As you of you know, I’m writing my first memoir. It looks at how my father’s breakdown has had an impact on my life and how he and I learned to heal the father wound. It’s called Return of the Puppet Man: Healing the Wound from a Father’s Absence. If you’d like to read a free chapter, drop me an email and put “father wound” in the subject line.
Writing the book, I realized how prevalent it is to grow up without a father who is physically or emotionally present in our lives and how early father loss can cause problems later in life that we rarely recognize as tied in with our father wound.
The father wound impacts four critical areas of our lives:
- Our physical health
- Our emotional health
- Our relationship health
- Our social and political health
The effects of growing up without a loving, engaged, father ripple through the generations and contribute to many of the most serious problems we face in our society today including:
- Drug and alcohol abuse
- Depression and suicide
- Sexual dysfunction, harassment, and addiction
- Unhappy marriages and lost and unhappy children
One of the critical causes of the father wound is when a man loses his job or can’t find work doing what he loves to do. When my father couldn’t find work as a writer and playwright he became increasingly depressed. Like most men he associated his self-worth with having a job and supporting his family. Without a job he became increasingly anxious and depressed. He eventually took an overdose of sleeping pills and was committed to Camarillo State Mental Hospital.
Why are so many men losing their jobs? It isn’t that good jobs are being shipped overseas. One of the main reasons is our system of profits. If a job can be done less expensively by a machine, our system is happy to put people out of work. In a recent issue of Mother Jones, Kevin Drum says, “I want to tell you straight off what this story is about: Sometime in the next 40 years, robots are going to take your job.”
When I first read the article, I smiled smugly and thought, Well surely no me. I’m creative. I write from the heart. I heal people. But as I continued reading I didn’t feel so comfortable. “I don’t care what your job is. If you dig ditches, a robot will dig them better. If you’re a magazine writer, a robot will write your articles better. If you’re a doctor, IBM’s Watson will no longer ‘assist’ you in finding the right diagnosis from its database of millions of case studies and journal articles. It will just be a better doctor than you. Until we figure out how to fairly distribute the fruits of robot labor, it will be an era of mass joblessness and mass poverty.”
About 7 million men ages 25 to 54 are neither employed nor “available for work,” putting them outside the labor force. Their growing numbers worry and puzzle economists. What’s going on? Many men outside the labor force are spending more time playing video games or hook up with a woman who is working. They’ve given up trying to find a job and are getting used to “letting someone else worry about it.”
As more women are stepping toward to advance in the work world, many men are stepping back. In many ways it’s a good thing. For too long men have been conditioned to be the “breadwinners” of the family. It was one of the key aspects of what it meant to “be a man.” But what does it mean to be a man if there are fewer and fewer jobs available?
One option is to drop out and let someone else take care of you. I see more and more guys who move back home and let their parents take care of them. They insist it’s just temporary, but it can last for years.
A more positive trend is men who truly want to contribute to the wellbeing of the family and recognize that fathering can be a full-time job. Just as many women in the past stayed home to raise the kids, more and more dads are finding they like being the full-time parent and love being the homemaker in support of their wife that works outside the home.
Other families find ways to share parenting responsibilities. Sometimes a woman will be the primary breadwinner for a number of years while the man stays at home and later they might switch roles.
Whatever the future holds we must deal with the following realities:
- We live on a finite planet and we cannot continue to be doing work that takes more and more resources, makes more and more stuff, and creates more and more garbage. There are limits to growth and we’ve passed the limits that make for a sustainable planet.
- Just as women want a fuller life and have broken out of the “woman’s box” to find fulfilling careers outside the home, more and more men are coming home to their children and becoming full time dads. For many, the new job in our future involves becoming the dad we wish we had.
- The work world as we know it are changing. If we tie our self-esteem to working outside the home and making money, we are setting ourselves up for depression. We need to find new ways to feel good as men.
- The father wound is one of critical areas of human life that needs healing. There isn’t a better way to heal than to become deeply engaged with our children (or grandchildren).
It’s a new world and we need men and women who are operating from their truest selves and deepest potential. Our inability to find work in our traditional economy may be the best thing that could happen to us. For those who have the courage to live outside the box, there is a whole world of meaning waiting for us.
I look forward to hearing from you. Please leave a comment. It’s the reward I get for sharing my thoughts and ideas with you. May 2018 me a year of positive transformation in our lives.
This article originally appeared on Men Alive
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