HERO Family Role


hero mom 

I HAVE TO TAKE CARE OF EVERYTHING,
& of course I can!

PREVIOUS: Roles & Co-dependence

Originally:
“IF ONLY MY FAMILY UNDERSTOOD ME” by Don Wegscheider, 1979

 

❧ HERO’s GOAL
Provide the damaged family with some self-respect & a semblance of stability, shifting the focus from parental failure to the child’s successes

PURPOSE
For Self: to make order out of the chaos, feel useful, make the home bearable, keep anyone from killing themselves or going crazy. Believe if they’re helpful enough, the ‘sick’ parent will be cured
For Family:  make the family look good & seem ‘normal’ to the outside world, by acting as if the rigid roles don’t exist, to prevent anyone seeing the severe dysfunctionality. Genuine desire to provide a measure of group esteem through their accomplishments

BIRTH ORDER: Usually the oldest child, or the oldest male or oldest female
IN SCHOOL : Get superior grades, teacher’s pet, sports star/ Valedictorian or Prom Queen. Classmate admire, envy or use them as help. Are involved in several extra-curricular activities at once

FAMILY TREATMENT
Highly regarded, expected to ‘do the right thing”, but may not be praised directly. Held up as a shining example to prove what good parents & good people they are, the one who other relatives dote on

ACTIONS /STYLE
Personal:  Main FOCUS is perfectionism.
Inflexible, extreme need for control of everything, great fear of making mistakes, intellectualize, disregard own emotions

In the Family: Ignore the real issues
Often forced to take on parent’s roles & responsibilities at a young age, AND be self-sufficient, feel ‘old’ & burdened (“10 going on 40”). Keep household running. Compensate for sick, drunk, depressed, crazy or missing parent’s inability to cope

Social:
Can be highly successful, self-sufficient & seem well-adjusted. Seen by non-family adults as trustworthy, conscientious, mature & capable. Have good relationships with authority figures, volunteer often, over-involved in activities & into everyone else’s business, a know-it-all, may have lots of friends, pets & ‘needy projects’controlling hero

DEFENSES – Main one: Denial
Overly: serious, mature & responsible, achieving.  Very dependent on outside approval & work hard to get it. Also, feel special/ superior, don’t need anyone, compulsive @ cleaning, gathering info, appearance, career….

EMOTIONS
Confusion, loneliness, guilt, hurt, anger. Extreme shame, shown by compulsivity ‘helpfulness’
• Deny a wide range of emotions, intense sense of inadequacy – fear of being found out as a ‘fraud’, & an over-all sense of failure – mainly for not fixing family’s problems
DEFICITS
Trouble with
: being a follower, taking suggestions or advice, asking for help, relaxing, having fun, being spontaneous.  Not allowed to be weak, needy, scared, vulnerable, helpless

AS ADULTS – THEY:
• extremely judgmental of others (but may have learned to be subtle about it) – & super-critical of themselves
• driven to develop ‘better’ lifestyle than family, make lots of money, master a profession, totally invested in getting & keeping success at all cost, have lots of positive hero responsibilityattention but don’t believe or value it
• marry an alcoholic or other ‘problem’ type they can continue to focus on
THEY: 
• are cut off from their inner emotional life & True Self
• secretly know something’s ‘rotten in Denmark’, but have the hardest time admitting anything needs healing
• will only get help to give up Hero role when emotionally overwhelmed & physically ill from years of stress, have severe substance abuse themselves or a tragedy breaks thru the denial

PARENTS CAN HELP HERO CHILD
TO: Be ok with making mistakes, & develop courage to be imperfect, decrease need to be responsible for everyone, learn to concentrate on self instead of accomplishments (Being vs Doing)
BY: Stressing the value & enjoyment of cooperation & sharing, learning to value self. Help them accept “failure” gracefully (it’s never about their identity)

CHANGE BELIEFS 
FROM: “I must stay in control of my  feelings”.
“ If I don’t do it, no one will.”
“If I don’t do this, something bad will happen, or things will get worse.”
TO: “I am of value just ‘being’, not only from ‘doing’
“If I don’t do it, someone else will & that’s OK’
“If I don’t do it,  it’ll be done differently & that’s OK”

Adult RECOVERY NEEDS
• learn to ask for & take whats needed, accept ‘failure’ / imperfections (occasionally) to relax, just BE
• let go of perfectionism, need to control & rescuing
• develop ability to listen, follow, be flexible, relax & have fun

STRENGTHS
• attentive, caring, good listener to others’ troubles, nurturing, thoughtful
• appropriately responsible, decisive, focused, goal oriented, organized, self-disciplined
• Have leadership qualities, can be successful, initiator, loyal, good at motivating themselves & others, study & work hard to achieve

NEXT: Placater Role

5 thoughts on “HERO Family Role

  1. I had briefly sought out a professional to help me untangle my past but I had to stop seeing going due to personal circumstances. Despite that I have been methodically attempting to do the work on my “own”.

    A number of your posts, even these recent “role” posts have tended to spawn the equivalent of an itchy mental rash. I’ve been scratching and using salves with limited success …. 😉

    But lately I have been floored by some MACK truck sized epiphanies. I feel buoyant and clear. Hard to explain but I know good when I feel it, LOL

    I thought I would share and express my thanks.

    Like

    • That’s great ! I know how wonderful those ‘aha’ moments are! & yes, you’re experiencing ‘knowledge is power’ & the relief & clarity that comes with it.

      Like

  2. is it possible to go between the hero/black sheep role from time to time? I guess I am seen as the black sheep because I actually acknowledge that there is dysfunction in the family….but I guess I am also the hero because I make good money, have a career and graduated college. I havent seen my family in 7 years, due to friction between me and my convert narcissist father. There is another in the family who is about 6 years old who is viewed as the “hero” as well. SHe is an actress/model, and she seems to compete with me to keep that hero role and for me to gain the black sheep role 100%. I also have a very complex personality, so my family doesn’t know really what to label me as. They don’t really know what I’m doing because I don’t tell them anything about me. All they know is that I make decent money and I stay far away from them. So my question is….can you have two roles at the same time or at different periods of time? can the black sheep turn into the hero and vise or versa. This stuff is interesting.

    Like

    • Yes, people can have more than one role. Only-children often end up switching between all 4, even moment to moment, depending on the current stressor. But remember, the Scapegoat is not the same as being scapegoated. The latter is done by the family to the child, the former is taken on by the child to ‘save’ the family, usually the most self-destructive parent, so that the parent won’t have to face themselves.

      The Hero has to be perfect, so sometimes switching to being the Scapegoat is a way of relieving that pressure – but it doesn’t necessary mean getting into blatant trouble. It can mean saying mean or inappropriate things, making a fool of oneself, or doing others things to humiliate oneself – but not destroy one’s life – more like causing oneself emotional pain – like shame & self-hate. Then the person has to switch back to being ‘perfect’ to make up for it & the cycle continues.

      Slowly outgrowing perfectionism & self-hate are the key to letting go of the roles.

      Like

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