Healthy Fathers Are Rare Indeed
Written By: Mark Smith
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In my experience as a therapist, I have discovered that one of the most common and powerful root-causes of dysfunction for both men and women is having been abandoned by their fathers during childhood. Father abandonment is almost epidemic in proportion. Affairs, divorce, depression, alcoholism, drug addiction, relationship addiction, sexual addiction eating disorders, workaholism, etc. can all be caused by father abandonment. Sensitive male leadership that is loving, consistent, hands-on and nurturing has been tragically rare in most families for past generations.
In my estimation, the most encouraging characteristic of this generation, from a mental health perspective, is the prevalent new breed of active, connected, committed, present fathers. They are now the rule, rather than the exception. A whole generation of children are now growing up knowing how it feels to be nurtured consistently by their fathers.
Common symptoms of father abandonment in men include workaholism, obliviousness, self-centeredness, grandiosity, unaccountability, addictive behavior, rage, control, and then, ironically, abandoning their own children. Stereotypical traits in father-abandoned women include being addicted to attention from men, low self-esteem, issues with jealousy, food addiction, depression, and a pervasive feeling of emptiness. Many women are also now joining their brothers in trying to win dad's attention through achievement and workaholism.
Women who were abandoned by their fathers invariably instinctively select a mate who ultimately abandons them as well. This is one of the most common patterns that we see in alienated marriages. Getting rid of husband #1 who abandoned by having affairs is not the answer because then these women instinctively select husband #2 who abandons by being workaholic, and then husband #3 who abandons by perhaps playing too much golf. Women like this unconsciously seek to be abandoned so that they can indirectly process their issues of father abandonment with their husbands.
There are so many different ways that fathers can abandon their children. For the most part, in this article I am not referring to men who actually leave the home. Fathers can abandon their children by over-focusing on a variety of both good and bad things: TV, work, alcohol, gambling, sports, hunting, fishing, computers, pornography, household projects, reading, etc.
How well were you fathered? How much truly quality, intimate, child-focused time were you privileged enough to bask in with your father? How has your lack of quality fathering affected your adult relationships and your parenting style? The scripture tells us that the sins of the fathers are visited upon the children and upon the children's children to the third and fourth generation. If your father was not there for you, for whatever reason, you can tell yourself that it hasn't affected your adult life, but you would be fooling yourself to believe that. The love that we received or didn't receive as we grew up serves as the foundation of our personalities. At this point in the game, is it actually possible to heal such deep childhood wounds? It is possible, but it is neither fun, nor easy. Know that you are far from being alone in having this issue. Actually, almost everybody you know probably has some experience with father abandonment.
Are there any broken branches in your family tree? We are who we came from. In the classic book focusing on how one generation impacted the next—Roots—when Kunta Kinte observed all the slaves around him who had completely lost their African sense of identity, he vowed within himself that he would never let his descendants forget who they were nor what family and tribe they had come from. I hope that my words might stir you to look deeply within. There is a little kid in all of us who needed a daddy. What kind of legacy are you leaving as fathers, men? Your children need you desperately. Our actions reverberate through generations. That is all for this week.
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