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Who Am I, Really? Moving Beyond Childhood Family Roles

By Tracy Harder, Therapist at Rio Retreat Center at The Meadows

Were you the good kid in your family? The one who made everyone look good? Or were you the quiet one who stayed off the radar not attracting any attention? Or perhaps you were the rebellious one who constantly got in trouble and did and said whatever you wanted?

These scenarios are examples of Pia Mellody’s adapted survival roles created in childhood—respectively the Hero, Lost, and Scapegoat. Pia Mellody is a pioneer in the field of codependence and her model of developmental immaturity is the foundation of The Meadows approach to therapy. In her book, The Intimacy Factor, Pia describes how these roles “inappropriately persist into adulthood, where [people] become adult actors plagued by self-centered fear, the pain of poor relationships, and an aching lack of intimacy”.

I myself was the hero of my family. I was good and perfect and led to believe that my strengths (academics, athletics, appearance) made me better than others. This led to controlling behaviors, which alienated me from my peers and created a real sense of loneliness.

One of my more painful memories is when my entire fifth grade class (or at least it felt like it was the entire) shunned me because I was what Pia refers to as a “tight ass.” I just knew that there was a right way and a wrong way to do things and I was quick to let my friends know all about it. I believed well into adulthood that being rigid and telling people how to live their lives was what it meant to be a mature adult.

That is until I had the opportunity to attend one of The Meadows workshops called Survivors I. Through this experience I was able to get in touch with my inner hero, which is the part of me that developed during childhood. I learned how she…

  • thinks—she needs to be perfect to have value; 
  • feels—making a mistake is not okay and results in pain and shame; and 
  • behaves—when threatened she is rigid, judgmental, and controlling. 

Through this amazing process I learned how to become a functional adult—or in other words, “grow myself up.”

My inner hero will always be a part of me but by learning how to identify her voice when she is provoked, I am now able to connect with my true self and my functional adult. This has created more intimacy and peace in my life.

If you are having trouble in your relationships because you are unable to behave in the ways you would like to, or if feelings of superiority, inadequacy, or rebelliousness drive your behaviors and create wreckage in your life, give one of our intake specialists a call and find out which Rio Retreat at The Meadows workshop best fits you.

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