The 3HO Dysfunctional Family - How I Figured It Out

Personality Roles: The Hero, The Scapegoat, The Forgotten Child


The other type of role playing in a dysfunctional family is that of taking on personality roles. The primary two roles, as I have already mentioned, are that of the addict [George Geftakys] and that of the co-dependent (usually Mom and Dad) [the leading brothers, workers, and Betty Geftakys]. In 3HO [Assembly] these roles have frequently been played by the head of the ashram [George Geftakys or on a local scale: the local "head" leading brother, worker or head of your brother’s/sisters house] and his inner circle [the leading brothers, workers, and Betty Geftakys or on a local scale: the other leading brothers, their wives, or the head steward of your brother’s/sister’s house], and by Yogi Bhajan [George Geftakys] and his inner circle [the leading brothers, workers, and Betty Geftakys].

The Hero

The hero role might be better described as the "unsung hero" role. In the dysfunctional family this is the sibling that comes home and makes sure that dinner is cooked, that the younger children are taken care of and the co-dependent parent is comforted and the addict is put to bed to sleep it off. In 3HO [Assembly] we call this figure the "Keep Up Ji". [Remind you of the brother or sister always volunteering for helping out with the fellowship or tent meeting prep or to set up chairs, take down chairs. They are always early and always working, sometimes, if they can keep up the high level of work, they are asked to be workers but not nearly as quickly as others.]

When Yogi Bhajan [George Geftakys] comes to town, you won't find the hero going out to dinner and movies with the Master and members of the inner circle [the leading brothers, workers, and Betty Geftakys]. No, our hero has spent the last week painting, nailing, cleaning and cooking. She is in the kitchen making Yogi Bhajan's [George Geftakys or Betty’s] food, not upstairs eating it. He is busy running the children's program or out in the rain doing guard duty. And when 3am comes our heroes start the morning prayer while the addicts, co-dependents, and scapegoats snooze the ambrosial hours away.

In my family, my older brother filled the role of hero leaving me free to be the scapegoat and rebel, my primary dysfunctional life role! However, after I pulled off my ultimate scapegoat act (yes, you guessed it again, I joined 3HO) I tried my hand at the hero role for a few years. This, mind you, is a very hard role for someone like me who hates housework, cold water and people telling me what to do.

I only kept it up for those few years because I thought you could get into that co-dependent inner circle by being a hero. This is absolutely wrong. You make it into the inner circle by being co-dependent, not by being good- but I didn't know that until much later. [This explains why some people become workers and leading brothers quickly while others have years of hard work before the "arrive"]

The Scapegoat

The scapegoat is the problem child. This is the kid who acts out, gets lots of negative attention, and even at times (gasp!) breaks the family taboos! Many of these people don't keep up in 3HO [Assembly] and almost all of them get a bit "fringed", or marginalized, shall we say. These are the most likely of the children to become addicts as well. In 3HO [Assembly] scapegoats tend to come under attack at "house meetings". In fact, they are usually the reason the meeting has been called!

Once while I was still in my hero phase I visited the Boston ashram. This was back in the days of the Golden Temple Restaurant, and let me tell you, those heroes worked like dogs!

There was this bad boy Sikh there, however. His main outlaw act was not rising for the mandatory sadhana each morning. They tried everything. They hauled him onto the stair landing where everyone had to walk over him to get to the yoga room but he slept peacefully through that. They threw him, blanket and all, into the cold shower, which successfully woke him up but then he crawled back to bed. [The brother or sister who is always late for devotions or dinner or other mandatory activities]

They had just called a house meeting to discuss this problem child when I came to the end of my visit. I have always wondered what they tried next and where that mighty soul might be now. [Remind you of the brother or sister, always in trouble, always at the center of the discussions but always sticking around. That is their safe place. When they are in trouble they know what to expect and how to act so it is easier then the unpredictability of being an average saint and never knowing if what you are doing is really ok and approved of by the leadership.]

The Forgotten Child

You probably haven't noticed or remember too many Sikhs [saints] who play the forgotten child role. Wearing all white and a turban is not something most forgotten children are interested in. They stay to themselves and to their rooms. I do remember one forgotten child I lived with in the Portland ashram. I can't remember her name but she kept the plants watered and the cats fed. [Reminds me of so many saints that were always just there, not sitting in front but not in the back. They were always quiet but always there. They are always working and in hindsight a question pops up in the back of your mind as to why they never were asked to be workers. At all costs, they avoided recognition either good or bad.]

In the dysfunctional family this role is handy for avoiding the whole mess. I have tried this one a bit in recent years but I am not very good at it. Heck, I have tried all these roles at one time or the other! [I think this type of saint is the hardest to reconcile with the idea of complicity to the abuse. This is because their complicity is silence. They are not overtly involved. They may not be lying, simply for the fact that they never volunteer information of any kind. You wonder why they stick around and assume it is because they just don’t see the abuses. When you confront them with the problems they still don’t leave. They give superficial excuses, like, "Well it isn’t like that where I am, for me" or, "All churches have problems". They then usually stop talking to you because they don’t wish to be challenged. My idea is that all those who stick around, do so because the dynamics of the group work for them on some level.]


Next: 3HO - Keeping Safe 


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