The Family Hero, or “Morticia and the Psychiatrist”: Part I

Remember the wondrously insane and macabre Addams family? (“They’re creepy and they’re kooky, mysterious and spooky/They’re all together ooky. . . .”)

They were the anti-Partridge family, the inverse Brady Bunch, fabulously perverse, with two ghastly children, Wednesday (as in “Wednesday’s child is full of woe”), and her partner-in-crime Pugsley, whose unique hobby is stealing road signs–for room decoration–and is quite fond of his slimy pet Octopus, named–but of course!–Aristotle.

But in the “Morticia and the Psychiatrist” episode, Pugsley is simply not himself, and his parents are deeply worried.

Pugsley ditches Aristotle and replaces him with a puppy, actually plays the All-American game of baseball, and–horror of horrors!–puts on a Boy Scout uniform. Morticia and husband Gomez are gripped by fears that their child might be headed for normalcy–so they march him into the psychiatrist’s office for some straightening out.

So what is the fear that so catalyzes Pugsley’s parents to head for treatment? It is this precise thought pattern, so familiar to dysfunctional families everywhere: If Pugsley acts normal, why then, mightn’t everybody think the entire family is normal?

And the answer to this is yes–they might. And thus the concept of the Family Hero is born–and it is a role every dysfunctional family wants someone within their ranks to play, for the job of this Family Hero is to demonstrate to onlookers near and far that the family from which the hero hails from is just fine.

The child who defines the family’s self-worth, and keeps ugly familial secrets hidden, is the Family Hero–and what a row they have to hoe, as we’ll read more about next post.


I help adults and adolescents through the particular struggles of our time: tension between couples, parenting frustration, blending new families, separation and divorce, (un)employment, cancer, and loss. When relationships come to an impasse, I use mediation techniques to try to ensure that each party will have his/her needs heard and accounted for in a dignified way. In addition to talking, listening, and reframing, I utilizes the tools of metaphor, active teaching, role-playing, visualization, and hypnotherapy.for families and businesses, as well as in cases of divorce.

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