Lost child meaning

Are You a Lost Child or A Compulsive?

Amanda Ann Gregory, LCPC, EMDR Certified 

The Lost Child

Aliases: “The Quiet One” “The Shy One,” “The Independent” 

The “lost child” is the family member who retreats from family dysfunction due to feeling overwhelmed. They can spend a lot of time alone, pursue singular interests, and/or struggle to establish or maintain relationships with others. The lost child is rarely seen as a stressor in the family (unless they develop a compulsive coping mechanism; see #6, below).  For example, a person may struggle to maintain a job because they need to play hours of video games in order to cope with family dysfunction. 

A lost child might appear as if they do not care about their family, but they do. They simply cannot tolerate the emotional turmoil that comes with interacting with their family. They avoid conflict at all costs, as they tend to shut down or check out when things feel difficult. Some lost children might feel that they are a burden to their family, so they stay away in order to avoid causing the family additional stress.  

If you are a lost child, try these methods to embody a healthier role:

  • Practice engaging with people outside your family unit during times of conflict in order to feel more comfortable with managing conflict in relationships. 
  • Learn coping mechanisms that you can use when conflicts or stress occurs in the family so that you are able to manage overwhelming emotions and remain engaged. 
  • Engage with family members in times that are not stressful or tense as a way to strengthen your family relationships. As your relationships improve, try being present with family members in times of stress and conflict in order to address and resolve issues.

The Compulsive 

Aliases: The Alcoholic, The Drug User

The compulsive is a family role that is often discussed in substance use treatment. This is the person who struggles with addiction or compulsive behaviors and is often the focus of the family’s attention. The compulsive can share many traits with the scapegoat, as they are typically identified as the “problem” in the family. On the outside, it looks like compulsives are causing stress in the family, but in fact they may be acting out or struggling emotionally because of preexisting family dysfunctions.

  The main difference between the compulsive and the scapegoat is that the compulsive specifically struggles with a compulsion or an addiction. This compulsion or addiction may involve illegal drugs, medications, food, gambling, pornography, or other compulsive behaviors. Remember, compulsions and addictions occur in the family unit and impact the entire family.

If you are the compulsive, try these methods in order to embody a healthier role:

  • Seek treatment. You may need professional help to manage your addiction before you’re able to change your role in the family. Treatment can take many forms, such as outpatient therapy, inpatient rehabilitation, and community support groups. 
  • Build a support system outside of your family unit. This support system might be better able to provide you with the emotional support that you need to manage your actions and  learn different methods of coping.  
  • Establish and maintain firm boundaries with your family members in order to meet your needs. These boundaries will not only help you but will create opportunities for your family to address their own issues as opposed to focusing solely on you.  

Family therapy can help you identify and change dysfunctional family roles.  Symmetry Counseling provides family therapy in Chicago addressing parent/child conflict and sibling conflict. Schedule your appointment today!


McClanahan, K. (2019, October 30). 5 Unhealthy Family Roles in an Addict’s Life. Retrieved from https://www.soberrecovery.com/recovery/traditional-roles-in-families-with-substance-abuse/

Schafler, K. The 6 family roles in addiction. [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://www.katherineschafler.com/blog/the-6-family-roles-in-addiction

Lost Child Syndrome. | CPTSDfoundation.org

The term dysfunctional family is used to give a name to a family that does not function within normal parameters. There may be alcoholism, drug abuse, neglect, and abuse. These disturbed families harbor children who, because of their debilitated families, are not capable of living the lives they should have.

As a result of the dysfunction in these families, children take one of four different and predictable, limiting roles. These roles include the hero, the scapegoat, the lost child, and the mascot. This article will focus on the lost child, what it consists of and, how to heal.

Who are Lost Children?

Lost children spend an excessive amount of time hiding in plain sight. They expend all their energies trying not to get noticed by anyone, including teachers, other children, and their caregivers.

This behavior is usually the result of neglect and abuse, where the child felt trapped and unable to escape. Their only line of defense was to remain quiet and still knowing that eventually, the traumatic event will pass.

Lost children are mostly made up of third-born children but can be any child from oldest to youngest.

Lost children, in early childhood, develop a belief that they are powerful enough to blame themselves for the woes of their families. They feel they want too much and that they do not have a place in the world. They learn early to be quiet, unassuming, so they are out of the way.

The lost child spends a great deal of time daydreaming, fantasizing, and creating worlds in her mind where she is happier than with her true family. They love to do solitary activities like watching TV, playing video games, and reading.

Lost children are invisible, lonely, and afraid.

The Lost Child as an Adult

Adult lost children, because of their upbringing, are not equipped to handle the world. This is because they have disconnected from their families. This means they are left without any knowledge of what to expect in life or from relationships.

Adult lost children feel left out, angry, isolated, sad, confused, and powerless because they did not learn in their childhoods how to get along in the world. They might go from relationship to relationship searching for the family she did not have or form no relationships at all.

Their problems with relationships are directly related to their treatment in childhood. Lost adult kids feel people cannot be trusted and that they must remain self-reliant and not trust anyone else to meet their needs.

Harmful Belief Patterns in Grown Lost Children

Invisible children as adults tend to keep self-defeating beliefs that they formed in early to late childhood. The first belief is that they have the power to hurt others around them by taking up space in the world.

Grown lost children form what is called omnipotence guilt, the belief that they have the power to do anything and guilt because they cannot. Omnipotent guilt basically is the belief that I have the power to do anything for my loved ones and guilt because I cannot achieve happiness for them.

Another harmful belief is that people are too unreliable, unstable, and fragile for them to depend on them. As children, these lost adults were faced with grown-ups in their family who could not be relied upon to meet their physical and emotional needs. So, it makes sense they would believe this in adulthood.

Four Signs You Might Be a Lost Child

While the following traits of a lost child are pertinent, they are not all-inclusive. The four signs are they are isolated, numb, self-sacrificing, and lack intimacy.

Isolated. It makes sense that someone who hid from stress and abuse as a child will become an isolated adult. Lost children in adulthood mimic being an introvert. They have few friends, are reserved in showing their true feelings, and avoid social activities.

Numb. Adult lost children have problems feeling emotions. They may have difficulties feeling sad when something bad happens, or difficulty feeling happy. They have lived in this numbness since childhood and are practiced at hiding their emotions.

Self-Sacrificing. Most adult lost children are selfless, they give generously to others, especially those they love. However, this trait can be self-defeating as these invisible children now grown to be adults, give too much of themselves. They lose their own needs in the shadows. This giving trait makes adult lost kids vulnerable to people who would take advantage of them. The cause of being self-sacrificing to a fault is that as children, they never asked or received much from their caregivers.

Lack of Intimacy. Most lost children raise themselves, and as adults, they fail at any intimate relationships they attempt to form. This failure is the result of a lack of enjoyment of physical and emotional intimacy caused by the lack of connections they made in childhood.

How to Overcome Being an Invisible (Lost) Child

Recovery from any amount of childhood neglect and abuse is not simple. It takes much time and dedication, however, it can be done.

The first step is to establish a relationship with a mental health professional. At first, the relationship an adult lost child forms will be very surface, meaning they will not disclose much. This is especially true of emotional feelings.

The only way to defeat being a lost child is to face your past head-on. That does not mean you will do it alone, like in the past. Therapy means to experience the rage and loneliness you had as a child with someone else who can help you understand your feelings.

Adults know they have reached healing when they refuse to live as victims of other people’s dramas and no longer consent to not being in control of their lives. They will also be capable of saying no to the requests of others without feeling extreme guilt and shame. Finally, they have become capable of feeling free to focus on their own dreams.

“Be brave enough to live the life of your dreams according to your vision and purpose instead of the expectations and opinions of others. ” ~ Roy Bennett

“Reality is a dream that someone was brave enough to conquer.” ~ Shannon L. Alder

“Dream your own dreams, achieve your own goals. Your journey is your own and unique.” ~ Roy Bennett


Learning Mind: https://www.learning-mind.com/the-lost-child-dysfunctional-family/

Tom Moon: http://www.tommoon.net/2017/02/13/dysfunctional-family-roles-3-the-lost-child/

Shirley Davis

My name is Shirley Davis and I am a freelance writer with over 40-years- experience writing short stories and poetry. Living as I do among the corn and bean fields of Illinois (USA), working from home using the Internet has become the best way to communicate with the world. My interests are wide and varied. I love any kind of science and read several research papers per week to satisfy my curiosity. I have earned an Associate Degree in Psychology and enjoy writing books on the subjects that most interest me.

How dangerous are the psychological roles that children choose for themselves

"Hero" takes life seriously.
"Rebel" behaves defiantly.
"The Lost Child" keeps himself apart from his family and goes into a world of his own fantasies.
"Clown" tries to cheer up loved ones and thus help them cope with adversity.
"Adapter" adapts to any situation in the family.
"Peacemaker" is able to calm and comfort all family members.

More details about the psychological roles that children growing up in dysfunctional families unconsciously choose for themselves were told to Mel by a specialist from the Moscow Psychological Service Larisa Kostikova:

"Dysfunction" is translated from Latin as a violation or loss of ability to work. As a rule, in such families people do not admit the existence of problems in communicating with each other , do not express their feelings openly, do not speak heart to heart, resort to excessive guardianship to the detriment of true care. It is especially difficult in this situation for children, often they unconsciously choose a certain psychological role for themselves.

I will be your hero

It is not uncommon for the oldest child in the family to take on the role of "hero" , because his parents started to instill in him a serious attitude to life early on. He is able to achieve considerable success, for example, in studies or sports, he can be a leader in a class or a ringleader in a company of friends. Outwardly, the baby looks quite successful. However, he devotes little time to his favorite things or may even know nothing about his own preferences, interests, inclinations. Why? Yes, simply because the interests of other people are in the first place for such a child!
In the future, in adult life, he can be very convenient for everyone, improving and developing his “heroic” role, but at the same time a person risks completely losing contact with his own needs. Such people often become obsessed with some kind of obsession, try to achieve perfection in everything, always focused on achieving goals. For them, feelings are of no value.

Pay attention to me!

The complete opposite of the “hero” of the family is "rebel" . Such a child behaves extremely provocatively, gets into some unpleasant stories all the time, and early on may show a tendency to abuse psychoactive substances.
With their negative behavior, these children first attract the attention of their parents, then educators, teachers, and then law enforcement officers. In fact, behind the challenge that the “rebel” throws to his family, there is often an unconscious need for praise, encouragement and acceptance by the child. He feels useless and rejected by anyone, and his behavior only exacerbates this situation. We can say that such a child has low self-esteem, loss of contact with his feelings, the experience of emotional abandonment, and all this is covered with irritation.
Rebellious children hide resentment and often try to settle scores with their parents. Growing up, they can already challenge the social system as a whole. Unable to "take" support, they do not believe that they are valuable in themselves, deserve attention and love. Such people often find spouses who allow them to vent their insults, insults and irritation on them.

I have my own world

"The Lost Child" seems to keep aloof from his family. It may seem that he likes to spend time alone, play with himself, make things or read books. Therefore, parents leave the baby alone, trying not to interfere, and it happens that they completely forget about him.
Such a child can go further and further into the world of his own fantasies, while not burdening anyone with his presence. The "lost child" actually suffers from loneliness, but seems unable to communicate about himself to the world. At the same time, such children subtly feel and take to heart the needs and sufferings of others, they are always ready to help. As they grow older, they neglect themselves more and more, saving others. The feeling of peace and happiness, so necessary for any person, can be acquired through external stimulants: food, alcohol.

Crying clown

There is another typical role - "family talisman" , which often goes to the youngest of the children in the family. As a rule, everyone adores and pampers the “youngest”, they allow him a lot and forgive everything. The protest behavior of such a “favorite” is not taken seriously, and usually these children are distinguished by restlessness, foolishness, and ingenuity.
Trying to amuse their loved ones, they habitually play the role of clowns, thereby helping their parents cope with family hardships and receiving gratitude and indulgence from them in return.
Among adults, you can also meet such “clowns” who, with their jokes, quickly create a relaxed atmosphere in the team, easily relieve tension, it would seem, in a hopeless situation, divert some of the negative energy to themselves and translate the conflict conversation into a more peaceful direction. However, the unconscious "childish way" of avoiding conflicts indicates intolerance by some people of any disagreements and the immaturity of their emotional sphere.

I can handle everything!

"Adapter" - the name itself contains the meaning of this role. Such a child shows miracles of flexibility, can withstand, it seems, any trials without much damage to himself. Outwardly, the reaction of the child may look like indifference or detachment. It often seems to adults that they have a “real egoist” growing up who calmly reacts to any “storms” in the family, closes in his room or even goes for a walk when his parents swear.
In fact, children experience a real shock at this moment, and with the help of external equanimity they try to protect themselves from the destructive effects of stress and thus adapt to an unstable, and often dangerous situation in the family.

What awaits such a child when he grows up? Most likely, difficulties in presenting personal boundaries in society, impaired contact with one's feelings, misunderstanding of signals from one's own body, ignoring physical pain, feeling unwell, and the ability to overcome any discomfort.
Such people habitually remain in the background, try not to draw attention to themselves, not to express their emotions. Their needs remain unmet, they rarely make any request to others, they feel lonely and isolated.

I will reconcile you!

There is another "heroic" role in the family with a very attractive name - "peacemaker" . In a troubled family, such a “hero” is in great demand. Where adults do not know how to sort things out in a civilized manner, do not take responsibility for the consequences of their own decisions, ignore the feelings and needs of loved ones, a comforting child can grow up: he will calm his mother, calm his father, and regret his brothers and sisters.
But the habit of "bringing good into the world" can do a negative service. In adult life, such a person seems to be the owner of special powers, endowed with exclusive rights and “does good”, even when he is not asked for it and is not needed. It is common for such people to spend most of their time addressing the emotional needs of others. They are empathetic, caring, overly responsive, tend to pay more attention to others than to themselves. And if someone gives them support, they feel guilty for it.

If we analyze the semantic meaning of family roles, it becomes clear that the main goal of any role is to save the family from the destructive impact of problems, especially when these problems are not recognized, ignored by adults. In this case, either an unbearable burden is placed on children, or they are given undivided power. But the most important thing is that the "family theater" does not complete its work over time, "children's roles" are only improved and then embodied in new conditions, finding their "spectators" and "partners" in the adult life of a person.

Dreaming of a lost and missing child

Just now dreaming of a lost child and don't know what this dream means? Know that this means the need to enjoy life more.

If we consider the general meaning, a lost child appears in a dream, representing the loss of everything positive in childhood.

Thus, there is a loss of a sense of lightness and freedom, an excessive preoccupation with matters considered important, and a forgetting to enjoy.

Faced with this dream, the general message is to allow yourself to do fun things that inspire you for some quiet time.

Depending on the other elements that appear in the dream, you can understand a little more about the specific message that the dream carries to each person individually.

The dream of a lost child is a sign of your need to restore features of the past. You must reclaim the essence of who you were. This is a dream that has a strong connection with the person you were as a child.

Or just young. So it mentions the process of regaining some of the good qualities that you had.

No matter how life leads to changes in its way of being, one should never give up the essence. Don't run away from your destiny, because sooner or later it will get to you.

No one can distance himself from the purpose for which he lives. So try to listen more to your heart and less to other voices that are screaming around you.

Deep down inside you know exactly what to do. May the power of your destiny carry you into the future.

Communicate more with yourself. Think back to all the goals you had when you were younger. Can you still get to most of them? Try to figure it out by riding this new wave of opportunity. Your inner child will thank you.

Dreaming of finding a lost child

When you dream that you have found a lost child means that existing opportunities for fun are missed .

The person who saw this dream is completely focused on his tasks and duties.

Although this is very important, with a sense of responsibility you also need to take some time to bring yourself relaxation and happiness.

It is in this situation that this dream occurs, indicating that it is time to allow moments of relaxation.

Meeting with a lost child means that the dreamer already knows where to have fun, got interested, but eventually missed the opportunity.

Because of this, the dream comes in to prevent the continuation of this behavior, demonstrating how satisfying it can be to find the lost child inside.

This dream indicates the need to devote some time to your own well-being, remembering that keeping yourself in good condition is also one of your responsibilities.

Seeing a missing child on TV

When you dream of watching a missing child on TV, it means that it's time to allow yourself to actively participate in activities.

The person who has this dream is one who is constantly confronted with his own responsibilities, trying to maintain a carefully constructed image.

so even in situations that can be fun and relaxed the dreamer tends to maintain a certain posture.

This is due to the fear of judgment from other people who can watch his behavior, as he does in his sleep, watching TV.

Therefore, when confronted with this dream, it becomes clear that the message is to stop being afraid of the opinions of others, acting more like a child who does what he wants without worrying.

Living and enjoying the fun opportunities that arise in your daily life depends largely on whether you care more about your own opinion than about the opinions of people watching your life.

Stop caring about other people's opinions and enjoy life more, because the dream that you see a lost child wants to convey this to you.

you are losing a child

You dream that you are losing a child this means that a person is starting a new stage of life and feels that this deprives him of minutes of rest .

The loss of a child in a dream indicates the very feeling of loss, the release of something that is very important for the dreamer.

When this dream is dreamed, it occurs not only by representing the dreamer's feelings but it also brings hope.

Just as you can find a lost child, you can change your life by doing what is necessary and also what you want.

When a child is lost, they are often looked for with the help of other people to make it easier to find them.

Similarly, it's time to allow yourself to ask for help, such as asking people close to you to ask you out on a date.

In addition, you need to know how to organize yourself, combining your duties with quieter moments.

Remember that even a child has quieter and more responsible moments, for example, when he goes to school or collects toys.

Fun is important, but it must be in balance with your responsible life.

To dream that you were this lost child

Dreams where you are a lost child means denying the lack of fun in your life .

The person who has this dream is the one whom everyone around missed in friendly meetings and meetings.

This is because the dreamer is in that phase of his life when he thinks he must devote all his attention to a particular goal that he has at present.

So, this is a dream that people usually have when they start a new job, study or get married.

All attention is now completely focused on the goal that seeks to make it work. forgetting that he has many other activities and people in his life .

Because of this, the dream is a warning, because just as a lost child may feel extremely lonely in a dream, the dreamer may also retain this behavior.

Trying to find a point of balance for life will be very important so as not to lose other activities and people that you consider important in your life.

Allowing yourself to focus on just one thing in your life makes it difficult to maintain a balanced daily routine that is not good for your emotional health.

dreaming of a lost child

Seeing a lost child in a dream means that you are confused. Far from who you were in the past, you can no longer connect with your goals that you always had. It seems that today you are someone else, with completely different goals.

But at the same time, the dream shows that you need to manage your resources better. So you need to reevaluate some of your decisions a little better.

It seems that things are not going so well in all areas of your life. Therefore, you need to increase your level of effort.

Remember your thirst for victory when you were younger. For the sake of a more peaceful life in the future, you will have to work hard now.

Therefore, recognize that better management of your resources is a necessity. Don't miss out on good opportunities, whether at work or in your personal life. But don't get lost among the many tasks.

You must have a clear focus. Therefore, you must know exactly what you want in the future. This belief will be earned over time, but you must dedicate yourself to it.

dream of a lost daughter

To dream that your daughter is lost means that you have to fight more and more every day. Sometimes you allow defeat to enter your life without resisting. Of course, this can be a major problem.

Therefore, this is a dream indicating competition. So it shows that you feel like you need to be a little more competitive in your day to day life. Don't let yourself be defeated so easily.

Try to be tougher with your opponents, even if it's not in your nature. It is necessary in a few moments to release your animal instinct. Everything in your life depends on how hard you fight for something.

In this sense, strive to gain more control over your life. People won't give you anything for free, so you have to earn whatever you want. There is a need to run around in search of what you want.

You had such energy when you were younger. Of course, this will to win is still present. But above all, remember to respect everyone.

To dream that you are looking for a lost child

A dream in which you are looking for a lost child is a sign of good news. So this shows that some changes are coming.

Although the daily changes are not always visible to the good eye, these changes in question are good.

Therefore, try to take the news as well as you can. Long term, you will be able to see how favorable the changes will be.

In addition, the dream still shows that you are entering a point of great wisdom and intelligence. Patience has been your friend, making it easier for you to access small victories.

In this way, it has become possible to protect those you love most and pave the way for success. But try to get back to the way you were when you were younger.

At least in a way you were much stronger then. So allow yourself to access this version of yourself from the past.

Maybe not everything was good, but there was a part of you that was always ready to fight. Accept that this version still exists within you. Just give him room to come out.

Dreaming of many lost children

Dreaming of many lost children means that you are going through a time when you are surrounded by duties without finding a way to have fun.

The person who has this dream feels completely exhausted, overwhelmed with things to do and longing for a moment to rest.

In this case, the dream shows more than one lost child, because the dreamer knows that he needs to take a break from everything he was doing, but does not find a way.

Just as many lost children are being searched for by more than one person and in an organized manner, you must apply this to your life as well.

This is the moment when you need to think about your priorities, trying to solve them as you can and should, devoting time to rest in between.

Finally, we also have a video that reveals more of the meaning of dreams about children. So, if you are still doubting the meaning of your dream, We recommend watching the video below:

The dream of a lost child can have several meanings, so we strongly recommend that you analyze all the details of your dream in as much detail as possible.

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