In a family where one or both of the parents function in a toxic pattern, the different family members often adopt certain set roles. Although the patterns can shift around a bit, there is usually a default setting. In this podcast Stephen Bach and Monkey will talk about some of these roles, how to identify them and what impact they have on the dynamic in a toxic family.
The person we tend to talk about most, if of course the bully. This person is the center of the family universe. Simply because they demand that position. All the other family members will assume their roles to help the bully maintain that status. Read more about toxic people here, or have a look at our list of behavioral traits.
The Enabler is someone with authority who allows the abuse to take place. More often than not that is the other parent. although these dynamics also occur in non-family situations. Some enablers play a more active part in the abuse, while others are simply happy to stand by and watch.
The Flying Monkeys
Every bully will recruit an army of Flying Monkeys, and that recruitment campaign can be wide. It can be siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, teachers, community leaders… any one really. A Flying Monkey is like a remote control for the bully. A way to reaffirm their messages, control the victim and inflict their abuse even when the victim is not with them. Flying Monkeys may not even be aware of what is going on, they are lied to and manipulated by the bully.
The Golden Child
In most families there will be one child that is placed above the rest. This child can do no wrong, and is shaped in the image (or perceived image) of the bully. The Golden Child is unlikely to object to the special treatment, they are celebrated and get what they want.
The scapegoat lives on the other side of that spectrum. There is nothing the scapegoat can do right. In fact, even their achievements and talents are cast aside as failures (as they are a threat to the bully’s fragile sense of self).
The Peace Keepers
Then there is the Peace Keeper, a role somewhat similar to the enabler, but lacking the authority. One child is likely to want to try to keep the whole toxic family together. They try to build bridges between the bully and the scapegoat in particular. Their intention may seem admirable, but the peace keeper can be quite manipulative in their efforts.
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