The Lost Child Role / "Syndrome/Spectrum"
An Unsuccessful Survival & Coping Strategy:
Traits and Characteristics: echoes of Narcissism and Sociopathy
Dawn Cove Abbey
"Roadside Assistance" For Your Journey Through Life
From the eBook: "One! The Journey hOMe", by Klaas Tuinman M.A © 2007-2020

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".
    Lost Child TRAITS

    * 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 acquaintance-
      ships 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,
    romantic activity.
Lost Child Dating and 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.
Click/Tap graphic
to enlarge
    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 and heal.

    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

    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.
     * 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 mis-
    understood: 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 unawareness.
* 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.

Since much of this is similar to narcissism, you might find this article on "
How To Decode Narcissist
Speak" of interest.