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I’ve been dealing with the father wound for most of my life. When I was five years old my mid-life father became increasingly depressed because he couldn’t make a living supporting me and my mother. He took an overdose of sleeping pills and was committed to Camarillo State Mental Hospital. Many of us grow up without the presence of a loving, engaged, father in our lives.
Some of us lose our fathers through illness, others through divorce, death, distance, or dysfunction. Like most losses, the wound is covered over, we get on with our lives, and often are unaware of the ways in which the loss impacts our physical, emotional, and relationship health when we become adults.
The impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES) on adult health has been well documented in a number of landmark studies. “ACEs” comes from the CDC-Kaiser Adverse Childhood Experiences Study, a groundbreaking public health study that discovered that childhood trauma leads to the adult onset of chronic diseases (including heart disease), depression and other mental illness, violence, and being a victim of violence. The more ACEs we have as children, the more likely we are to suffer physical and emotional consequences as adults. ACEs are quite common and include bullying, losing a parent due to divorce, death, deportation, or dysfunction, physical or emotional abuse, parental neglect, or being separated from a parent due to illness or injury.
As I began to understand my own father wound I was able to heal some of the chronic problems I had been experiencing including being angry, manic and depressed for most of my life. I’ve come to see that the father wound often goes unrecognized and doesn’t just impact males.
Roland Warren, past president of the National Fatherhood Initiative says, “Kids have a hole in their soul in the shape of their dad. And if a father is unwilling or unable to fill that hole, it can leave a wound that is not easily healed.” Kids with a hole in their soul grow up to be adults whose lives become chaotic and dysfunctional. Reflecting on my own family history, I found there were five ways the father wound impacted women.
The father wound sends women on an endless search for love.
My mother’s father died when she was five years old. The father wound isn’t only caused by the loss itself, but how we come to view ourselves and the ripples that occur as a result of the lost father. Without a man in the house, my mother, her younger sister and my grandmother were forced to move in with relatives who were abusive.
My mother never talked about her father’s death or how it impacted her life, but she was forever preoccupied with death and was married and divorced six times. She never addressed the father wound and no man could ever fill the hole in her soul left her father.
The father wound creates a negative filter through which she sees both men and women.
My first wife was the apple of her father’s eye. She had a very close relationship with him until he died when she was nine years old. She was left with a wounded mother and an older sister who was angry and aggressive. During the years we were together she was sweet and wonderful, but also could be sarcastic and cutting.
I often felt I couldn’t do anything right, that she could never really see me, but was looking at me through a filter. She also had difficulty with our daughter. I suspect the anger she felt as a little girl got projected on to our little girl.
The father wound can cause a woman to become enraged at men.
Certainly, we all can become angry. But some women seem unusually angry towards the men in their lives. My second wife had a close relationship with her father until she reached puberty. As she became a sexual being, he completely withdrew from her. She grew up confused, hurt, and angry.
When we were together, she could be passionate and loving one minute, and then fly into a rage the next. She threatened to kill me on a number of occasions and I learned that this had occurred for her in other relationships with men.
The father wound can cause a woman to be terrified of abandonment.
My present wife, Carlin, and I have been together for 37years. Her father was angry and abusive and her mother and he were divorced when Carlin was an infant. Early on in our marriage she was obsessively worried that I would leave her. Even after we had been married for some time, she would worry that something would happen to me.
Fortunately, we were able to talk about the wounds in our lives and address them so that the “shadows of the past” didn’t undermine our marriage. It wasn’t always easy. The memories of traumatic events sink into our subconscious and even when we’re aware of them, we often don’t want to look at the painful events from our past.
However, Carlin and I found that healing the past is one of the main reasons we are drawn to the person we fall in love with. Healing old wounds brings us closer together and helps us to fully enjoy our relationships. Healing the father wound may be the most important thing we can do to insure a joyful and productive life.
The father wound can cause women to fall in love with father-wounded men.
After Carlin and I got together we both had been married twice before. We wanted this relationship to be healthy, passionate, and last forever. It became evident to both of us that we had father wounds, mother wounds, and other wounds to heal.
I believe that many women who had father wounds growing up are, subconsciously, attracted to men who also have father wounds. If the couple doesn’t understand that they are together to heal, they can project their anger and hurt towards a lost father on to the partner.
Unhealed trauma can act as an accelerant and cause even the best relationships to burst into flame periodically. Healing the father wound, I believe, would do more good in the world than curing cancer.
I’m sure there are other ways the father wound impacts women. I’ll look forward to your comments.
This article originally appeared Men Alive
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