|The Lost Child Role ("Syndrome")
An Unsuccessful Survival & Coping Strategy
|Dawn Cove Abbey
Roadside assistance For Your Journey Through Life
- Dedicated to helping people return (and maintain) sanity and decency to life -
From the eBook: "One! The Journey hOMe", by Klaas Tuinman MA, © 2007-2017
Questions and comments welcomed.
The Lost Child
(Children Roles continued)
SURVIVAL - COPING:
The Lost Child is the most severely (and most sensitive) Adult wounded Child victim of a Dysfunctional
Childhood -or Alcoholic Family- sick codependency background.
Lost Child is not an illness you (or they) get. It is a ROLE, one that began, just like the other "roles", as a
survival/coping strategy in reaction to negative circumstances: one that backfired, and continues to do so,
because it ultimately became (and becomes) a behaviour pattern, and also your/their new controller. It is
somewhat like a syndrome, but it isn't one, because a Syndrome is a somewhat rigid definition or classification
- one that requires a certain number of things to qualify for inclusion.
This is not a definition or classification, per se, of people: it is a description of the numerous traits connected to
this strategy. Very few of these adult children have all of the listed characteristics - generally, each person will have
a somewhat different "mix". It's only a few that have them to extreme levels: some have only a few. Thus, this is a
description; not a label.
While this strategy at first sight, seems a reasonable and somewhat "normal" reaction to severe dysfunctional
circumstances and backgrounds: it really wasn't, because you/they also became dysfunctional (meaning it began
to interfere with leading a constructive, successful, and satisfying life - a functional, healthy one).
They/You lost their/your inner integration of Mind, Emotions And Spirit; leaving these unconnected and in tatters
- bits and pieces. It is a form of disintegration which can be either temporary or permanent with gradual decline
into deeper dysfunction: "re-assembly" of the bits and pieces is totally possible!
Without recovery/healing (or help), the traits will deepen and get more severe over time.
Why them, and How:
The Lost Child is most often born into a family at a time when it is already
highly stressed due to the problems associated with “the family secret”, i.e.
Alcoholism, drug dependency, mental illness, etc, and seems to sense that
his/her role is to “not make waves.” are many other reasons (generational
continuation, for example).
- These children grow up to be adults who find themselves unable to
"feel" (they are that disconnected from themselves), and have extremely
low, or no self-worth/self-esteem.
Perhaps they were gifted (or special, with certain uncommon abilities) in
some way - or were savants (this is common among these children) that
somehow were perceived as a challenge, or as competition - by a parent (or
parents) who were lacking in self-confidence, and who had esteem and self-
image problems - and therefore were "jealous" of that child.
And thus because of their insecurities and felt-inadequacies, they reacted by
"putting the Lost Child down" at every opportunity: in these situations, they
belittle, minimize and trivialize, ridicule, mock . . . and laugh - (laughter in
these kinds of circumstances is an act of aggression that robs people of their
sense of self, when done often, and long enough) it's devastatingly painful to
Such parental actions and behaviours are not unusual in Dysfunctional
Families - they are quite common: rather than changing/healing their own
self-perceived short-comings, they "punish" the Child instead - with the put-
Sometimes this is the foster child, or a child who has been adopted, or is a
member of a blended family that didn't go so well . . . .
Role: Personality Type -Role Traits - Profile vs Syndrome-
The Lost Child, as the most severely devastated person, embodies a role and a particular behaviour pattern that was
developed in childhood: some of its effects are similar to those of certain "disorders": in all cases they interfere
with, and prevent, functional (healthy successful) living.
The Lost Child Role and Behaviour Patterns are characterized by disconnected feelings/emotions. This has
far-reaching consequences for their later personal life, and the lives of those around them. Recovery and healing are
always possible, and although sometimes it is a long journey, which can be difficult, many people succeed.
- Regardless of their survival, these individuals ultimately become permanent victims of their backgrounds:
their Inner Child was severely damaged.
Each of the role-personality types has special needs - each "type" can recover if they are willing to take the risk in
believing they can change and heal; including the Lost Child.
- The Lost Child - like all Adult Children (ACOAs) and like all those in the other Roles, is a "high maintenance"
person - they are very needy: emotionally, and in many other ways. The devastation of the childhood
experiences and traumas cut deeply: as did the "rules / taboos" they learned extremely well: Don't Trust,
Don't Feel, Don't Touch, Don't Talk.
- They learned these so well, and internalized them so deeply that their effects have negatively influenced all of
their subsequent lives - resulting in unhappiness and dysfunction: until, or unless, recovery and healing occur.
- The Lost Child victim is often a younger (or the youngest) child –but not always- it isn't really connected to
birth order. While it seems to manifest more in boys than in girls, it is not gender-specific: girls and boys are
"raised" to express emotions and behaviours in different ways: that's entirely cultural - boys/men display or
enact (manifest) their traits in different ways. Both genders are affected - but each tends to show and
manifest it differently.
- This adult child usually perpetuates the poor parenting skills she/he learned; that's how the cycle of
dysfunction is perpetuated. In fact, they are the most likely of all the victims of dysfunctional families, to end
up perpetuating the poor parenting, abuse and violence, because of their own inability to parent. It is a
For the family, the "advantage" of having a Lost Child in the family is similar to that of having The Hero in the
family (see Children–Roles, and Coping Strategies): for this child tries to transcend (rise above) the sickness of the
family environment by behaving like an angel.
In taking on adult responsibility at a young age, the Responsible Child (another paradoxical title/name for this role)
strives to excel at everything. They take on other people's problems: which is their way generally to compensate for
feelings of inferiority, and thus with a drive to accomplish - and prove themselves.
This child often takes over the parent role at a very young age; becoming very responsible and self-sufficient. When
this takes the form of parenting younger children, the child becomes a junior mom or dad - they become
"parentified". See Dysfunctional Family for a brief overview of what "parentified" is all about.
As The Ghost Child, this child is the Hidden One (more titles/names), this child who tries to make him/herself as
inconspicuous as possible, is with-drawn, never asks for anything for himself, is neither seen nor heard, and is
often confused with the Good Child, except he/she is not competitive.
- They strive to be invisible and unnoticed (especially during family conflicts) and to avoid taking a stand or
rocking the boat (invisible - like a ghost, in many ways being codependent - because codependency is all about
not rocking the boat).
- As a result, they often come to feel that they are drifting through life, and out of control of their lives.
- The role is all about avoiding anger being directed at them: however, as a result of all this and more, later on
they will engage in severe acting-out behaviour and rebel against almost everything.
While they seem self-sufficient and super independent, these lost and lonely children grew up to be wounded,
misunderstood, lost and lonely adults - consumed by a barely suppressed rage - which will almost always be
misdirected at the most undeserving people in their lives, rather than at those responsible for it.
Because of their exposure to, and experience of violence in childhood, the anger in them is always just below the
surface. They have flash, violent tempers, and can often readily become verbally and physically abusive. Those
reactions are almost always totally out of proportion to the thing or event that triggered them. Often, it resembles
the behaviour of an immature child who is engaging in a terrible acting-out tantrum (the immaturity of the wounded
In order to cope with the chaos of their families the Lost (Ghost and Doormat) Child learns (learned) to adjust in
inappropriate ways. Most importantly, they learn never to expect or to plan anything: this will (and did) affect all
their past, present and future relationships detrimentally.
Many also seem to have a "secret death wish", and frequently rush from one activity to another to avoid facing
Remember the "Don't Trust, Don't Feel, Don't Touch, Don't Talk" rules/taboo.
- Disconnected (lost): the Lost Child is almost totally “disconnected” – from self, and from others. And the
disconnection at times is virtually a dissociative state, rather than an "almost like dissociative" state. They
don't "own" their feelings; actually many of them do not "feel", and are incapable of real, genuine ones (many
of them are aware of this, and are frustrated and dismayed by it; by the same token, many are totally
unaware of it).
- Addiction Risk: Because they were born into an alcoholic family, later in life they either also become
alcoholics, or else avoid it totally - BUT they will form alternative addictions such as: food, workaholism,
gambling, sex, pornography, or endless dating -yet never being satisfied- always needing more, more novelty,
and many other gratifications satisfied - and yet these never bring "satisfaction".
- Lacking in Empathy: inability to empathize with others. One the one hand they know about Empathy, and
on the other hand, they don't "know" it. A trait also shared with Narcissists and Socio/Psychopaths, and in a
way, people diagnosed with "Asperger's syndrome". The difference is that in the case of someone with
Asperger's, they are unable to change that: it is an inherent part of the syndrome, not a matter of choice. For
the others, it is an acquired trait - one they can/could change if they choose to do so.
- Interestingly, many of them can show empathy to/with animals, while lacking the "ability" to do so with
humans. The same goes for Compassion.
- Impetuous: They are impulsive and spontaneous. They tend to live for the moment, forgetting all else. Like
the fact that every action has a reaction, in this case, "consequences". Actions almost always have unforeseen
chain-reactions, like a domino effect whose chain cannot be stopped, once it's set in motion. Not only that,
but they give no thought to the fact that those consequences also often really affect and impact other people
in not-so-nice ways. Those people become unsuspecting "victims" as collateral damage, so to speak.
- Undependable: They are promise-breakers;
- Suspicious: They are wracked by fear, almost bordering on paranoia - they fear other people, and being
around other people; among other things, this has to do with trust issues.
- Introverts: They are loners, yet will often form many superficial, tenuous acquaintanceships and friendships.
They are more comfortable with groups than anything more intimate (smaller) settings.
- Everything is "ME" oriented and focussed - their major preoccupation is (or appears) to be with themselves.
There is a huge preoccupation with self - very reminiscent of Narcissists.
- Routines: they create routine; they like order and regularity (it provides them with a comfort zone). Some
of their routines are ritualistic in nature (or appear to be).
- "OCD": they like everything in its place - the place they decided upon - and frequently engage in re-arranging
things is specific patterns, or order - often they're not even aware of it.
- Change: since they like order and regularity, they abhor and are frightened by change; they're very
uncomfortable with it, unless they initiated it - and even then, it is usually done a bit at a time, in small
increments, and then they need time to adjust to that, before they can do the next stage.
Sexuality - Romantic Intimacy:
- They have lost touch with their feelings to such a degree they may
ask (or indicate) that they want to be slapped, pinched, bitten –
just to get some feeling - because all too often the only "feeling"
they can relate to is physical, not inner emotional ones.
- Remember please, that especially for many males, sex is primarily
an act of aggression, or a means of discharging tension or anger.
So please bear that in mind, in order to understand this context
correctly. They can learn that sex can also be a loving, romantic
- They often need the physical sensation (of pain) as a substitute for
the emotional feeling they have become totally disconnected from:
pain is the only feeling they can "relate" to.
- They are sexually inhibited: unconnected to the feelings associated
with their sexuality to the point they mostly do not know what they
like or don’t like. It will purely be SEX, no love, or romance
involved: here too, a major disconnection with self.
- And yet, while being inhibited, they will at the same time often act
very promiscuously. Many of them have a series of relationships -
permanency is not a trait.
- They truly are "studies" in contrasts and contradictions.
Lost Child Dating and Relationships
Relationships: Close human relationships of any kind are a major problem for them: Commitment scares them -
they get anxious and feel trapped at the idea, plus they have almost an addiction of needing, or having a constant
variety of members of partners in their lives. They are not monogamous almost by nature: many of them are the
male and female versions of "womanizers/men-chasers, Lotharios and Casanovas/femmes fatale" - the ultimate
men and woman chasers.
A future separate page on dating is possible.
- Obsessive: they will obsess about things easily and regularly.
- Compulsive: they also experience, and engage in compulsive behaviour.
- Unreliable: their promises cannot be trusted; while they don't necessarily make them in "bad faith", they
nevertheless are things of the moment: a few minutes later, or a day, or week, or month, and they'll no longer
think and feel that way. This is one of the shared traits with Sociopaths and Narcissists.
- Instant gratification: they want things "now", rather than waiting for them, or planning ahead toward them
- they have no patience, which leads to . . . .
- Low frustration tolerance: things "have to" work well, go smoothly, follow the ideas they have, happen
"now", or else they get frustrated and in most cases, quite angry and upset. They must have their way, for
it's either "my way, or the highway"; and if this doesn't occur, they'll end up acting out, or engaging in
violence of some sort, on anything, or anyone nearby. Often, they are so dissociated, that they're not even
aware of what, or who, they are taking the violence out on. Being that unaware in a dissociated state happens
frequently whenever they are very angry. This is similar to those who have some form of Asperger's
- Trust: They have major trust issues, which almost always end up ruining or destroying any relationships or
friendships they have, or might have had.
- Esteem: They all have major Self Esteem, Self Worth, and Self Confidence issues
- Anger: They are consumed by anger and often have violent tempers, and throw major tantrums if/when they
don't get their way - or for a myriad of other reasons.
- Social Deceivers: the Lost Child, like most of the other roles (and like socio and psychopaths), is a
consummate actor or actress: they are often "two-faced chameleons", acting disarmingly polite and nice
in public, or around people they want to mislead. They can, will, and do, switch persona at the drop of a hat,
so to speak, and in an instant turn on their partner, or children, or both, for example, as soon as there are no
- They are quite anti-social, to the point of appearing to be Sociopathic. For example, they lack the ability to
Empathize with others in any significantly meaningful way: they are unable somehow to "see" that things they
don't like, or aren't good for them, is the same for others.
- Nor can they see since that hurting isn't a good feeling, that others don't like it either, and that therefore they
should respond to them the same way they look for kindness and compassion from others when they hurt.
Worse yet, even when it is explained to them, it seems like they don't care.
- Connections-Relationships: they do not know how to connect or bond with anyone - often not even their
own children; and have great difficulty forming stable, meaningful friendships, let alone relationships.
- Bonding-Intimacy: They are terrified of any kind of intimacy, especially emotional intimacy, and often have
relationship phobia - often drifting in and out of a series of relationships; frequently entering into rebound
ones. This is a real dilemma for them: they want intimacy but are desperately afraid of it: so they hover in-
between - going for it and fleeing from it - being their own worst enemy all the time.
- It is because of this tendency of having difficulty connecting with others, that they continue to prefer to be
- Control-Power: When they are in relationships they almost always are "controllers" see the power and
control wheel at the right below. Click/Tap on the graphic to enlarge it so you can read it. Close it to return