HERO Family Role

hero mom 

& of course I can!

PREVIOUS: Roles & Co-dependence

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

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

For Self: to make order out of the chaos, feel useful, make a home they can bear to be in, keep anyone from killing themselves or going crazy. Believe that if they’re perfect, the ‘sick’ parent will be cured
For Family:  to make the family look good & seem ‘normal’ to the outside world, acting as if the rigid roles don’t exist, to prevent anyone seeing their severe dysfunctionality. They want to bring a measure of esteem to the family through their accomplishments

BIRTH ORDER: Usually is 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 will admire, be very jealous of or try to get help from them, are involved in several extracurricular activities at once

Highly regarded & clung to in order to conform to the dysfunctional rules &  to ‘do the right thing” (may or may not be praised directly).  The child who is held up as a shining example to prove what good parents & good people they are, the one that relatives dote on

Personal:hero girl
Extreme need to be in control of everything, great fear of making mistakes, intellectualize, disregard emotions, are inflexible & perfectionists
In the Family:
Keep everything functioning (do laundry, fix meals, mind the smaller kids…. ) & generally compensate for sick, drunk, depressed, crazy or missing parent’s inability to cope.  Ignore the real issues
Appear to be highly successful, self-sufficient & well-adjusted,  seen by non-family adults as trustworthy, conscientious, mature & capable. Have good relationships with authority figures, volunteer often, over-involved in activities & with everyone else’s business, are a know-it-all, may have lots of friends, pets & ‘needy projects’

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

• difficulty with: being a follower, taking suggestions, advice, asking for help, relaxing, having fun, being spontaneous   /  Not allowed to be weak, needy, scared, vulnerable, helplesshero responsibility

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”

Confusion, loneliness, guilt, hurt, anger. Extreme feelings of shame, & show it by controlling, perfectionism & compulsivity

Have to take on the parent’s roles & responsibilities at a young age AND be self-sufficient (“10 going on 40”), feel ‘old’ & burdened as a child.
Denial of a wide range of emotions, an intense feeling of inadequacy – fear of being found out as a ‘fraud’, & an over-all sense of failure – mainly for not being able to fixed the family problems

To: lessen need to be perfect, develop the courage to be imperfect, decrease the need to be responsible for everyone , learn to concentrate on self instead of accomplishments (Being vs Doing)
By: Stress the value & enjoyment of cooperation & sharing, learn to value self, help them learn to accept failure gracefully (without feeling like a personal failure)

• are rigid, controlling, compulsive, driven & extremely judgmental of others & secretly of themselves (although they may have learned to be subtle about it)controlling hero
• develop ‘better’ lifestyle than family, make lots of money, master a profession, totally invested in attaining & maintaining success at all cost, get lots of positive attention but are sure they’re going to be ‘found out’
• marry an alcoholic or other ‘problem’ type they can continue to focus on,
are cut off from their inner emotional life & True Self, while feeling deeply inadequate & insecure
• secretly know something’s ‘rotten in Denmark’, but have the hardest time admitting there’s anything that needs healing.  Will only get help to give up Hero role when they become emotionally overwhelmed & physically ill from years of stress, have severe substance abuse themselves or when some tragedy breaks thru the denial

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

Caring, nurturing, thoughtful, attentive, good listener to others’ woes
• Focused, appropriately resporeliablensible, self-disciplined, goal oriented, organized, decisive
• 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.


    • 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.


  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.


    • 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.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s