DYSFUNCTIONAL FAMILY ROLES PART 4
It is true that there is no family that is 100% either functional or dysfunctional. Each family have some level of both functionality and dysfunctionality. Children need much more than just having their physical needs met. They need nurturing in order to grow into well-adjusted individuals.
In families that face adverse conditions such as a parent having untreated or poorly managed mental illness or unhealed trauma or some other adverse circumstances such as parents’ divorce, the home environment is not healthy so the children miss out on nurturing.
When children are raised in a dysfunctional family, they take up certain roles that make the family feel more comfortable, peaceful and as such, the family looks functional. While the family looks better and seems to have improved, these children grow up to become dysfunctional people.
Most of these roles are difficult to change until a person acknowledges that they are unhealthy and need to change, or gets professionally helped. In this article, I will talk about the mascot.
The family clown uses humour to divert the family from anxiety, danger and anger. The mascot uses family humour to reduce tension and create a more peaceful environment. As a child, the mascot feels powerless and helpless because of the family dynamics and so using humour, they are able to shift attention from the challenges facing their family to themselves.
Unfortunately, behind the humor of the clown is a sad, angry, traumatized or depressed child. When they learn that humor turns attention to them, the child feels like they have solved the family challenges and so continues with the habit. Humour does not help the child deal with the negative emotions, they have internalized and repressed. Last borns of families are more likely to be mascots.
As adults, mascots are loved and surrounded by very many people because they are humorous. The attention makes them feel normal and takes their focus off their suffering. Some mascots go on to build careers as comedians. Mascots learn to take care of others and not themselves, they get busy using humor to get others happy and cared for but they do not address the dysfunctions directly. This makes it difficult for mascots to heal.
They may also use humor to communicate and to confront the family dysfunction, rather than addressing it. Mascots use humor to communicate repressed emotions in the family such as anger, grief, hostility and fear. So you may ask, doesn’t this humour heal the family? The answer is no, it only acts to shift attention, as first aid and only changes the feelings momentarily. Healing does not take place.
Let me use the case of Jaliyah, a brilliant adult who learnt to hide her trauma from sexual abuse when she was six years. She would tell hilarious stories and jokes which attracted attention to herself. She would feel okay when around people but her nights would be impossible. As an adult, she became a comedian and a very creative one. She would talk about scared childhood so hilariously that everyone laughed and enjoyed her stories. At the office, she was everyone’s darling.
One day she missed work for two days, which was very unlike her. The workmates followed up and found out she had committed suicide in her house. Besides the bed were many notes, one addressed to the dad who had abused her sexually and the second one to her family members who did not defend her.
Jaliyah’s third note was to her fans and workmates who she shared her struggles with emptiness, nights filled with nightmares and her struggles with depression all her life. She appreciated them for having been there for her and allowing her to use her experiences to make them laugh. It is true that many mascots use humour to hide their depressive thoughts.
A mascot as a spouse
During dating, mascots have learnt to ensure that every other person gets well apart from themselves and this leads them to caring for their partners at their own expense. Mascots attract abusers easily because they are always looking out to save them and get them happy. Mascots do not know how to receive love and all they do is give. Their self-esteem is low and they are always feeling guilty when their partners are not happy.
In marriage, mascots work more to please their marriage partners and continue to solve their problems by shifting tension to humour. They lack problem solving skills, interpersonal skills, communication and assertive skills. Lack of these skills become the cause of conflict in their marriages.
The more the conflict the ‘guiltier’ mascots feel and this guilt causes them to work harder at being nice to their spouses. They end up being overworked and overwhelmed and yet they do not know how to be assertive. Just the way they learnt they are responsible for the families’ happiness, they continue to take responsibility for the marriage partner’s happiness.
If a mascot is married to an abuser, the abuser thrives in the fact that a mascot will take responsibility for the families’ tension and try methods of making the environment more peaceful. This leads to work overload, increased levels of mental illness such as anxieties, depression and suicide.
To their children
Mascots are permissive parents. They own up for the behavior of their children and since they feel responsible for any wrongdoing in the family, they exempt the children from their wrongs and take responsibility. The mascot’s children get used to the easygoing parent and tend to grow up lacking boundaries. These children may learn to use humour as a way of dealing with dysfunctions. They may grow assigning everyone else blame, not taking responsibility since the parent owned up for all happiness in the family.