I remember the seething, white-hot rage I felt inside. I wanted to burn shit down or blow it up and leave a trail of ashes behind me. I had finally connected the dots between a father who was emotionally absent and impossible to please and the men I had attracted into my life. Guess what? They were emotionally absent and impossible to please, too.
When you don’t receive that unconditional love and support from the man who is supposed to teach you how men should treat you, then you’re likely to make poor choices in the relationship department. You keep trying to be good enough. You twist and mold yourself into whatever shape you think he desires. You make too many compromises about where and how you’ll live. You sell yourself out. You get swept away. You bury your dreams. You dismiss your gut feelings. You keep hoping that the next one will really see you, appreciate you, and actually be there for you in body and soul.
So you try—again—to love someone else, to be open, to get past the scars on your heart. You light up inside when he approves of you and die a little when he doesn’t, because the wound is still there. You’re still hoping to earn his love. You have expectations he can’t possibly fulfill. It’s not even his job to fulfill them, but you don’t know that yet. Every relationship you have with a man is just another opportunity to heal the bleeding, gaping Father Wound, but the problem is that you’re not going to the source.
Then you get fed up after all the painful goodbyes and starting over for the umpteenth time with your life in cardboard boxes. You want things to change. A light comes on. You start doing the work on yourself, because why not? Nothing else has helped, has it?
You see the pattern you’ve been repeating. It feels like wading through miles of swamp water and muck. You grieve. You rage some more. You feel disgusted. You kick yourself for not waking up sooner, for not knowing what you think you should have known. Then you kick yourself for kicking yourself. You sit in circles, alone and with others. You tell your story. You listen to their stories. You feel heard and witnessed as you are, raw and unvarnished. You shed holy tears. You forgive. You breathe. You do this work for months or years, however long it takes.
Gradually, with wobbly legs and new skin, you begin to give yourself the love you never received. It is strange, at first, to walk in worthiness, to know your own power, to have clear boundaries, to not seek validation. Then self-worth becomes your default setting, and those around you either adjust or fall away. You know your triggers quite well; they are old friends by now. You catch yourself long before you are at risk of falling into the same old tar pit.
Sometimes, your healing ripples outward through your words, your prayers, your offerings.
I have watched my father go through his own metamorphosis, prompted mostly by terminal illness and the realization of his own mortality. We’ve had many conversations that usually start out with how the weather has been, who is ill, and who died recently. There have been times, though, when we transcended the whole father-daughter relationship to simply be with each other as two souls trying to figure out life.
I once told him that I never learned how to do marriage very well.
He paused for a minute and said, “I never did either, honey.”
Then we laughed! It was one of the most real moments we’ve ever had, both acknowledging that we’ve fucked up and even finding humor in our mutual fucked-up-ness.
I understand now that I had to go through this whole cycle of healing the Father Wound, because you can’t teach something that you haven’t lived. I didn’t ask for the wound, but the responsibility to heal it was, and always will be, mine. Much of what informs and enlivens my coaching practice is my own journey toward wholeness. It took years for my rage to become compassion, years before I would see my father as the catalyst who set me on my spiritual path, and years before I could have a 360 degree view of it all and feel gratitude.
Healing the father wound changed how I viewed all men, and maybe that has been the greatest gift in this journey. When I stopped categorizing them as either oppressors or saviors, I began to see into their individual and collective pain. It was just as valid and deep as my own, and that awareness cracked me open. It still does, every single time that a man drops his armor and bares his soul to me.
My dad has an incredibly sensitive heart—he just had it beaten out of him by a tyrannical, abusive father and an indifferent mother. In another life, he might have been a poet and a dreamer like his only daughter turned out to be. I carry what he wasn’t allowed to carry because of a patriarchal culture that equates sensitivity with weakness. I carry it like a medicine staff, because it is one.
May we rise above the outdated paradigms. May we heal our parental wounds, for ourselves and the generations to come. May we strive to understand each other, and in that understanding, may we find peace.
Copyright © 2018 Jennifer R. Miller. All rights reserved.