Saturday, April 29, 2006

Like father, like son

More disturbing than being evaluated based solely on one's physical appearance (which is probably more offensive than disturbing) is being given the valid and accurate critique of character: "You are turning into your father." One is born with one's looks--there's nothing one can do about that... but character is formed from without and from our choices, and perhaps there is no greater influence on a male than his father, especially between birth and adolescence. What a heavy responsibility fathers have, and yet their role has been minimized and denigrated in contemporary culture.

Some of those who have witnessed and experienced the failures of their fathers may react rightly against those failures, once they understand how negative their consequences upon themselves and other members of the family are. (Especially if children bond more quickly with the mother, and she is the target of abuse.) Of course, there will be strong feelings towards the father, perhaps a revolt. An extreme reaction may even develop, a rejection of all that is male, both good and bad masculine traits. Unfortunately, others are instead influenced by what they see and become tyrants when dealing with their women and children.

What can one do when the Christian ideal of husband and father is not adhered to in one's own family? And how often do we adopt the habits and behaviors of our fathers, either consciously or subconsciously, even though on some level we know we shouldn't? Despite the intention to avoid perpetuating the cycle of bad interpersonal dynamics between spouses, we are often weighed down by our actions flowing from what we have absorbed from others. How many psychic wounds are there to be healed?

One can see the impact of absent (whether physically or emotionally) fathers on family life in the children. Children who yearn for a father figure in their lives and affirmation from them. Sons and daughters who are left without a good masculine model in their lives. Boys and girls who suffer, unnoticed at school; many reaching out to the first male that will give them the attention they need. Others who act out, being violent in their pathetic attempt to deal with the violence in their lives. How sad is the child who has no one to hold his or her hand...

What of our daughters who do not have the fatherly guidance and affection they need, and end up in destructive relationships? Looking for love from men and compromising themselves in their need of a stable relationship, because the first man in their lives wasn't there for them. The illusions that they strive to maintain, despite the awareness that all is not all well.

Lord, have mercy.

Drs. Conrad Baars and Anna Terruwe wrote of emotional deprivation disorder, and of the negative effects of repressing the emotions, especially anger, both from a Thomistic point of view. (Incidentally, they argue for this repression being one cause of OCD.) EPD should be nothing more than a fancy name for something people should have a 'common sense' grasp of, but good parenting skills are acquired, not innate, and need to be grounded in good character.

Website for Conraad Baars. Healing the Unaffirmed. Psychic Wholeness and Healing. Feeling and Healing Your Emotions.

Paul Vitz has written on the impact of bad fathering upon religious belief. (see 1, 2 and 3, Faith of the Fatherless) His website. (academic page) See also the Institute for Psychological Sciences, where Dr. Vitz is a faculty member.

1 comment:

Lady Downstairs said...

My father is, by any standard, an excellent man, honourable and kindly, respected by his colleagues and his students, and loved by his wife and children. He is generous and my last line of defence, save God, my never failing rock on whom I can depend.

Nevertheless, I have managed to date a series of creeps whose wickedness I could scarcely fathom. How can this be? I wonder. It's a sorrowful mystery.