PLACATER Family Role (Part 1)


I have to make nice


SITE: Conflict Styles


 Role  – a Twisted form of Service
Combination of the Satir & Wegscheider versions

Placater’s GOAL
Provide soothing to make others feel better about themselves & better in general


For Self: try to not keep getting abandoned, to feel safer/not get hurt & be loved, by calming everyone, preventing conflicts or any overt expression of anger
For Family:  When parents are impaired in some way, they become a surrogate. Born negotiators, they seem to have an uncanny ability to ‘read’ what others are feeling, but at their own expense. Learn early to smooth over potentially upsetting situations & take responsibility for everyone’s pain & emotional well-being

BIRTH ORDER: can be oldest child, usually the girl
IN SCHOOL : very compliant, well-liked, so-so students – preoccupied with other’s problems rather than studying
Used as the family social worker, inappropriately told all the adult’s problems, ‘valued’ for not being any trouble

Few self-protective boundaries, don’t have a clear identity of their own, are not in touch with their own emotions & needs, so can’t get them met, are ‘lost’ without someone to please or fix

BELIEFS:placater girl
FROM: “If I’m nice, everyone will like me”
“Don’t rock the boat”
“If I focus on someone else, it won’t be on me & that’s a good thing”
“If I take care of you, you won’t reject or leave me ”
“I’ll do whatever you tell me to do. I’m here to make you happy.”

TO: “It’s ok to have a focus of my own”
“I am likable without having to take care of others”
“I don’t have the power to keep someone with me, but if they stay it’s because of who I am, not what I do for them”
“I can do whatever suits me best, in all situations”

• Develop a high tolerance for inappropriate behavior, will take the blame for things not their fault (ironically), thereby protecting others from taking responsibility for their choices & actions
• Main concern is on themselves & how they’ll be perceived. They react to stress or ‘uncomfortable truths’ by trying to avoid it, sometimes going to extraordinary lengths to avoid confrontations
• May sacrifice themselves – are willing to lose so others can win
• Efface & belittle themselves, while inflating others, to get brownie points & stop possible aggression.
• Actually believe they care so much about others & that no one cares for them. Can be great listeners

Frustrated rage, fear, powerlessness, low self-esteem, guilt. Show shame via victimization, depression, perfectionism

Deep sense of not being good enough just as they are, or the right to get equal attention & caring from others.  Denying personal needs, they’re unable to receive, have ‘false’ guilt, a great fear of conflict & anger, are hyper-vigilant with high anxiety

AS ADULTSover-giving
They’re often in abusive & one-sided relationships (with spouse, children, friends, bosses…), constantly giving without getting anything back.  Are overly responsible so become excellent enablers, marring addicts or other ‘broken’ people. Often choose careers as helping professionals, which can reinforce the tendency to ignore their own needs, such as social workers, nurses, therapists…. (more likely in ‘supportive’ positions, so not often male doctors)

TO: Allow the child to focus on themselves and not others, separate their personal worth from doing/ care-taking, help them to focus on Self instead of others, learn to express emotions & playing

BY: Validating P’s intrinsic value (being vs doing), helping them develop ability to take care of & prioritize needs for themselves (when child IS helping another – ask them what he/she is feeling at the moment)
• Parents (P) talk about & act in ways that reinforcing that prove the adults can take care of themselves & other family members, so the child can relax

NEXT: Placater #2

HERO Family Role

hero mom 

& of course I can!

PREVIOUS: Roles & Co-dependence

“IF ONLY MY FAMILY UNDERSTOOD ME” by Don Wegscheider, 1979


Provide the damaged family with some self-respect & a semblance of stability, shifting the focus from parental failure to the child’s successes

For Self: to make order out of the chaos, feel useful, make the home bearable, keep anyone from killing themselves or going crazy. Believe if they’re helpful enough, the ‘sick’ parent will be cured
For Family:  make the family look good & seem ‘normal’ to the outside world, by acting as if the rigid roles don’t exist, to prevent anyone seeing the severe dysfunctionality. Genuine desire to provide a measure of group esteem through their accomplishments

BIRTH ORDER: Usually the oldest child, or the oldest male or oldest female
IN SCHOOL : Get superior grades, teacher’s pet, sports star/ Valedictorian or Prom Queen. Classmate admire, envy or use them as help. Are involved in several extra-curricular activities at once

Highly regarded, expected to ‘do the right thing”, but may not be praised directly. Held up as a shining example to prove what good parents & good people they are, the one who other relatives dote on

Personal:  Main FOCUS is perfectionism.
Inflexible, extreme need for control of everything, great fear of making mistakes, intellectualize, disregard own emotions

In the Family: Ignore the real issues
Often forced to take on parent’s roles & responsibilities at a young age, AND be self-sufficient, feel ‘old’ & burdened (“10 going on 40”). Keep household running. Compensate for sick, drunk, depressed, crazy or missing parent’s inability to cope

Can be highly successful, self-sufficient & seem well-adjusted. Seen by non-family adults as trustworthy, conscientious, mature & capable. Have good relationships with authority figures, volunteer often, over-involved in activities & into everyone else’s business, a know-it-all, may have lots of friends, pets & ‘needy projects’controlling hero

DEFENSES – Main one: Denial
Overly: serious, mature & responsible, achieving.  Very dependent on outside approval & work hard to get it. Also, feel special/ superior, don’t need anyone, compulsive @ cleaning, gathering info, appearance, career….

Confusion, loneliness, guilt, hurt, anger. Extreme shame, shown by compulsivity ‘helpfulness’
• Deny a wide range of emotions, intense sense of inadequacy – fear of being found out as a ‘fraud’, & an over-all sense of failure – mainly for not fixing family’s problems
Trouble with
: being a follower, taking suggestions or advice, asking for help, relaxing, having fun, being spontaneous.  Not allowed to be weak, needy, scared, vulnerable, helpless

• extremely judgmental of others (but may have learned to be subtle about it) – & super-critical of themselves
• driven to develop ‘better’ lifestyle than family, make lots of money, master a profession, totally invested in getting & keeping success at all cost, have lots of positive hero responsibilityattention but don’t believe or value it
• marry an alcoholic or other ‘problem’ type they can continue to focus on
• are cut off from their inner emotional life & True Self
• secretly know something’s ‘rotten in Denmark’, but have the hardest time admitting anything needs healing
• will only get help to give up Hero role when emotionally overwhelmed & physically ill from years of stress, have severe substance abuse themselves or a tragedy breaks thru the denial

TO: Be ok with making mistakes, & develop courage to be imperfect, decrease need to be responsible for everyone, learn to concentrate on self instead of accomplishments (Being vs Doing)
BY: Stressing the value & enjoyment of cooperation & sharing, learning to value self. Help them accept “failure” gracefully (it’s never about their identity)

FROM: “I must stay in control of my  feelings”.
“ If I don’t do it, no one will.”
“If I don’t do this, something bad will happen, or things will get worse.”
TO: “I am of value just ‘being’, not only from ‘doing’
“If I don’t do it, someone else will & that’s OK’
“If I don’t do it,  it’ll be done differently & that’s OK”

• learn to ask for & take whats needed, accept ‘failure’ / imperfections (occasionally) to relax, just BE
• let go of perfectionism, need to control & rescuing
• develop ability to listen, follow, be flexible, relax & have fun

• attentive, caring, good listener to others’ troubles, nurturing, thoughtful
• appropriately responsible, decisive, focused, goal oriented, organized, self-disciplined
• Have leadership qualities, can be successful, initiator, loyal, good at motivating themselves & others, study & work hard to achieve

NEXT: Placater Role