The Mascot: Using Humor to Cover Pain

Posted by in Abuse, adult children, child abuse, healing, Louise Behiel, recovery, self help | 22 comments

The last of the four roles is the Mascot.  As mentioned, this learned behavior uses humor and fun to offset the stress of the family situation.  It looks like fun but all is not happiness and roses, for the humor is used to cover a dark side.

The mascot lives in buried fear.  The child living this role is afraid that the family problems are going to be identified.  They are afraid that their shortcomings will be seen.  They are afraid that people will learn what a fake they are, for on the inside, they aren’t funny at all.  Rather they are stressed, angry, and lonely. The  mascot believes they are loved only for their behavior – not for who they are.  Because of that belief, they rarely go inside to focus on how they feel or to decideon what they want out of life.

And ironically, as long as they keep busy entertaining everyone all the time, they never have to figure life out – they continually live in reaction rather than action.

Children of the mascot are emotionally abandoned – what else can they be when one parent is focused on entertaining them rather than parenting them.  The latter requires some self knowledge – of values and beliefs, which the mascot lacks. And doesn’t want.

The untreated mascot will often marry the family hero so that the details of life are handled.  The hero, attracted to the light-heartedness of the Mascot.  And they will do it all, but they will be continually looking for more emotional input from their partner.  As a result, both parties are miserable and the cycle continues into the next generation.

There is another side to the mascot as an adult.  Because they are usually agreeable and lack strong opinions they may be seen as door mats.  Male mascots may be seen as hen-pecked, having giving up all forms of authority to their spouse. Women in this role may be seen as overly dependent – and be dominated by their partner. This puts them at risk of physical abuse, which they will laugh off, after the tears and the immediate hurt.

To heal, the mascot needs to learn to be still in the moment and allow stress or tension to build.  And stand in it.  No jokes or quips.  No funny faces. No physical reaction. Simply stay in the moment and allow the stress to be. Once they’ve accomplished this (which may never be easy) the mascot can learn to be responsible for them and their choices. They can learn to face conflict and to be as comfortable as anyone can be with sadness, anger in others or fear.

It is hard to love a mascot. They need reassurance that they are valuable and competent as a person.  And above all, their sense of humor must be appreciated.

This is the final post in this series of the four roles of the  mascot.  Next week I’ll look at roles in the context of family size and then we’ll discuss relationships between roles.

If you have something you’d like to discuss or learn about, feel free to leave me a comment with the suggestion.  I’ll do what I can.

Remember, no serious diagnosing your family or friends.  And as always, I appreciate your comments.  Feel free to email me privately if you don’t wish to post publicly.

Clown picture is courtesy of:

Man in the party hat is from


  1. I recently heard from my brother, the mascot, saying he was ready to give up his reclusive lifestyle and wanted to reconnect with me. It’s a cause for great joy and yet a little scary. He cut off all contact decades ago with ‘religious’ reasons – not finding me acceptable and not wanting my divorce status to be observed by his girls (in grade school at the time). My son in the interim made contact with him and lived close by for a while and they really bonded, but it only opened up an occasional correspondance from me to which he’d respond– eventually. I didn’t push it.

    Now we’re emailing every day and I was immediately reminded of these posts, so had to come back to brush up on what is going on for him. He’s keeping up a clever storyline with me each day and I respond in kind most of the time, but add a few real facts about my day. His main character is someone he calls ‘one of my registered’ personalities. This character is supposedly keeping guard over me while I work in this new site that has quite a few real-life dangers. Fascinating, but becoming harder to find funny because, although he’s wittier than any comedian I’ve ever witnessed, he is very likely in pain. I’m intending to play along and keep my radar going, looking for a chance to be encouraging/supportive… ? He only has his wife, two girls, my son and me in his life, as far as I know. He did ask Mom to get online so he could send her pics of his new granddaughter that he’s babysitting for part-time.

    • Heidi, it must be lovely to be re-connected with your brother. I hear a little bit of reserve in your post, which is probably wise…mascots use humor to keep people at a distance as a tool to handle the stress of life. you’re wise to keep looking for an opening. well done.

  2. What happens when the mascot is 51 and in total denial? That would be my sister. This post opened my eyes to her, though. All of your posts (as I keep saying!) have been so insightful for character studies and also of people I love and care about. They’ve made me realized how complex my characters can be, but also that sometimes I can’t fix people or help them. It’s been very liberating, I must say. In writing and life.

    • Total denial is a common outcome of this role (all of them really). One of the things i hope is that with this additional knowledge comes additional understanding. Sounds like I accomplished my goal in your family situation. You’re right, you can’t fix them. it’s normal behavior for her now.

      And yes, in the end, this will enhance character development for fiction writers.

  3. More great insight! Thank you Louise!

    • as always, I’m glad you stopped by, Coleen

  4. Another painfully intelligent post, Louise. This was my DH, too, but he’s done years of therapy and matured. But whenever the stress gets bad we all seem to resort to our old safety nets.

    • good for hubby. It’s hard to do this work. and yes, when the stress gets to us, we usually revert to what we know.

  5. Thanks for another useful and interesting post. I can see my husband in this description – fortunately, he’s risen above his past for the most part and has been a great dad to our daughter. I’m looking forward to your posts on how these roles manifest in smaller families – thank you!

    • I’m so glad he’s risen above this role. It’s hard to break because of the response we give to the mascot’s antics. but he’s done it and that’s a good thing.

  6. For Writers page–wonderful idea! I’m looking forward to it!

    • yeah, I think if I put together a few charts and some simple notes, people can use them as refreshers for character building. here’s hoping.

  7. Okay then. That’s that! I’m a healed mascot with hero tendencies. Not sure what my hubby is. He’s all over the board and he comes from a horribly physically abusive family, both mom and dad. Both alcoholics with insane tempers. (Fortunately for me they’re both gone now.) My husband has been sober for 28 years but still suffers from a lot of buried anger, hurt and other such stuff.

    I’m not analyzing him though. I love hiim despite all of that. He’s a good man and he’d do anything for me. He just likes to be a big bad wolf sometimes.

    Can’t wait for the interaction posts! Keep them coming. Very interesting stuff.

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

    • How nice that you see him for who and what he is and love him still. wonderful tribute to your relationship and hubby. lucky he’s sober. sounds a bit like the rebel – the temper and the booze suggest that – but once sobritey comes into the picture, everything changes.

      thanks for sharing

  8. Louise, this has been an enlightening series. I’m looking forward to learning more about the interactions within the family.

  9. This is so interesting! I can’t wait to see how the different roles interact with each other with the family. I know I am not a mascot, though.

  10. Louise, thanks for these great posts. I came to them late, but I’m going to go back through all four of them. I’m writing a hero character for my current book who was the mascot to the hero in the previous book. You’ve nailed the light-hearted demeanor that hides a much deeper and more intense personality. I’m tucking these away in my character gallery notes. Super!

    • I’m so glad they’re helpful. I’m going to start a “for writers’ page on this blog and summarize some of this information to make it easier to use for casting characters

  11. My brother, to a T! I’m going to be trying to do a little catch-up. Maybe I can find myself–ha.

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