited" about things stems from this same topic.

I write all this out because I want to recognize my past and heal, move forward and grow closer to God.  If I can gain some understanding and know there's help, then I can heal; I can not repeat the past; I can let go and let God!

Any comments would greatly be appreciated!  Thanks.


  1. Great post! I'm so proud that you're working on your healing-way to go!
    Lots of good information, too. I'm glad you're learning lots and helping us learn too.

  2. Thanks for sharing, Tiffany. These insights are always interesting to hear and think about.