The Most Common Characteristics of Adult Children
The next three characteristics are common in all the roles. In fact, I think they’re common in all people – well everyone I know, especially the last two.
- Overreact to changes over which they have no control.
- Constantly seek approval and affirmation.
- Usually feel that they are different from other people.
Overreaction looks different among the different roles. Heroes may get angry because their plans went awry (ever noticed a hero with a screaming two year old in a mall?). They are frustrated and confused. After all, they built a plan and then followed it, so things should go as expected. What other outcome would be expected? But life is what happens while the hero is making plans. Sometimes their very organization, focus and determination doesn’t allow them to deal easily with setbacks or detours.
Rebels, on the other hand, overreact by exploding, getting drunk, slamming doors or punching walls. They may quit school, if they were attending, scream at a boss or generally make a scene. They also can’t deal with their plans going awry, but unlike the hero, their plans are not often set in reality. Rebel’s plans are often pipe dreams conjured in drugs, booze or fairy tales. But their failure to accomplish great things is best expressed by a line from ‘Alcoholics Anonymous’ the text from the organization of the same name “We talked in millions while spending in nickles.”
The Lost Child and the Mascot are often hampered by their failure to make plans, so changes aren’t in their vision. What happens is what happens and if either role doesn’t like it, they tend to slide deeper into their coping mechanisms, trying to hide either figuratively, in humor, or realistically.
All children of emotionally barren homes seek approval and affirmation because they feel they are different from other people. Early in life, children look around and see the facade of the happy homes of their friends and they intuitively know that their lives are different. As a result, they learn that their lives and families are different. But the problem is that they are viewing the world through a child’s eyes and without the discernment of an adult.
If you have ever sewed a garment or a toy or some project, you know what the inside looks like. Others see only the outside and it’s perfection. But with every compliment, you say to yourself “if they knew what the inside looks like, they wouldn’t think it’s so great.” These are the words of the child who grew up in an emotionally barren family – knowing that things may look all right, but on the inside something was dreadfully wrong.
Heroes seek approval by rescuing people, volunteering, working too much and generally trying too hard. Ever met someone who volunteered over and over again? That’s a hero seeking approval. The rebel acts out their feelings of being different and in the process, ironically creates or joins a community where they are like their associates. But that group of misfits or outcasts all share the feelings of isolation and differentness.
The Mascot and Lost Child are quite different in the demonstration of these two characteristics. Both feel different than other people, but a deep seated Mascot doesn’t care. He doesn’t understand why life has to be so serious and doesn’t want to understand. He feels the rest of the world is out of step because they’re so serious. The Lost Child, on the other hand wants to be invisible and that doesn’t include appreciation or applause. Recognition often makes a Lost Child uncomfortable and ill at ease.
But we are social animals and we need approval and affirmation. The Mascot hides that need (or tries to) under the veneer of humor. If he’s laughing, no one can see his loneliness and isolation. The Lost Child believes that he is in the way, so by hiding, he is hoping to get approval and appreciation. Ironically the very behavior that he believes will bring him approval is that which drives others crazy.
It is interesting to note that the hero and rebel mirror their reactions to these characteristics, while the Lost Child and Mascot are a little more unique. But always these characteristics show up in adult children of emotionally barren families. And most other people unless and until they’ve done some work.
For simplicity’s sake, in this post, I used the male pronoun. In no wayy do I want you to think this only applies to men – it is just simpler to write with one pronoun. As always, I’d like to know what you think. Do you know people with these characteristics? Can you better understand how they developed? Do you see a path for changing them if you have them yourself? Let me know what you think.