|The Lost Child Role / "Syndrome/Spectrum"
An Unsuccessful Survival & Coping Strategy:
Traits and Characteristics
|Dawn Cove Abbey
"Roadside Assistance" For Your Journey Through Life
- Dedicated to helping people return (and maintain) sanity and decency to life -
rom the eBook: "One! The Journey hOMe", by Klaas Tuinman M.A © 27-2019
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's onset was so gradual that they
have forgotten the route they took, and also how to go "back" out of it. It is somewhat like a
syndrome or constellation, 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. Perhaps
it's more like a Spectrum - which allows for great variation.
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
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 the "victim".
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-downs, etc.
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 (Spectrum)-
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. They way out is to address and alter the ineffective coping mechanism.
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 tend become permanent victims of their
backgrounds: their Inner Child was severely damaged - unless they start a healing journey
to overcome it. 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
The Lost Child - like all Adult Children (ACOAs) and like all those in the other Roles, is a
"high maintenance" person in their adulthood - 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.
Anecdotally, 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. We all develop and create
our individual coping styles - but within recognizable patterns.
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. Without actively choosing to heal and recover, it
tends to be a generational cycle.
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
para-doxical 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 usually 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 inner child).
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 themselves.
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; yet, 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
on the "Autism Spectrum: (formerly Asperger's Syndrome)". The difference is that
in the case of someone with a Spectrum "disorder, 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 (they were never taught "how".
* 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 generally 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. Thus, they are Compulsive: experiencing, and engaging in compulsive
behaviour - as we've seen.
* Change: since they like order and regularity, they are intimidated and 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
that 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, and/or a means of
discharging tension or anger, besides the pleasure aspect.
Please bear that in mind, in order to understand this
context correctly. They can learn that sex can also be a loving,
* 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, or connect with.
* 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.
* 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 whose "behaviour" is said
to be on the Autism Spectrum: an interesting description ("interesting" is not the word that
folks on the spectrum would necessarily see it as).
* 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 tend to be 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 "witnesses". Then again, it is important to remember that
virtually all of us have our "private persona", and our "public persona" - so we should
be able to resonate with this so-called "deception".
* 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 because 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. That may however, not be totally correct
- maybe they haven't learned about "caring", or how to "show/do" it.
* 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 alone.
* 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 here. A word of caution here, though: This entire
"power and control" thing is much misunderstood: it isn't always due to an inner desire
to exercise power and control over others, it can also be, and likely often is, that in order
to create control over their own lives, they require "order and familiarity and comfort",
but ends up with others more or less needing to "perform" to the inner script that
requires this. It is, therefore, often related to ritual and comfort - where others end up
being affected. In other words, their attempts to deal with inner distress, and organizing
their environment, becomes a different kind of distress for others.
* Flexibility-Point of View: to them, the only point of view (or perspective) that
counts is theirs. To them, other people's point of view do not count: a form of
arrogance, possibly - yet once again, it may not be intentional - due to their own
|Click/Tap on Graphic
The "Lost Child": the most severely
wounded one - Syndrome - Spectrum