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The roles we are assigned — 7 Comments

  1. Excellent article Joyce. Thank you for writing it.
    The examples you wrote, from your own family experiences, are particularly enlightening because I know they are true, but the behavior seems unbelievable.

    It seems unbelievable that people would choose to live that way, yet as you explained it, it makes sense. People feel off balance when the drama stops, so they have to find a way to fill the old roles and start up the drama again.

    It’s also unbelievable how long I played these roles in my own family. I was the family glue, the one who kept my siblings and my parents together. I took it upon myself to remind people of birthdays, inspire celebrations and collaborations. I rescued whomever needed to be rescued. It never would have occurred to me that taking all this responsibility would make me become the scapegoat as well. But that is what happens.

    I recently told my parents that my brother and sister did not attack me INSPITE OF all that I’ve done for them, rather they attacked me BECAUSE OF all that I’ve done for them. Good people tend to be hated by spaths. When I took on the role of sacrificer, it inspired them to help me finish the sacrifice PERMANENTLY.

  2. Yea, Skylar, it is amazing what happens when someone opts out of their “assigned family role.” It throws the entire family out of kilter because they don’t know what will happen if the person abandons the role.

    My mother assigned me the role of her companion and caregiver after she had discarded and devalued me because I found out what Patrick was and refused to go along with it.

    My DIL had taken care of her disabled son until he died, so she was no longer “tied down” doing the role of caregiver to her son, but she had no money of her own, and son Andrew and she had no savings…they could have had,but for her spending habits. She wanted out of the marriage so started the affair with Hamilton. When son Andrew discovered it he said “let’s go to counseling and work it out.” Her way of “working it out was to steal money from my mother, and buy guns and plot to kill Andrew. That of course didn’t work and my poor mother was flabbergasted that she and Hamilton had “broken the contract” and refused to be her caregiver 24/7 (and frankly she didn’t need 24/7 care when Hamilton stopped drugging her.

    When my grandmother died, I noticed the 180 degree change in my mother, who had not put up with Uncle Monster’s behavior before my grandmother’s death (except keeping it as secret as possible) but when granny died, mom immediately became the “peace at any price maker” and insisted that I go along with it. After he held my grandmother at gun point, I wanted NOTHING to do with him, and for holidays I would go somewhere else rather than eat a mom’s house with Uncle Monster there.. I explained to her that I couldn’t stand the sight of him…and mom would cry and carry o n about how I was “ruining her holiday” and because I didn’t “forgive” him (pretend none of that had happened) I was going to hell to burn forever.

    When he became terminally ill and out of his head, my mother was his POA and I helped her hire caregivers to live in his house until we had to transfer him to hospice. I advised her on how to meet his medical needs, etc.as a consultant role.

    At that point in his life he was not mentally competent or functional. His kids came to visit once or twice but except for visiting him in the hospital after he had brain surgery, they did not do much for him. Mom was quite frail at the time so I did advise her.

    It amazed me though how she was emotionally a basket case. He had an OLD dog that was unable to eat anything except wet food, and then she was still unable to walk or take care of herself and mom would not let me put her down for quite a time because she wasn’t sure what Uncle Monster would have wanted. She was even upset that she was spending 25 cents a can to feed the dog. DUH??? She was afraid he would be upset at such a big expense. DUH? After several weeks when the poor dog was covered with fly maggots, I got her to let me put her down, but I had to go to the vet and get injections of potassium choloride to inject directly into the dog’s heart, where a bullet would have been 35Cents, and the shot cost $50, plus, the bullet would have ended her life painlessly and the KCL directed into the heart hurt her. That episode made me realize just how emotionally invested in her role as his “protector” and whatever he wanted (even in his out of his head state) was what she would do and her anxiety about doing NOTHING to upset him was off the charts.

    When he started fighting his caregivers we had to put him into a hospice that could keep him from falling or hitting someone.–he wanted booze, cigarettes and a woman in that order. LOL

    His son, my first cousin, is now my mom’s POA, but that’s his choice. I think he does it out of obligation not because he wants to and he wrote a protest letter for Patrick’s parole hearing, AND when he found out mom wanted Patrick to come live with her, he went and got a concealed carry permit for a gun. But I figure it this way, I took care of his dad when he was ill, so I guess it should be tit for tat.

    I used to have some “guilt” about abandoning my mother, but that i s long gone now. There’s no need for me to feel guilty, SHE was the one who devalued me and discarded me, when she thought she had a replacement in my DIL, but that didn’t last of course, and so now she has hired house hold help and my cousin visits her from time to time, but not often. Neither of my other sons have spoken to her in 5 years either, so she made her choice and I’m sorry she did, but at the same time, I do feel empathy for the role she was assigned as the family enabler.

    She did everything she could to make be “beholden” to her and I refused her offers of money or favors. She is well aware of the concept of “being beholden” to someone who gives you things or does things for you, and aware that I was REFUSING to be beholden to her. I’ve often said I would eat out of a dumpster before I would ask her for food.

    At the time I refused my assigned role, I hurt very badly going against that assigned role, but at the same time, I realized what it would have done to me emtionally. The drama was more than I wanted to “pay” for “peace.”

  3. Joyce, I cannot describe how IMPERATIVE this discussion is in the course of healing and recovery. Whether we have a family member who is a convicted criminal, or have experienced family dysfunction and/or abuse, the impact of this discussion cannot be undervalued.

    I wholeheartedly agree with “assigned roles” and the “rules of play,” etc. I also agree that it is very painful to extract one’s Self from those dynamics – it takes tremendous courage and fortitude to even consider that option and much more is required to accomplish that goal.

    I identify with the price of peace within the dynamics, and I cannot afford to EVER pay that bill, again. Even in non-family relationships, these dynamics are pervasive (Triangle article), and this is no simple decision or challenge.

    Thank you so very much for posting this article and starting a much-needed discussion.

  4. I know they are long but I do hope that everyone will read the entire articles I listed, they are really VERY good even if they are very long. And yes, this is a important part of healing from ANY dysfunctional relationship. If you stop and think about it, we are aware at least on a limited basis in every day life because we “behave differently” in different situations…like we don’t behave the same way in church that we would at a tail gate party. LOL

    Just as “manners” are rules on how to behave in various situations we all take on a deeper roles within our lives and our relationships with others. What impels us to chose a role, or to accept the assigned role that becomes “US”? I wish I knew the answer to that.

    Skylar talks about the “scapegoat” and what the meaning of it is in her blog, but why THAT child and not some other one? Why does a child accept the “family bad boy” role and become a criminal? Is it partly biology and partly something else? My guess is that it is partly DNA and partly environment. But that’s just a guess on my part.

    Yea, there’s a lot to mull over here.

  5. Honestly. I have always been the bad guy and the scapegoat.I have taken on the family role since I was eight years old.Mt shoulders are always heavy with burden. I know now that I too to let that role go.I have put distance between my family and myself and taking it one day at a time. after m0thering since and protecting since I was eight,I know feel empty nest syndrome which I am sure will pass and I still have a lot of good family.I to have learned through my life that when people know that you do not want to be used at times they do discard you because you are of no more use to them.It has become a very selfish world to many and life is all about them and what they can gain from you.It could be happiness it could be time it could be money it could even be your soul.It is hard to leave this job when one is so trained for it.Being a protector is s hard job and it is a hard job to give up. I care for people but do now how to back off when I feel there is no appreciation just abuse. The only person that I have a hard time in drawing the help line is my daughter although I did finely tell her that I would not do any more finical help as long as the couch potato was on her sofa,I told her that I will not ever enable that man.Her oldest son is the scape goat in that family and it hurts him and myself so much but I have come to terms that she is the only one that can fix it and may God watch over and protect those boys they need all the guardian angles they can get. Joyce you have been a very busy women this summer great job.

    • Grandmother, it’s good to “see” you and I identify with the role of “protector” and “peacemaker.” I switched roles so often that a lot of my life was a blur.

      Good for you to set the boundary for what you will and will not tolerate!!! That’s a tremendous and courageous step! GOOD FOR YOU!!!

  6. Dear Grandmother, yep, pretty busy…stressed out pretty badly with the parole protest, but finally lay that burden down, gave it to my attorney and to God. I did all I could do and more, and now it is just time for me to trust in my prayers to a Just God and figure that He knows what is the best thing to do…He protected me when I was not depending on Him, and my faith is stronger now that I realized that.

    All we can do in some situations is like you have done, realize we have done ALL WE can do, and let the rest of it rest on HIS shoulders. Years ago when I first heard your story I felt your fear and pain for those grandchildren you love so much and realized that YOU WERE POWERLESS to do anything. Legally your daughter has the “carrot” and she is and has been using it as a stick to get you to do what SHE wants or she will jerk the carrot (contact with your grandchildren) away from you.. But the truth is that you ARE powerless in this situation legally, so the only option you have is to lay that burden down on God’s shoulders and to get on with YOUR life.

    That is the most difficult thing in the world to do. Back when I was trying to convince my mom that he had sent a man to kill us, that she believed was a godsend not a monster she would not listen to me, I begged, I cried, I pleaded and told her what I had found out, showed her rap sheets and sex offender registry and still she would not believe. I was terrified not only for my life, but for hers…she blew me off, called me a liar, and eventually I realized I could not continue to stay in danger because she would not listen. I fled my home and didn’t come back for some months after Hamilton was arrested. I did all I could do, Same with you Grandmother, you did all you could do but your daughter is dysfunctional (at best) and you are learning how to set boundaries. That’s a tough lesson that we must learn. I had to learn it myself and I still have to practice it and work hard on maintaining those boundaries.

    Glad to see you back and hope some of the stuff I have written over the summer while you were gone is helpful. You are always in my prayers.

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