This blog post is contributed by Lori Fiester, LCSW-S, MAC, CIP, CDWF, Clinical Director for The Council on Recovery
Have you ever wondered why some families seem to have roles in their family? I’m not talking about the roles of mom, dad or siblings, but roles people assume throughout their lives. As a therapist and an adult child of an alcoholic, I’ve been aware of my role in the family, both at work and in relationships. I’ve often joked that I didn’t become a social worker because I like people, but because I was born into this role. I am the hero child! And I worked hard to be that way… until it stopped being functional.
Family roles can happen in a family system where there has been upheaval, but they are usually solidified if that upheaval becomes a chronic occurrence, like in addiction. Basically, the family system strives for equilibrium. Equilibrium is what holds the family steady. Family members slip into their roles to re-establish equilibrium when faced with anxiety. For instance, when one member is struggling, usually the system helps that one member gets back on their feet, and the system returns to normal. When addiction occurs, the anxiety becomes chronic, and the roles are then utilized until eventually they become part of our behavior pattern – all in the name of equilibrium.
Frequently observed family roles:
The addict is the one who is addicted to a substance and is the person the family revolves around to unconsciously provide equilibrium.
The enabler or caregiver is most likely the significant other. That role entails making sure everyone is happy and ensuring the addict suffers no consequences. Enablers often lose themselves in the lives of others.
The hero ensures that the everyone in the family looks good by overachieving, overdoing, and perfection.
The joker keeps the family laughing, which helps distract the members from the pain and suffering.
The lost child’s job is really to stay out of the way and not create any concern for the family or cause further distraction.
The scapegoat is similar to the joker, which is to provide distraction for the family through rebellion and drama.
If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction or a related mental health disorder, The Council can help you and your whole family to break these roles and recover together. For more information, or to get help, call us at 713.914.0556 today or contact us here. Telehealth options are available.