Scars From The Father Wound
One of the areas I specialize in is the father wound. No matter how hard a man tries to be a good father, there is no such thing as a perfect father. We all fall short and wind up wounding our children in some way and to some degree. When a father is absent physically or emotionally, when a father is a workaholic, when a father is a perfectionist, when a father is critical, negative, unpleasable, or abusive, when a father is crippled by personal “demons” such as depression, anxiety, trauma, or addiction, the result is wounded children who carry those father-wounds into adulthood. As I help clients with father-wounds, I’ve noticed some common consequences of those wounds, scars of father-wounds that people carry. You might recognize some of these scars in yourself.
Children wrongly believe that everything bad that happens around them is somehow because of them. If their parents fought all the time, if their father abused their mother, if their parents divorced, if their father abandoned the family, they believe that it is their fault. They think that they weren’t enough, they didn’t do enough, they weren’t good enough, they weren’t worthy enough, or things would have been better. Some fathers actually tell their children things like that, while others imply it. As adults, your inner child still believes that you are not worthy of good things or are not good enough, and the result is a low opinion of yourself and a lack of self-confidence.
Growing up in a home with an absent father, an unpleasable father, a critical father, or a perfectionist father who made you feel that you had to earn his love and approval, is a breeding ground for anxiety. If that was your home life, now in your adult life, you are probably still trying to be good enough, worthy enough, successful enough, and no matter how much you achieve, have, or do, that inner voice still says, “You got an A-? Next time, get an A+.”
Many with father wounds carry anger at their father. Often, they won’t allow themselves to admit that anger or express it. So, they push their anger down and internalize it until they become depressed.
Others with father wounds don’t repress their anger; they express their anger. They are angry with their father and are stuck in that anger. Maybe your father used substances, was abusive, lied, was unreliable, made life miserable, and deeply wounded you. As a result, you may displace your anger with things like road rage or out-of-control angry fights with your partner.
If your father was unreliable and didn’t show up when he was supposed to, or made promises he often broke, or left and was just not there for you, you may have decided to keep that from ever happening again and you have closed yourself off and don’t let people get close. This is self-protection. It is lonely and has its own kind of pain, but in your mind, the pain of being let down and hurt by people you are close to is worse than the pain of being closed off.
Some people go to the other extreme and decide to let everyone into their lives and be available to anyone any time. As a child wounded by your father, you decided to transfer your love to everyone else, and now you can’t say no. You are a people-pleaser. You couldn’t get your father’s approval, so you try to earn everyone else’s by saying yes to everything and everyone. This has its own kind of misery because you become stretched too thin. You can’t please all the people all the time, as the saying goes, but you keep trying and it’s too much.
Repeating The Pattern
It’s not unusual for people with father-wounds to unconsciously seek the same kind of person in romantic relationships. There is often a subconscious desire to repair the father-wound by having a relationship with a person that creates the same feelings as the father. The person may be unreliable, may be hurtful, may be unpleasable, but those traits and the feelings they arouse are familiar. Having a relationship with someone who is consistent, reliable, and approving is unfamiliar and makes you feel uneasy. You’re like Gollum in “Lord of the Rings,” who both loves and hates the ring. You love and hate the relationship that is just like the one you had with your father.
You also may be repeating the parenting pattern of your father. Your father was absent and you swore that you wouldn’t do that; you would be available and present with your children. Then you become a parent, and you discovered that you don’t know how to be a father because you never had an example of a good father. So, you bury yourself in your work, you work long hours, you play golf on the weekends with your friends…you avoid being at home because you don’t know how to talk to your children or interact with them or be the parent you should be. And you wind up being exactly what your father was, absent. Or critical, or unpleasable, or abusive, or whatever your father was…that’s you now.
If these “scars” sound familiar, and you would like to talk about your father-wound and how it affects your life, I urge you to read about anxiety and then reach out to us at Christian Counseling Associates. Ask for A.J. Molina and mention “father wounds.” We can schedule a free consultation to get you started on the road to healing.