Fathers Who Wound
The two most impactful human relationships in your life are the first two relationships. The relationship you had with your mother and father has had a life-long influence and you. There’s a saying in counseling that “whatever went right or wrong in childhood will show up in adulthood.” Since I work with clients who carry father wounds, in this blog I’m going to focus on the father, and specifically the father who wounds his kids so that they enter adulthood incapacitated in some way.
Types Of Wounding Fathers
Here are three general categories of fathers who negatively impact their children’s emotions, attachment styles, and ways of thinking, creating anxieties that, in adulthood, cause them to sabotage their own happiness:
Absent fathers. This includes fathers who walk out on their families or die young, or fathers who disengage after divorce, or fathers who come in and out of the family’s life, or it’s fathers who are separated from their family by career, sickness, or incarceration.
Distant fathers. This includes fathers who are in the room but emotionally unengaged, or fathers addicted to drugs or alcohol and therefore present but emotionally not present, or it’s fathers who are workaholics and don’t have time or emotional energy for their family.
Toxic fathers. This includes fathers who are critical and unpleasable, or fathers who either reject or neglect their children, or fathers who are narcissistic, arrogant and self-centered with no empathy, or fathers who betray their family by having an affair, or it is fathers who are their kids’ “best friend” but not their parent.
The Impact Of Fathers
So many vital areas of your life such as the ability to have a satisfying and committed relationship, to find fulfillment in work, to be assertive, to be a good parent, all depend on whether you had a healthy or unhealthy relationship with your father. An unhealthy paternal relationship usually results in problems with commitment, fear of abandonment or fear of rejection, difficulty communicating, low emotional intelligence, to name a few. Here are six areas of that are affected by your relationship with your father:
Self-Esteem. When a father constantly gives encouragement, approval, and validation to his children, it forms self-esteem and self-confidence in the child. Also, when a father is self-confident himself, it gives the child a role-model to emulate. But when a father sends (overtly or covertly – with words and actions or by withholding words and actions) to his child that they are not important or that he does not approve of them and accept them, the child will believe that message and therefore will value others and not value him or herself. For example, a daughter will tend to become attracted to men who put her down or neglect her.
Identity. Fathers exemplify masculinity and masculine behavior to their children. If your father set a healthy example of masculinity and healthy male behavior, then that allowed you to gain confidence about your own masculinity or femininity. However, if he was a weak man or a distant man, you may have developed mixed signals about your own identity.
Relationships. We learn from our parents to be either happily or unhappily married. Usually, we mirror the kind of bond and the kind of behavior that our parents had. If you are a woman, your father was the first man you knew up close and he imprinted on you the template for what a man and a husband should be. If you are a man, your father imprinted on you the template for the kind of man and husband you should be.
Career. The importance your father placed on his work and the way he thought about work and career also imprinted on you and you mirror his attitudes and approaches in your own work and career. If he was a workaholic who had little time for his family, you will most likely do the same as an adult. Or, if he hated his work and maybe couldn’t keep a job, you may find yourself in the same predicament.
Parenting. When we graduate high school, no one hands us a manual on how to be a parent. We learn that from our parents. Fathers teach us the parenting roles that men and women play. The roles your father and mothers took and the manner in which they parented you will show up in the way you parent your children. Every young parent, at some point, hears their mother or father’s voice and words coming out of their own mouth.
Values. Fathers who have deeply held values and beliefs that they live out before them have a powerful impact on the beliefs and values that their children will have as adults. If mom took the children to church while dad stayed home watching football, the odds are great that the children, especially the sons, will emulate their father when they get older.
If you are struggling with father issues, I encourage you to read more about family therapy, and then reach out to us at Christian Counseling Associates for an appointment to get you help. I specialize in the wounds of a father and would be honored to help you work through your issues.
A.J. Molina is a Licensed Professional Counselor. He holds a Master’s Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from LeTourneau University. He is also a Certified Life Coach with the Dale Carnegie Highest Achievement Award. He is a SYMBIS (Save Your Marriage Before It Starts) Facilitator, as well as a Prepare/Enrich Facilitator. He is a member of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy and the Psi Chi International Honor Society.