From The Great Work, the last week was about reflecting on my origin and development.
There can be imbalance in the family and it can manifest in two polar extremes: the Controlling System and the Chaotic System.
In the Controlling System there are rigid rules and little to now acknowledgement of differing needs. There is minimal expression or discussion and there is one person who holds full authority by instilling shame and fear.
In the Chaotic System there are unclear and/or inconsistent rules. This can often manifest in a family with an addict. The rest of the family members have to be hyper-vigilant to what changes may occur. Sometimes the child or children end up taking on the parental roles.
For me personally, I almost feel like we had both growing up. My mother was very authoritarian and if I did anything she construed as wrong, I was shamed for it. Additionally, if she was extremely angry she would completely ignore me but say things to my sisters about how bad I was. This would be said loud enough, often, that I could hear it. She would also do the same with my sisters, so even if she was shaming one of them, I was learning what not to do to keep it from happening to me.
A study conducted by Alfred Adler showed that children develop different roles based on birth order. The more unhealthy the family system is, the more these roles show up.
The first born is shown to be the hero child or the perfectionist. This child is often the over-achiever. These results are due to the child feeling inadequate and so he or she works extra hard to be seen as a good child. The issue is that seeking approval is completely external, and this child never learns to find adequacy in him or herself. Finally, no matter what achievements are obtained, the constant shame overrules the feelings of accomplishment.
The second born is typically shown to the scapegoat or the black sheep of the family. This child believes that even negative attention is better than no attention at all. This child also feels inadequacy. The child is seen as the bad child, but often he or she is expressing the issues within the family. This child may try to escape the inner pain by engaging in compulsive or addictive behaviors.
The third born is often considered the lost child. With the first child getting positive attention and the second child getting negative attention, there isn’t much left for the third child. So he or she feels like an outcast and will isolate him or herself by withdrawing from the family. This results in a mask of independence to cover the pain of not being seen or heard. This results in an adult who feels like he or she never quite belongs anywhere.
The last child is the mascot or the clown. The child tries to diffuse any tension by making jokes. He or she may end of developing more dependence on the parents than the others, resulting in less responsibility.
I personally fall into the first born role. I struggle with feeling adequate and work extremely hard to be perfect to ensure that I’m not shamed for doing something wrong. I can see the second born in my middle sister. She “quit” the family as I call it a number of years back. She was needy but was always doing things to upset my mom. I don’t see either of the last two in my baby sister, but I wonder if I read these to her, what she would say about herself.
What about you? Do you feel you had a healthy family relationship? Or do you fall into one of these roles?