Excerpts from "Forgiving Our Parents, Forgiving Ourselves" by Drs. Stoop and Masteller.
From pages 105 - 106
A “role” is simply any fixed pattern of relating that forces us into set actions, behaviors and responses, out of “habit” rather than as a freely chosen response to changing circumstances and situations. When roles work like this, they dehumanize us. People do not relate to us as full, free human beings with individual dignity and free will, but only in terms of our role. We are treated, not as “Dave” or “Joan” but as “the Black Sheep,” “the Scapegoat,” “the Kid Brother,” and so on.
Every family system operates according to a set of rules, or what are known in the business world as “standard operating procedures.” Rules may be spoken or unspoken. Nevertheless they exist, and they affect our family’s activities and behaviors. Even without saying a word, our family lets us know what is and is not acceptable, how various circumstances are to be assessed and responded to, and how different individuals out to act and react in different situations.
From Robert Subby in “Lost in the Shuffle:
“Don’t rock the boat” is the all-encompassing rule, the master rule and gatekeeper who rides herd over all the other rules in the family. “Don’t rock the boat” becomes the rule that rules. This simple but stern injunction, “Don’t rock the boat ” locks each individual family member in a set of unhealthy rules. If left unchallenged, these rules will inevitably suppress change, hinder growth, and obstruct any hope of recovery. (pg. 46)