Perspectives

How Men Stay Stuck in Father Wounds

10 May, 2021

…and How to Get Unstuck

The father wound is an emotional scar that results from unhealthy relationships with our fathers. When we feel resentful of our fathers in some way, because they left, or they were abusive, or they just weren’t good at communicating their feelings, we experience our unresolved father wound. As a result, we feel lost, or angry, like we are missing a vital piece of our emotional intelligence and communication skills that should have been passed down to us from our fathers.

The father wound shows up in many different ways

One of the easiest ways to identify an unhealed father wound is by analyzing our attitudes towards other men, particularly when we first meet them. When we have a father wound that needs healing, we instinctively distrust other men. We have a hard time flashing the first smile, or making that first introduction. We keep our cards close, and are slow to open up to new friendships with men.

Part of this behavior is just a product of “guy culture” – by nature, we are more private and come across as less friendly or welcoming than women. But there is a difference between that culture of reservedness and the assumption of malicious intent that we project onto the men around us. When we experience the latter, it’s a sign that we need to work on our father wound.

The father wound also manifests itself in the form of the victim mindset. We project responsibility from our wounded selves onto other people, making ourselves the victim and blaming others for our faults and shortcomings. We may also experience an unexplained emotional touchiness, or quick temper. This touchiness might be tough to see at first, but it reflects an inability to take full responsibility for our experience. We come off as slightly miffed that this is happening to us, rather than recognizing ourselves as empowered participants.

Unresolved father wounds hurt ourselves, our partners, and our children

When we let a father wound grow without resolving it, we find ourselves addressing symptoms of the wound without addressing the underlying problem. Often, we don’t even realize what that problem is. As a result, we feel inadequate but we don’t know why.

Next, we start trying to blame other people in our lives for how things have turned out. We don’t recognize that there is a residual piece of our problems we haven’t addressed, because we don’t realize it’s there, sitting near the bottom of our “emotional heap”. If we could work on minimizing this underlying piece, it would allow a lot of pressure on top of the heap to be alleviated, and then we wouldn’t have to work so hard at addressing the surface-level behaviours and emotions anymore.

This takes courage and the willingness to shift and change our patterning.

Unresolved father wounds residing in one or both partners in a relationship can cause problems. The strained relationship with one’s father becomes a looming, unseen, but clearly-felt presence in the room that affects how one partner interacts with the other. Until we resolve this trauma, we risk acting out towards our partner and even passing it down to our children in invisible ways. We may unknowingly have a negative effect on our children’s ability to engage in relationships as they get older.

Seeking a feminine healing presence is not the answer

Men will often seek nurture and care from the women in their lives, but sometimes, this need for emotional care comes from a misguided place. There is nothing wrong with seeking nurturing from a feminine partner, but if we can’t take responsibility for our own lives, our anger, and our resentment, we can’t expect women to take on that burden for us.

When you begin to expect an all-nurturing and healing role from your partner, you abuse your relationship and you wear down your partner. As men, we have to take responsibility for our the ways our needs manifest in our relationships. Our needs are our needs, after all. And our anger is our responsibility.

Beginning to heal

Men often assume their father needs to be part of the healing process. Those with absent fathers, or fathers who have passed away, often feel as though they cannot work on this wound because their father is not around to share in the repair process and benefit from that repaired bond. But this thinking just lets us off the hook and puts off the hard work that is ours to do.

In actuality, we can heal by ourselves. We can embody the full gifts of the masculine in our own lives, without needing our father’s permission, or even his presence. Once we’ve learned how to heal and connect better with our masculine selves, we can begin to devote our full, committed attention and energy to things that actually matter. And we can do it in a way that’s clean, that no longer has any whiff of resentment or fear.

Use boundaries to structure healing

One way to begin healing the father wound is by setting boundaries regarding our fathers and their presence in our lives.

These could be boundaries we lay out for our father – for example, we could set a boundary stating how we want to parent our children, and how we expect our father to respect that. We have to make it clear what our expectations are for our father-son relationship going forward, and make sure our dad knows that we aren’t playing by his rules any more.

We can also start healing the father wound by setting boundaries with – or about – our children. For example, we can set boundaries for ourselves about how we treat our children, or we could start teaching our children about mutual respect, self-advocacy, and what it means to be family.

These types of boundaries are healthy ways to start healing that father wound and decreasing its lingering effects on our relationships and our families.

You can express gratitude for your blessings without having to forgive

The most important part of healing a father wound is recognizing that your parents have already provided you with the world’s biggest blessing: giving you life. Simply because you’re on the earth, you have been blessed, and this blessing doesn’t change just because your relationship with a parent has turned sour. Therefore, in order to move forward with your life, you need to reflect on your life and feel gratitude for your father bringing you into the world.

You don’t necessarily need to forgive him for what was withheld, or what was given but shouldn’t have been given, or what was done to you that shouldn’t have been done. All you need to do is recognize that your father put you on this earth, and infused in your body the life force that you have. Try to turn towards that feeling, rather than away from it – not to make yourself subservient, but to recognize that you came through and from him.

One way to do this is to tape an image of him on a window, backlit by the sun. When you gaze up at this image, even with all the hatred, confusion or resentment you may experience (or love, or nothing at all), recognize this is where you come from. This is your source. You are alive because of it. Give thanks. This may be hard at first, but feeling what you feel during this exercise will make you much better equipped to handle other relationships in your life- with other men, coworkers, partner, kids and spouse.

When you can do that, you will have shifted from a mentality of looking back in blame to looking forward with a sense of humility, responsibility, clarity, and generosity, which you can then pass on to your own children. This is the work of healing the father wound.

If you’d like any help with this, feel free to schedule a connect call with me. I’d love to talk it out and see how we can support you in getting some relief.