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Fathers and Daughters

Women Share Their Views

Copyright © 1999 by Bert H. Hoff, on behalf of individual discussants

 

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Fathers - important to daughters








Fathering Daughters: Reflections by Men
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Are fathers important in daughters' lives? Is it worse to have an absent father, or an abusive father? As participants on the Men's Bulletin Board on The Microsoft Network grappled with the latter question, a number of women began to speak about the importance of fathers in daughters' lives, and how an absent or abusive father affects the daughters.

Mythopoetic "men's work" has focused on the "father wound," the emptiness, pain and anger men feel in their lives when a father is absent or emotionally abusive. It has also focused on raising sons. But, to date, not a lot has been said on the impact of of absent or abusive fathers on daughters' lives, and what this has meant to the daughter.

Here are excerpts from a recent discussions on the Men's Community's main Bulletin Board on The Microsoft Network. The conversation moves from general comments, into women's personal stories as they begin to feel safe about talking about their own experiences.

(Please note: Bulletin Board posts are frequently composed on the fly. There may be problems with flow, continuity, grammar, spelling and the like. But their content is from the heart. I urge you to focus on the content, not the literary style.)

As this thread begins, Rene is responding to an article on fatherlessness that appeared on MSNBC.

Rene:

Bert,

Interesting article...and depressing.

I know at school, we always comment on the fact that we can easily pick out the kids who have a father positively active and involved in their lives...it shows in all areas, academic, social, and behavioral.

Im curious on your opinions on why the absence of a father leads such a high number of girls to end up as pregnant teens....I've often heard the stats on the high number of "fatherless" boys turning to violence/crime, but this is the first direct reference I've read in regard to the girls.

Rene


Ron:

I think that they lack a certain amount of the kind of discipline that their father's provide typically. I know that my mother's and father's ideas of what constituted discipline were different. There also might be two other things. Perhaps they need a father, and somehow sense that need, and try to get married (via the pregnancy route) to get that kind of female to male relationship. I am kind of coorelating the different relationships of my life in thinking about this, my relationship to my mother, and my relationship to my daughter, my relationship to my father, etc.

The last thing that I can think of is that many of them are just trying to get away from their mother. Perhaps many of them blame their mother for the loss of their father. Or perhaps the mother tends to be a little more corrupted having lived in a world where she is the supreme ruler of the house, and the daughter just doesn't like the kind of person that mother typically becomes without the father.

Hmmm as I wrote this, one last idea came to mind. In a lot of cases, a single mother might date, or have men over. This cannot really be hidden from the kids the way a lot of mothers kid themselves into thinking that it can. Having the suggestion around, it occurs to the child that, well, if mom does it, it must be okay....

Of course, it could be a combination of some of these too. Nothing says it has to be a single factor.

Just some thoughts.

Ron


Rene:

Ron,

Thanks for your thoughts. I would agree that it can't be one single factor, and is probably a combination of the ones you describe, as well as a host of others.


Carron:

rene,

Promiscuity and pregnancy are classic outcomes of fatherless daughters. They're looking to define a male image for themselves through love and attention from the only available outlet - a boyfriend. She thinks he will love her if she 'gives' him what he most desires. It's as simple as that. I saw it repeated over and over again in the urban community I grew up in.

It truly is a different culture in projects and Section 8 neighborhoods where mothers are predominantly heads of households. Children bring each other up during the 'latchkey' periods many of them go through daily. Gangs are the new loyalty that teens replace family with, girls think nothing of getting pregnant because they "want a baby to love", transitory relationships, no health care, dealing with addiction and/or abuse/neglect....these kids are going nowhere right from the start. It's heartbreaking. I'm not surprised you can recognize them.

Carron


Rene:

Carron,

I see the same things in the community where I've worked for the last ten years. It's so cyclical, and becomes a way of life generation after generation. And you see the internal struggles....on one hand, these girls strongly desire a man who will be a father/husband and a constant positive presence in their life as well as their childrens....and on the other hand, they distrust men because of their experience growing up without a father, and therefore dont really expect him to stick around once they've gotten pregnant. So you watch them waver back and forth between "love me, stay with me" and "go away, I know you won't stay anyway."

Rene


Dan:

Rene,

Actually, it is very common, but I've not heard any stats before either. What I have seen is that a daughter needs a father just as much as a boy. In a nutshell you could say a girl learns how to be a woman from mom and what it means to be a woman from dad. If dad isn't available, interested or doesn't know what to say, then she won't learn this valuable lesson from "the first man in her life." Mythopoetically, dad needs to be "the one who got away." That is, she must make an intimate, loving connection with dad after puberty, but that relationship must not be consumated, if your will, he must "get away." This leaves the daughter with the knowledge of what it feels like to be in an intimate loving relationship with a man, it gives her a model on which she will test all future suitors. But if dad isn't around, then what model does she have? Or if dad crosses the line and is incestuous what model does she have? Dad "activates" the sexual life of the daughter much like mom does it for boys. He acknowledges her sexuality and attractiveness. If she doesn't get it, then it's not surprising that she goes looking for this "activation" and ends up pregnant.



Women and Their Fathers
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Father Loss
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See Victoria Secunda, Women and Their Fathers, the sexual and romantic imipact of the first man in your life.

And Elyce Wakerman, Father Loss, daughters discuss the man that got away.

Dan Bollinger
Wabash Men's Council
http://www.themenscenter.com/wabashmen


Rene:

Dan,

It makes sense, but like I said, I'd not seen one attributed directly to the other before.

I fully agree that a girl needs a father, and that from that father is her first perceptions of what it is like to be in a loving relationship. It was one of the biggest motivators to finally get out of my marriage...I saw the damage that was being done to my daughter..(and son.) I didn't want her to grow up thinking she was supposed to be treated by her mate as i was being treated. How would she have known any different?

Jeez..you and Bert with the book recommendations.... Don't ya'all ever read any Stephan King just for fun?

Rene


Lou:

Found this in my files:

Mavis Hetherington, a psychologist, conducted a fascinating study of white, lower middle-class daughters between the ages of 13 and 17 and divided them into three groups, 1) those whose fathers were absent because of divorce, and who the daughter seldom saw; 2) girls whose fathers had died and left no father substitutes; and 3) girls who lived in intact two-parent families.

After scrupulous observations of these daughters talking to male and female interviewers, Dr. Hetherington concluded that adolescent girls growing up without fathers felt less personal control over their lives, and had more difficulty dealing with males of the species. They had no such experience in the center of their family lives.

Lou


Bert:

Rene,

I'm not sure if there's any research on the subject. The thought I have are really just speculations on my part. I'll leave it to others to decide if they "hold water."

The first is that there's a subtle by-play between a father and a teen-age daughter. (One that not all fathers play well - sometimes they simply withdraw any and all affection, hugging, or comments about beauty or being appealing.) The father sees the daughter blossom into a young woman. He admires, in appropriate ways, her beauty and even her budding sensuality. In that respect, he models "gentlemanly behavior" towards her. She can be admired and loved, without doing anything but being her. She can feel good about who she is. The father can also talk subtlely about raging hormones - the "I gotta! I gotta!" syndrome.

If there's no father in the house, what's the model for masculinity? It may be an uncle, or whomever, or a step-father. But that's not the same thing. (I know I have limits that Ian's father does not have, in dealing with Ian.) But the main "modeling" is peers - and especially the media. What do movies and TV tell teens, nowadays, about the development of healthy sexual relationships?

The second idea comes from a common pattern among female survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Too often, they are both promiscuous and man-hating. Offering to men what it was that drew them close to their fathers. And simultaneously hating men for only wanting that. Realize, here, that I'm talking about unhealed survivors, and only some unhealed survivors. The pattern is sick, from the moment the girl is victimized. It is the sickness that is acting out this perverse behavior, not the yet-undiscovered healthy little girl inside. But what these survivors are doing is trying to win the love, the approval, the blessing, of their fathers, in the only way they know how. For men, in "Men's Work" we talk about "healing the father wound." Men try to fill the void with addictions. Booze. Drugs. Work. Sex.

Some thoughts, anyway ...

Bert


Rene:

Thanks for your thoughts, Bert.

It seems alot of the problems that young boys encounter growing up "fatherless" are transferable to young girls in the same situation. The underlying issue is the same....lack of a masculine role model.

Which do you think is a worse case scenerio? No father in their life, or an extremely poor one (not talking about incest, however...just short of sexual abuse) ? Which causes more "damage?"

Rene


Bert:

Rene,

Boy, that's sure a tough one to answer! For boys or for girls. On the "Men's Work" side we tend to fudge it with "absent or abusive fathers." (Yes, I'll agree that "abusive" for the sake of this discussion is physical and/or emotional, but not sex abuse). And "absent" is taken as "physically or emotionally" absent.

I don't have any real basis for saying this, but I guess I'd have to say that (physically) absent is worse. My Dad was at least emotionally abusive to my sister at times, because they were both incredibly strong-willed. But there were lots of "plusses," too. And there are guys whose fathers beat them regularly. They still had other, more positive memories. Now, I may not be the one to answer, because it's not an issue I've lived. But it strikes me that even when the father is abusive as can be (up to but not including real sadism, sexual perversion and the like), there's still a father to "push against," to "react against." Maybe walking away with "At least I know I'll never treat my kids like that! I saw what it did with me" might be more constructive than "I wonder what it would have been like to have a father?" ...

I'd sure like to hear what other men have to say. I know there are some whose fathers left, and some whose fathers were really abusive to them.

Bert


Bert:

Rene,

I wonder about that, too. I can't really speak to that, because I don't have the body-experience of being a woman. I imagine that the father-son relationship has a "charge" that the father-daughter one doesn't. And the father would be more brutal to the son, to "mold" him and "make him a man." No need to "toughen up" a daughter -- even if there is a need to beat her for being so "promiscuous" as to wear lipstick or a short skirt ...

And you're right about the mother's attitude toward the daughter. Speaking of which, Chenn (Cherylynn, turned 33 2 days ago) is coming into town for a week. We'll have 4 days up skiing. She was estranged, for years, because of Mom. And we'll spend some time talking about her Mom, including how Mom influenced her view of me, and how happy we both are that we have re-connected.

What else will she do? Conduct an interview with Marion Woodman, as her part in a photo-essay book a friend of hers is doing, on elder women and early feminist pioneers. So I get to mentor her in specific ways -- so her interview with Marion will be better than the two I've done with Marion. And what she doesn't use for the book will probably end up in my magazine. I can't tell you what richness there is, in sharing stuff about ritual, initiation, mentoring, and the like as our career paths intersect. (She heads a program to guide and mentor inner-city youth, run by the International Association of Machinists.)

Bert


Ron:

My view is that the absent father is generally the worst evil. I am, in this taking my own situation and reversing the sexes. I weigh that question in the balance somewhat everyday. At present, even though there is some borderline abuse, I judge that my daughter would be worse off without her mother in the home than with her.

Now, as to whether there is a difference as you go though mixing and matching the genders of the missing parent to the child, I have to reflect a bit more, and think. But, you know, I think that my answer is the same, it's just that the damaged caused by absentee is different. Now, you understand that there comes a point in any case where the abuse is just too much....you never know exactly when that is, but I think that the tendency is to underestimate the damage caused by an absent parent.

My evaluation would be different if the parent NEVER acted like a parent. In my home situation here, my daughter's mother does have "remission" periods where she is a completely normal person (except for our strained relationship) and she is an adequate (even good) mother to her/my daughter. If this were not the case, I would certainly reevaluate. I think that in most alcholic situations, it's really a lot worse than this situation we (Laura and I) are in.

Ron


Dan:

rene,

Judging from the many men I have heard discuss this very topic, it seems to play out like this. Men who have an emotionally absent father speak to the men who had physically abusive fathers and say, "At least your dad cared enough to get pissed. Having a father who didn't give a f*** is worse." The men who didn't have any father around at all say to the men who had emotionally absent fathers, "At least you had a dad to look at and watch, Having no father at all meant I had to imagine what one was." Hope this helps.

Dan


Rene:

I've heard this, as well.

I still wonder, though, if it differs from male to female. Do women who had absent fathers feel the same as these men?

I know my daughter, even at age 8, is repeatedly devastated by my ex-husband's lack of interest in her and her life. I can't imagine more pain could be caused if he were just not around to ignore or dismiss her. My son, however, seems to find comfort and acceptance in his father's presence, however limited, and despite the emotional absence. Just more questions....

Rene


Chris:

Yes


Rene:

Care to elaborate, Chris? (just kidding)

My father was what you would call emotionally absent. Hard working, responsible, but no hugs, no kind or supportive words, no attention...he was just a fixture in our lives, but not really there. I spent alot of years trying to get noticed and be "good enough" so that I would garnish his approval, adn therefore- I thought - his love.

Never did, or he never let me know i did. So I've spent my life feeling not good enough. I grew up thinking I would have rather had a vacancy in my life than a fixture I killed myself trying to get to notice me.

Rene


Chris:

Elaborate. Hmm. Not something I'm real good at but maybe I'll give it a shot. [G] I've been doing a lot of thinking about this "dad" stuff lately because of some discussions I've had with certain men about their fathers and what's happened in their lives because of them. I'm still trying to sort it all out. Sorry if all of this is a little disjointed. I'm just going to knock it out and not worry about where it goes.

My experience with my father was very much like yours. Present physically, absent emotionally. It was especially difficult for me since it was just the two of us. I learned to be quiet and not talk much because I had no one to talk to. So now when I'm with a group of people (or even one on one with someone) I tend to listen rather than talk. Oh sure I'll make jokes and play around, but I almost never open up and share my thoughts.

I don't think I ever realized how important it was to me to have his approval for what I did and who I was. He never said anything that lead me to believe I needed to better myself or work harder. He never praised me for my efforts. He never said much of anything unless it was to criticize me. It made me think that I wasn't good enough, that I'd never be good enough, so why bother trying?

It took me a long time to realize that I'm doing okay. I'm not perfect, but I'm getting there. I don't need someone else's approval for what I do. I just need to please me and maybe try not to hurt too many folks in the process.

Do I miss my dad? No. No I really, honestly don't. How can you miss something you never really had?

Chris


Jimmy:

How can you NOT miss something that you never knew ? All of us are prone to ponder that "which might have been". I know that I am. I think that some of us are better off never having known that which we cloak in such grand illusions. Reality is, sometimes, a stern, but mercifull teacher.

Jimmy C


Rene:

Thanks, Chris, for the elaboration...I can relate to alot of that.

I just need to please me and maybe try not to hurt too many folks in the process.

Amazing how hard it is to reach this point within yourself. I'm still trying, probably always will be. It's much easier to please others and ignore yourself.

How can you miss something you never really had?

I missed it only because at some point I realized that the way my father was wasn't how other fathers were. I saw my friends with very involved loving fathers, and it made me long for my dad to be the same way.

It made me think that I wasn't good enough, that I'd never be good enough, so why bother trying?

And with me, it just made me try harder. Which made the "failing" even harder, and the consequence of feeling even less than good enough. A viscious cycle for sure.


Chris:

It's much easier to please others and ignore yourself.

Yes it is. I still find myself trying to solve other people's problems instead of working on my own. Much easier to bury the pain than to address it and work your way through it. Sometimes helping others boomerangs on you though. You think you're helping them when all of a sudden your own stuff comes to the surface and you end up dealing with it.

I missed it only because at some point I realized that the way my father was wasn't how other fathers were. I saw my friends with very involved loving fathers, and it made me long for my dad to be the same way.

I just wanted him to show me that he loved me. He didn't until my ex sort of forced/shamed us into hugging each other once. It's about the only thing I'm grateful to him for. I knew when he hugged me that he cared about me. It didn't really make us any closer to each other though. We still weren't able to talk to each other.

And with me, it just made me try harder. Which made the "failing" even harder, and the consequence of feeling even less than good enough. A viscious cycle for sure.

I knew somewhere inside that I was good enough. My friends, my teachers, my grades, the ease with which I learned things, so many other things, told me that I was good. Better than others at some things. But his criticism made me feel less than others. His ignoring me made me think that I was worthless. If I didn't matter to the one person who mattered most to me, what good was I to anyone else?

I still fight with that. I still feel as if I don't matter to anyone. When I get depressed, that's what it's all about. I'm not important. I don't matter. No one loves me. Boo hoo. Rejection sends me into a tailspin. But as I said to you once, I'm like a cork. I keep bobbing back up. It doesn't keep me down for long because deep down I know it's not true. I do matter to someone out there. I have friends who care and who show it. So to hell with the ones who don't.

--

Chris


Rene:

Chris,

I knew somewhere inside that I was good enough. My friends, my teachers, my grades, the ease with which I learned things, so many other things, told me that I was good.

For me, all those things were just ways that I tried to get my father to see I was good enough. When he didn't "notice" it reinforced to me that I wasn't, no matter what all those external things showed.

His ignoring me made me think that I was worthless. If I didn't matter to the one person who mattered most to me, what good was I to anyone else?

Exactly. That's the issue I struggled with well into adulthood. Still do, to some degree. I don't expect anyone to really care about me or believe I am worthwhile...after all, my own father didn't (or so I believed).

But as I said to you once, I'm like a cork. I keep bobbing back up. It doesn't keep me down for long because deep down I know it's not true.

One of the things i admire most about you. I am not able to do that, so that's why I protect myself with a carefully guarded wall. Very few get in, because I know I am not one to just bob back up :-)

I do matter to someone out there. I have friends who care and who show it. So to hell with the ones who don't.

Hey, yeah ! Me, too !!


Kathy:

Rene and Chris,

My father said things that made me develop into a thinking, acting person. Where his holding back hurt me was that I thought I was ugly because he always said things like, "Beauty is only skin deep....Beauty is a fading thing....Beauty is only skin deep." I accepted that as his way of telling me I was never going to be anywhere close to beautiful. (Now I realize he did not want me to sit back and expect that my looks were good enough. My husband always said that one of the things that really attracted him to me is that I had an ugly girl's personality but wasn't ugly.) Even when I was modeling, I thought it was only because people liked my look, not because I was model quality....Between that and a drooping eyelid, I grew up being terribly shy. My mother sent me to modeling school to see if they could get me to be less shy. It's good she did because when he had his first heart attack just before I graduated from high school, college was out, and I had to go to work. I at least had a way of making a living--but it was so painful to have people look at me....I grew up confident in my mental abilities, but unconfident about myself physically. I think little girls have to know that their daddies think they are not ugly.

Kathy


Kathy:

Although my father was old-fashioned and didn't want me to do lots of things, he really loved his mother and women. He was much more responsible for my having graduated from high school at 16 than my mother. He was the person responsible, I now know, for me to be a competitor--something most men thought a female should not be. He was responsible for the good part of my knowing I could do it better than any boy, if I tried hard enough and worked hard enough. He was also, though, probably responsible for that rebellious streak I have always had that sometimes broke loose.

I wish I could go back and do it over again. I would show him how much I loved him--even if he couldn't openly show me...or, maybe, had I been different, he might've been different.

Kathy


Kathy:

Chris,

You do not miss your dad because you feel he was not there for you--but you really do miss that you didn't have a dad who could/would behave differently....What is sad is that your dad probably did love you, but could not tell you or show you.

I was afraid of my father. He never did anything to make me afraid. I just was. Now I know how very much of an influence he was in my life, how proud he actually was of me, and how much he cared about me. I wish it had been possible for me to know before he died at 50. He and I mostly talked through my Mom as translator. We were learning to talk after I got married, and he wasn't worried about me any more. His life just ended too soon.

Kathy


Margie:

Kathy,

You said you were afraid of your father. My daughter recently told me she was afraid of her father. I'm puzzled as to why (she says, like you did, she "just is"). He has never done anything to hurt her. I remember being afraid of tall men or loud men when I was a kid, but my father was neither of those and I wasn't afraid of him. But to this day, I have a hard time with raised voices (my parents never had to spank me, all they had to do was raise their voices to reduce me to tears) and my husband does tend to get rather loud when he gets worked up about something. Maybe that's the problem. He's not actually angry, usually, but he does sound that way. (I usually just ask him how far away he thinks I am, and he'll lower the decible level a bit ). Just wondering if you had any insight on how to deal with this from your experience.

Margie


Cherylynn:

(Cherylynn is Bert's daughter)

Dan,

I agree with your statement "at least he had a Dad to look at." Having someone there, whether a positive or negative model, is a whole lot better than having no one at all...a void. The void is like a big, huge gaping hole. The not-knowing is gnawing. Some people spend their whole lives searching for the thing they never knew. Whether literally or metaphorically. Sometimes its better just to know because eventually you just get to the point where you know, you finally just accept, and you move on. It's the not-knowing that is gnawing. You need someone against whom to struggle to form your identity. If there's nothing to throw your experiments of identity against you experience the void... severe identity crisis. And lack of identity is what most youth rage against. An abusive parent is extremely damaging to be sure. But the child, in their struggle to formulate their identity, needs someone to begin to emulate. Or to counter-emulate. Without the parent there there's nothing. A void. A hole. A gaping hole that gnaws. I have come to know at the most intuitive level that if I didn't come to terms or resolve my relationship with my father, I would never have a healthy relationship with a man. There are positive and negative things associated with my relationship with my father over the years. I didn't have a relationship with him for several. Commencing my relationship with my father was one of the hardest things I did. And I was the one who reached out and had no guarantee what the results would be. But I knew that I had to find some way to fit him back into my life and accept him for what he was with all his limitations. I got the gift of being blessed with being able to see the beauty. The Void is worse.

Cherylynn Hoff


Dan:

Cherylynn,

Thanks for writing that touching story. I'm sorry you had that experience and very glad you had the courage to do something about it. That must have been a scary step to take, you made the decision to replace the idealized father you had created with a real-life, warts and all variety. I understand the searching without knowing what. It's the yelling and screaming, pulling your hair out futility of it that makes it so frustrating. I'm glad it worked out for you. How's your relationships with men now?

Dan


Cherylynn:

Dan:

Thank you for your response. Hmmm. How are my relationships with men now? I just had my 33rd Birthday a few days ago. I had my close friends and family to dinner and I did a little ceremony honoring each one and the value and special place each holds in my life. I am still warm and glowing inside with gratitude for the love I have in my life. I think the love was always there, but my ability to honor the love and to give the love freely myself is what has changed. At the dinner were several men. My step dad, my brother and a handful of close men friends. I am comfortable and proud of the relationships I have with all of them. I try to make my relations with each honest and straightforward and I try to accept each for who they are. Accepting their limitations as their personal limitations and not assaults against me was a long and slow paradigm switch that I think is the basis for my healthy relationships. My best friend was there. He is my soul mate of sorts. He loves me so deeply with my flaws and all. He even loves the flaws. He is a gay man. It's obviously easier to have that kind of unconditional love when sex isn't involved. Yet, the friendship is so very valuable and in the back of my mind I know that the kind of unselfish, honest love we have is wonderful modeling for the kind of love that I wish to have and will have with my romantic partners. Other men with whom I am very close were there too: friends with whom I have honest and open communication....to whom I expose my clay feet and idiosyncrasies and who love me in spite of them. A man I just starting dating was there too, together with these men whom are loving, close friends. He is just coming out of a painful divorce and I have no idea where our relations with travel romantically. But I am more comfortable with that "not knowing" than I have been in my whole life. I 'm in a friendship first with him with my eyes wide open, compassionate with what he's going through because I remember being there myself and committed to expressing what my feelings are about the place he holds my life - which is constantly changing. And encouraging him to be honest about the ever-changing role I play in his life which may very well segue back into just a friendship. The greatest lesson I have learned and continue to learn and accept on a daily basis is that my relationships with all people, men included, are going to maybe be viewed "unconventional" or not understandable to others. I may not have that one-partner-soul-mate with whom I live for the rest of my life. This notion, I think, is more devastating to my mother than it is to me now. Sometimes I start to slip into judging my life according to what society says my life should look like as oppose to letting my own truth reveal itself from minute to minute. My relationships are beautiful and truthful, if unconventional. And continually changing. Giving up expectations is the hardest part.... but it is the key factor to sustainability and happiness for me. My life and relationships are a journey and the daily challenge is to let the road unfold looking clearly and honestly at what presents itself without grabbing on, owning or hiding behind rocks scared that what I might meet on that road will look entirely unfamiliar and nothing like the fairy tales told me it would look like. Weeeeee!

Cherylynn


Rene:

Cherlynn,

Thanks for contributing..hope you are enjoying your visit with your dad. Keep him away from the trees while skiing ! :-) What you said makes alot of sense. I think it is somethin I won't ever truly understand since it is something I never experienced, so I appreciate your insights.

Sometimes its better just to know because eventually you just get to the point where you know, you finally just accept, and you move on.

Don't you think that there could be some similar level of acceptance and moving on for the child/adult who didn't have a father? There must be some way a person moves past this void and is able to develop into a healthy adult. i am thinking of the many children who've lost their fathers, not out of abandonment or divorce, but to illness, war, and other factors. Is it somehow easier to accept the loss because of a death, and therefore you are able to somehow reconcile that loss in a more healthy manner?

I reached that level of acceptance with my own father, and not until I was an adult. I realized at some point he was not capable of "being there" for me at the level I desired. It was like mourning a loss, and out of that a new relationship was reborn. We are more like...neighbors...friendly, and enjoy each other's company ....but not much on a deeper level. My sister still struggles constantly with not receiving the "love and attention" she wants from him, and wants to know how I ever let those expectations go. To be blunt, I didn't want to be hurt by it anymore, so by expecting nothing i do not suffer constantly reoccurring disappointments and hurt. Not to say the hurt doesn't leak through at vulnerable times ....

Rene


Cherylynn:

Rene:

I whole-heartedly agree with all you. In my response to Dan, about what my relationships with men are like now, I state as the key factor to success in any of my relationships as the letting go of the expectations. It is a long process to get to the point where you can start doing that, giving up expectations, truthfully, at a heart level. I guess the balance is giving up expectations but at the same time getting what you require and deserve. Its like a strainer: lots of 'em just kind of drop through the little holes in the bottom. Only the ones that are "big enough" stay up with you. I'm getting better at letting the "little one's" just GO through the little holes and down the drain without a part of myself going too and just having fun with the ones who stay up in the strainer part with me. Sometimes ones who passed through the strainer are poured through again - and this time they stay. Whether our parents are in our lives physically or not, our healing process is completely independent of them. Lots of people go through the healing process where they are still fighting against the abusive monster-like parents in their psyche while their real parents are frail, fragile creatures perched precariously on deaths doorstep. The adult child is nurturing this frail parent about to die but at the same time in their therapist's office doing major battle with the 10 foot abusive parent that still lives in their psyche. All our true healing is done in the absence of our parents. Once the inner healing is done alone - the reconciling, the giving up of expectations, the true acceptance of abundant limitations - once that is broached and seen through to a certain point, some of us are lucky enough to have healing directly with the parent if they are still alive or physically in our lives. That part is the miracle, the icing on the cake. I agree with you about getting to the point where we have the parent in our life the way they are with their limitations and how that makes our own lives easier, less painful and more complete. In Twelve Step they say its your resentments that will kill you. I live with that believe. My resentments are what almost killed me. They can eat you up alive. Too much negative energy that I don't have space for anymore in my life. Yes, it is completely possible for any of us, no matter which way our parent was "absent," to heal. The process is long but the only requirement is commitment and willingness to break free of unconsciousness and step into consciousness. Particularly hard to do with no modeling and if we're in this situation in the first place, we probably didn't have the modeling. But if we're committed to breaking the cycle of unconsciousness we go in search of the models. If our parents are still alive or in our lives even remotely, sometimes the healing that we've done spills over and we start modeling how to live in a conscious world to our parents. I do think that if our parent is lost to illness or war, that concrete understandable "reason" we lost our parent makes it easier to accept without blaming their absence on our own inadequacies or on the inadequacies of our parents. If they are in our life but we're not close, its painful but I've seen miracles where the child does the healing completely separate from the parent. But once they get to a certain point - the point you and I got to where it makes OUR life better and fuller to have them there however they can be there - miracles actually grow from that. If the parent has never been there at all or isn't there because they left, I think it's harder because the psychic abandonment really screws with self esteem. Negative love better than no love? Maybe. At least you have some material to work with. But it is still completely possible to heal. Positive role modeling is completely instrumental, however: people in our lives who play healthy mother and father roles to teach us how to bring the healthy mother and father outside of us into us - until we learn to be healthy mothers and fathers to ourselves. The healing begins to be complete when we are the healthy parents to ourselves. But modeling is so vital.

Cherylynn


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